Culture of Soccer Week 2 (Professionalism and Globalization) Comment

Each week we are to respond to another student’s post.   A Manchester City fan posted on stigma of teams that have recently come into wealth.  But as the author correctly argues, money must be spent in order to achieve success.  Here was my response to his post:

As a Manchester United fan of 20 years, financial injection has been the constant threat to the dominance of the Red Devils.  Jack Walker’s money at Blackburn saw the Rovers emerge and win the Premier League in 1995.  Newcastle spent big and built a team that was amazing to watch but just short in terms of success.  Arsenal became a threat, not necessarily because of money, although they spent well on some great players, but because of Wenger’s philosophy of tactics, psychology and fitness.  Now is the team of the petro dollar teams.  I would argue that there has been a stigma on all of these teams, but that’s because fans of opposing teams are jealous, threatened and uncertain about the future.

Reading Soccernomics, clubs have to spend, it really is that simple.  Even the teams with a solid youth policy—United of the mid-90s and the current FC Barcelona side come to mind—had to supplement with star power and also had to increase wage spending to find success.  This current group of petro dollar owners—Chelsea and Manchester City in England and PSG and Anzhi abroad—has varying philosophies of trying to improve with differing levels of success.  Most try to buy entire new teams, but that doesn’t always work.  Team chemistry still matters, as City found out in the 12/13 season.  PSG is in the early stages and must learn the winning mentality that will allow them to dominate at home and compete abroad.  Money cannot buy that.  The owners at Malaga have tried a two pronged approach—bring in veterans to raise the quality while improving their infrastructure in terms of youth development and facility.  Unfortunately the backers are not willing to see the project through and now the entire process hangs by a thread.

Let me be clear: the Red Devils pay a lot in transfer fees and wages.  United spent in the 90’s to strengthen a team that finally won the League after 26 years and then continued to spend to maintain dominance domestically and attempt to become a European power. Even with the current owners and the threat of reduced spending, players continue to come in to Old Trafford and wages continue to rise.  But with the new money teams, the rules of engagement have changed.  These teams may not have the revenue streams of United but they have very deep pockets and can out spend, in some cases over spend for players.  This puts pressure on the United transfer policy.   No more mistakes (Bebe, Kleberson, etc).

I have heard the argument that this new money is good for the game.  I suppose it is in theory, in effect the money should trickle down as these power spenders buy up and coming players from smaller teams, which allows the smaller clubs to stay afloat or in some cases push on.  I’m not convinced of that.  The gap between the haves and have nots continues to grow and eventually the feeder system for this bigger clubs may in fact dry up.

The next couple of years should be interesting as United enter a new era in terms of management and questions will be asked about whether they can stay on top.

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