Viva la revolution!…cries BILLY TAYLOR. Are the wheels in motion that would see the end of ridiculous wealth dictating success?
It was not so long ago that football used to be dominated by a niche group of elite clubs. Week in, week out, I used to watch Final Score so that I could witness the inevitable and underwhelming victories of the Premier League’s big dogs. The rift between those occupying the top four positions and the sixteen teams beneath them was gaping and growing ever wider. This is capitalism. All the wealth, success and top players belonged to this elite group – The Big Four – and other clubs did not stand a chance (although the big four has become an ambiguous concept due to the recent successes of Tottenham and Manchester City). If they attempted to infiltrate the positions of those above them, then the fierce, collective hand of England’s richest clubs would steal their catalyst of success (be it player or manager) in exchange for a few million smackers, and the revolution would be back to square one.
Time and time again, money has been used to exploit those in more destitute positions. Sure, a few million pounds sounds like a lot of money for a club whose financial situation is more worse for wear, but that few million pounds will come and go quicker than you can say ‘relegation battle’. I wonder how much better off Crystal Palace would be doing if they had kept Wilfred Zaha, who is wasting away on Manchester United’s bench – if he’s lucky. The same could be said with Simon Mignolet and Sunderland.
Capitalism has been the downfall of many a young footballer. So, what if you’re sitting on the bench in the blistering cold for 90 minutes, you are getting paid thousands to do so, all you need to do is say goodbye to your prospects of ever being remembered as a respected individual. This seems to be the case with a few youngsters in recent years. Financial gains have corrupted a seemingly harmless bit of fun and have even interfered with the viewer. Ray Winstone’s face has become a regular occurrence during half time intervals on the television telling you to stop enjoying the football for what it is and start using it to win money. Bet in play…NOW!
Money, money, money. I’m sure most football fans are aware that the beautiful game is now regulated by the bank note, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use it to our advantage instead of causing disarray. In the 1920’s, the Bolshevik revolution provided the blueprint for all further revolutions up until the latter stages of that century, and I believe that this blueprint is currently being formed in the Premier League to topple the big financial giants of the English game.
Take Southampton for example: an awe-striking plethora of talent has evolved from the south coast, including the world’s most expensive player Gareth Bale, established names such as Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin and fresh up-and-comers residing in the Saints’ squad at the present moment. The youth set up model is allegedly based on that of Barcelona with a strong recruitment department and heavy investment into facilities as opposed to marquee transfers. Creating your own talent as opposed to stealing other club’s players is not only more morally viable but will also bolster the credibility of grass roots football, which has been heavily backed by the Football Association in recent years.
Nicola Cortese was the face of the revolution until his recent departure; the Joseph Stalin of Premier League football, if you will. Taking over the Saints while they were still in their third tier wilderness, the money invested into the youth system has heavily paid off as they catapulted up two divisions and (up until a few months ago) into a Champions’ League place. If this technique works for clubs outside the elite, why shouldn’t it work for them? Cortese and Southampton have started the grinding of the cogs in the revolutionary machine, but in order to break the elite, they must first impose their idea on their superiors.
Constant overspending on ‘world class’ players has had a detrimental effect on the mind-sets of many a top club hierarchy. Manchester City spent vast amounts of money on players to show their intention of defending their Premier League title with ease. £43 million was spent collectively on Jack Rodwell, Javi Garcia and Matija Nastasic excluding wages for effectively squad rotation players. The amount of money spent would be earned back by the revenue generated by the success of winning another title. Alas, the title was lost and Roberto Mancini was inevitably sacked by a board that had the patience of a recently closed hospital (patience/patients…excuse the poor pun). You can see the understanding of the Arab owners of Manchester City however: they invested a lot of money and thus expect to see results, but the problem here is that too much money was not utilised correctly. Had the £43 million been spent on the youth set up however, their expectations would be lowered for that season and instead, the board could expect to see a home grown dominance in several years’ time. In the last two years, three players from the Manchester City academy have made their debut, which shows that they have little faith in the abilities of their youngsters. These players are the victims of capitalist football.
Granted, big signings are part of the game and include huge financial benefits for the teams participating, whether it be from revenue generated from a player through merchandise sales and sponsorship deals or the transfer sum as a whole, but surely a team built around the idea that only big names will win you trophies is destined to collapse. It was once said that an economy being based on endless growth is unsustainable, which relates to my opinion that the acquisition of big name players supported by a constant flow of money will eventually lead to too many unsustained dreams of footballers. Stevan Jovetic was a brilliant player for Fiorentina and will not prosper while on the bench for Manchester City. He will inevitably be sold off in two years’ time in order to facilitate the signing of an even bigger bench warmer. A product from the Manchester City Academy would be a much better option as back-up since they would have more hunger to break into the side than a regular starter who plunges into the misery of the Reserves after being so prolific before.
Wolverhampton Wanderers could be seen as basing their style of football club on the Southampton model. After two relegations in successive seasons, they now find themselves among the top places in League One. The team is made up of some products from the academy (Wolves are currently doing respectably well amongst Premier League clubs in the Under 18 and development leagues) and also players which they have purchased several years ago, loaning them out to fulfil their potential and putting them back in the squad once matured. Since they haven’t got the funds of the Premier League elite, youth academies and the scouting and loaning of talented players will be how they shape their squad, with the occasional major signing. A lack of funds means lower league clubs will be more strategic in the way they form their squad, meaning a partial reliance on youth will be useful in building their squad for the future, much like Southampton did under Cortese.
This model is probably the most effective way to end the materialistic and greedy nature of capitalist football. In capitalism, profit is the key to regulation, but as long as there is profit there will always be losers. Profit will always exist in football, but the limitation of huge transfer sums is key to closing the ever expanding gap between football’s elite and the 99% of other clubs. Then again, maybe it is all a fantasy that this will ever happen on a wider scale.