Chelsea Child Poachers

The headlines say it all. ‘Beware Child Poachers’, screams the Daily Mail. The day before the same paper was content with the single word, ‘Thieves!’

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Bloodgate: A Sporting Tale for the 21st Century.

Here is a classic Shakespearean tale of the heroic but fatally flawed protagonist who is destined to fall from grace, set against the backdrop of turbulent and uncertain times.

Last Updated ( Friday, 18 September 2009 11:08 )

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Ecclestone, F1 and Hitler, Observer, 12/07/09, Catherine Bennett

Let me start off by saying I know nothing about F1 racing and its supposed attraction to millions of people world wide. 

Last Updated ( Friday, 18 September 2009 11:53 )

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Will the Bubble Burst?

Four interrelated stories concerning the financial state of English football suggest that English professional football may be heading the same way as the British banking sector. Are we talking millions? No, we are talking billions. David Conn of the Guardian estimates the English Premier League has accumulated over £3 billion worth of debts. Chelsea, Manchester United are in the worst shape but Liverpool are on the ropes as well. Every single club is carrying debt and with the wages bill set to escalate even further the debt can only get worse. The irony is that Man United and Liverpool are making a profit but are ending up as loss making concerns because of the interest they must pay on their debt. ( The Guardian, 3/06/09 )


The second story focuses directly on Liverpool Football Club. The figures in the Guardian article tell the grim picture. Two years after US speculators  Hicks and Gillett took over Liverpool the club has £313 million of debt. Interest on that debt amounted to £36.5 million. The crunch figures are the £25 million operating profit has turned into a £42.5 million loss after the payment of the interest on the debt and other accounting provisions. So dangerous is the situation that the auditors spoke of ‘material uncertainty’ about Liverpool’s ability even to continue in business’. The warning lights should be flashing when we learn that the holding company carrying the loan is based in the low tax US state of Delaware via the Cayman Islands. As for the proposed new stadium, that seems permanently on hold given that the money was to come from another £400 million loan. The bigger the loan the bigger the interest payments. You don’t need to be an international finance guru to work that one out.

( The Guardian 2/06/09 )


The third story involves West Ham United. Once again the state of the global banking system is making itself felt. As Ken Dyer in the London Evening Standard stated, ‘The departure of Icelandic businessman and old fashioned philanthropist, Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, ended the West Ham dream of being able to compete financially with the fat cats of English football.’ Gudmunsson soon became aware of West Ham’s poor financial situation and demanded a more self sufficient regime. This was made more imperative when his bank, Landsbanki were one of the first casualties of the global banking collapse. That was the end of that dream. The new owners, CB Holding who are primarily owned by Straumur Investment Bank insist on continuing the policy of self financing all future signings. Zola will have to sell a player in order to buy a new one. Dyer believes, ‘This model is likely to become the norm in the coming years as financial realities hit home even in the cash rich Premier League.’

( Evening Standard 8/06/09 )


The forth story, which underpins the first three, tells the bleak but inevitable details of the imminent collapse of Setanta and the possible loss of £100 million in TV revenue English football. Daily Mail correspondent, Charles Sale explains, ‘The shock waves from Setanta’s switch-off will reverberate throughout the professional game from the FA, who now face a £100 million black hole in their budget, to the Premier League and down to the Blue Square Premier, all of whom will have serious problems finding buyers at a competitive price for their lost TV contracts.’ Of course the bulk of TV revenues still come from the highly lucrative Sky deal but even Murdock’s empire is not immune from the global recession. Advertising revenues are down across all the media and that can only mean a contraction of available cash for sport.


What are we to make of these four stories? Do they represent the beginning of a long tern trend or is that reading too much into their importance. What is significant is that at the very same time as English football is feeling the reverberations of the global economic crisis, Real Madrid have set a new record of weekly wages: £200,000 per week for Kaka. If Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United want to compete they will need to offer similar rates. The bubble just gets bigger!


End JPK 10/06/09    


Last Updated ( Monday, 29 October 2012 12:40 )


The Chelsea Syndrome

I can recall clear enough, even though I was just ten at the time, the day my sister and her boyfriend returned home from a football match armed with a gigantic glossy poster of Chelsea Football Club. You know the type. The whole squad including the coaches, the reserves, the backroom staff and the management neatly arranged in three rows with the front row kneeling, the middle row somehow rising above them and the back row standing tall and proud. I’m sure that football clubs still produce those standard set piece posters, no doubt at ridiculously inflated prices for their globally marketed fan base.  Anyway, it was a present for me, though I never thought to enquire on whose initiative the present materialised, the boyfriend or the sister. I don’t ever recall my sister engaging in anything remotely resembling sisterly love so I guess it was down to the boyfriend. Either way, I loved that poster and even now, some forty four years later, I can name at least a half dozen of its star studded cast. Peter Bonnetti, Peter Osgood, Chopper Harris and his brother, Alan Hudson and the bloke with the amazing throw, Ian Hutchinson. There was a Dempsey and a Bobby Tambling I recall, but it all starts to fade after that. As for the manager, it was probably Tommy Docherty, though he may well of come on the Chelsea scene some years later.

 Should I be eternally grateful for that poster or simply regard it as just another piece of ammunition in my life long feud with my elder sister. I can say without hesitation that it was that poster that hooked me into a lifetime of Chelsea addiction that even now, with all that I know about sport generally and Chelsea FC in particular, it is an addiction I am unable to break.

The point of all this, is the increasingly random nature of football affiliation. Long gone are the days of local families following their local team.  Why a youngster in Indonesia or Thailand or Australia should choose to follow a Liverpool or a Man United or a Chelsea only the gods may know. And if not the gods, then the marketing department of these increasingly global conglomerates. And that is the unpalatable truth. Top flight football is just a commodity with player loyalty increasingly to their obscenely fat pay packets. A player sitting on the bench may earn more in a week than a nurse may earn in five years. Where is the humanity in that.   And where does the money to pay such morally corrupting amounts come from. In the case of my beloved Chelsea, the case against is very compelling. The trail goes all the way back to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the privatisation of their once nationalised resources by a process commonly referred to as gangster capitalism. Workers in each of the former State industries were given shares at the time of privatisation but the workers were hungry and you can’t eat shares. Unscrupulous agents swapped food hampers for shares and before you could say Boris the shares had found their way into the hands of a handful of oligarchs. Get the picture. A lot of shooting also went on behind the scenes as a way of reinforcing the new political order. Russia today is still an extremely dangerous place for those that oppose the new status quo.

Yet knowing all this I still cannot break the addiction. When we lose I feel mortified. When we win I am euphoric.  Getting the results is like a shot of caffeine in the morning. I need the hit to kick-start the day. I can be twelve thousand miles away in the Central Australian deserts yet still I hunger for results.     
I crave Champions League success. I yearn to be triumphant at Wembley. I pine for another Premier League title. And all the time knowing that I am complicit in a gigantic corporate scam with its tentacles reaching across the globe.

As it is for Chelsea Plc so it is for an increasing number of English clubs. US money, Arab money, East European money and even Thai gold. British Football up for sale to the highest bidder.

Things will get worse. Soon there will be no national football leagues worthy of the name. Only the Champions League will count. That may even involve a fixed number of teams with no promotion or relegation. Some of the big clubs are already pushing in this direction. Corporate sponsors would love this scenario. So too would the big twenty European Clubs. Financial security guaranteed for life. Yet still I will follow my beloved Chelsea. Can anyone out there help me with this crippling addiction. I need help.

Last Updated ( Monday, 29 October 2012 12:40 )

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