Abramovic is ruining soccerball

The thief of the Soviet people’s assets, Roman Abramovic, has said that he wants to make Chelsea rule for 100 years. Now, of course money is part of football, and even my own club Liverpool (thumped 4-1 at home recently, yes, but this is not simple sour grapes) flirted with a wealthy benefactor like a Thai sex industry worker (although I did voice my reservations at the time).

But the vast, vast wealth of this utter stranger to Chelsea means that its operating margins would simply bankrupt any other club, even Real Madrid or Manchester United (whose takeover was still within the bounds of ‘normal’ business, mortgaged as it was on the assets of the club itself). Given his £10+billion fortune, accrued opportunistically upon the fall of the Soviet empire, then the fraction of a percent required to simply monopolise the market of available players in any given transfer window, regardless of whether they’ll actually play much, actually comprises the entire worth of many Premiership clubs other than Chelsea.

Clubs have their legacies and periods of dominance: Arsenal for a few years, United from 1990 onwards, Liverpool through the 70’s and 80’s. I do not begrudge that. But this is something else. This is solely financial. It could, just as arbitrarily, have been Tottenham or another club setting themselves up for decades of dominance if he had waved his magic wand in another direction.

And so, taking a leaf from American Football (which has some characteristics I consider curiously Marxist), I suggest some levelling legislation on behalf of the English FA or perhaps FIFA. Abramovic effectively underwrites the debts of Chelsea, debts which no other club could possibly operate under. There are various ways to tackle this, from a wage limit to stipulations regarding the size and make-up of the squad, to simple ad hoc limits targetted solely at what Chelsea can do which nobody else can. (Or perhaps, a soppilly vulgar concerted campaign of letters from hundreds of thousands of children throughout the country addressed personally to him, begging him to stop ruining their league?)

So, I could stomach it if Chelsea won the league this season, and next season too perhaps. But 2008? 2010? When, if at all, should we contemplate such limiting measures?

If you think Roman Abramovic is bad for soccer, consider what some Islamists would do to it if they had their way.

Here are excerpts, from a fatwa on soccer, originally published in Al Watan,
a semiofficial Saudi daily newspaper. The New York Times reproduced some of it earlier this week.

In the name of God the merciful and benevolent”

  1. Play soccer without lines delineating the field of play…
  2. Don’t use words like “foul,” “penalty,” “corner,” “goal,” “out,”…
  3. Don’t stop the game if someone falls and sprains his hand or foot or
    the ball touches his hand, and do not give a yellow or red card to
    whoever was responsible for the injury or tackle. Instead it should
    be adjudicated according to Sharia rulings concerning broken bones
    and injuries.
  4. Do not play with 11 people. Instead add to this number or decrease it.
  5. Play in your regular clothes or pajamas…but not colored shorts and
    numbered T-shirts…
  6. Play to strengthen the body…not for passing time or the thrill of
    so-called victory.
  7. Do not set the time of play at 45 minutes. That’s what Jews and
    Christians do.
  8. Do not play in two halves. Play 1 or 3. (The Jews and Christians
    thing again.)
  9. Do not have referees
    11.Young people shouldn’t spectate, but should play, instead.
  10. Play only to drill in running, attacking and retreating, and to prepare
    for jihad in the name of God on high.
  11. You should spit in the face of whoever puts the ball between the posts
    or uprights and then runs in order to get his friends to follow him and hug
    him like players in American and France do…
  12. Use two posts instead of three pieces of wood or steel that you erect in
    order to put the ball between them…
  13. No substitutions.

This is not a parody.

Are you talking salary cap? Not gonna happen, unless UEFA or FIFA were to implement one for all of Europe (or worldwide).

In addition, I see no evidence that’s Abromovic’s wealth has had any detrimental impact on football in England. Sure, Chelsea appears likely to win the Premeirship again this year, but so what? They won it last year for the first time in 50 years. Prior to that, Man Utd. had won it almost every year for 10 years. Were people complaining loudly that Man Utd. were building a dynasty?

Furthermore, the transfer fees he’s paid for players have been spread throughout Europe. Granted, only a fraction of it in England (Wright-Phillips from Man City). It’s not like he’s getting all the talent for free. In addition, there’s only so much he can spend to create a world-class team - you can only play 11 players at one time and are limited on the number of players you can have on one’s squad.

Even if one spend’s 300 million dollars to assemble the best team ever, there’s no guarentee that that assemblage of players will perform as expected. One is also likely to develop problems in dealing with so many egos - good, talented players want to play. In the case of Chelsea, it helps to have a manager that has a moumental ego to manage all the lesser egos.

One only needs to look at the New York Yankees as an example of a sports franchise where money is no object - doesn’t guarentee success on the field.
Abromovic’s proclimations of building a dynasty that will last for 100 years is pure hype.

If the objection is the fact that Abromovic was allowed to buy Chelsea, then maybe it behooves the FA to change ownership rules. I certainly wished that they had been more scrupulous in examining Abromovic’s wealth.

Chelsea won’t win the league for 100 years because a league that is no contest will not attract customers. The FA will find a way - a salary cap or a draft or promoting Chelsea to a league of one - when customers really stop showing up. The players will cop it when they start seeing the overall pool of money declining.

I remember when the FOX people bought the L.A. Dodgers, how the Dodgers were going to win the World Series every year. It was going to ruin baseball.

You might have forgotten all those recent Dodgers World Series victories. That would be understandable, because there haven’t been any.

Lots of money =! success in pro sports.

Could we possibly leave the naughty-muslim-bashing hijack for one of those rare threads we have on the matter? Apart from which, if you read the actual article, it becomes apparent that the fatwa was republished by Al Watan as part of the Saudi government’s new policy of highlighting and denouncing stupid fatwas issued by nutters.

Re: Abramovich, the ironic thing about this is that for so long pundits railed against the conversion of football to a business, claiming that it was ruining the sport. The heady days of patronage by a local businessman were mourned with dewy-eyed nostalgia, and then we all went back to enjoying the (much more professional) sport just as we did before. So it’s a touch odd that Abramovich is now excoriated for essentially taking us back to the old days. Odd, but not entirely wrong; I do agree with the OP that Abramovich has somewhat damaged English football in the short term. It remains to be seen whether it’ll be damaging in the long run, though. Chelsea have, over the last couple of years, splashed money around ridiculously, arguably paying anything up to 30% over the odds for some of the players they’ve bought, several of whom have flopped like rubber chickens. If Chelsea are overpaying, that benefits the clubs they buy from, who can (or at least should) then make shrewder use of their money. Plus, money doesn’t buy everything. Moreover, they aren’t winning by playing rubbish football - gone are the days when they were regular 1-0 bore-merchants. They’re not exactly the Arsenal of 2003/04, where even watching them destroy your own team demanded a sort of bewildered awe, but you can’t accuse them of being boring any more.

There was quite a good column in the Guardian recently about this tendency to deride success as boring (although it was mainly talking about Schumacher). In complaining about superlative performances, aren’t we being the sort of people who in the past might have said, “dammit, another outstanding goal by Pelé. Man, this is dull,” or “sheesh, Bradman with a century? Yawn.” Surely this is half the reason we watch the sport? And at the end of the day, it’s a game of two halves, and there’ll be a lot of fun at some point in the future when Chelsea finally get their comeuppance, as they inevitably will.

Apart from that, either a salary cap would have to be global, which is pretty much unthinkable, or else it would have the effect of simply driving the best players out of the Premier League. I don’t think the various arcane and restrictive practices that go on in (for example) quite a few American sports are helpful in the long run, and certainly should be considered very carefully before being implemented just to squash one Russian. Chelsea are just one club doing well, but a salary cap would change the face of football in many more ways than just putting paid to Abramovich.

I think a salary cap and revenue sharing are the two smartest things ever implemented in any sports league, and UEFA should seriously consider it. It would probably be difficult in Europe, because of the vast number of leagues, but really the big 4 would be the main concern. Nothing ruins a sport like extended dominance of the same team over and over and over, while every other team finishes in about the same place. I really happy that the NHL brought in a cap and revenue sharing, because maybe now even small market teams will have a chance.

The richest teams may not always win in North America, but that’s because we base success not on regular season performance, but on one-off or short series playoff games that may not reflect performance over time (maybe a team on a short but lucrative hot streak can win it all or come close, like the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup playoffs a few years back). In football, champions are the teams that finish with the best record over the course of the season. This is where consistently richer teams always do best, because they can afford the best players. There’s a reason Man Utd dominated for so long, and it wasn’t something in the water in Manchester

But there’s no evidence that that’s even happening. Sure, there are big teams, and sure, they win more than others. But by and large, they’re there because they’re successful; success bred their success, and that’s a good thing. I don’t want a system with enforced randomness, I want people to construct a team that plays beautiful football and thereby wins. Now, we might (with some justification) argue that Chelsea’s success has been bought outright. We might think that they’re going to continue to be able to buy success forever. But pretty much everything in football’s history suggests that this is nonsense. Last decade it was the eternal dominance of Manchester United; before that, Liverpool; before that … etc. etc. And that’s only looking in England. Europe-wide there are a huge array of teams with the capability to challenge. Chelsea haven’t exactly dominated Europe yet; by all accounts Liverpool should have been positively shat on by the time they got to the knock-out stages of the Champions’ League, and yet they won that. They’re historically one of the most successful European teams of all time, and they’ve won the Champions’ League (or its equivalent) just five times in about 120 years. Chelsea, who we’re trying to fix, never have.

Yup, and quite happy with it we are, too. Again, some (many?) don’t find pointless randomness an attractive attribute for a sport. It would have been a travesty had Arsenal lost the League in a playoff in 03/04. That’s not “giving other teams a chance”, it’s just tossing a bunch of sticks in the air because it’s less predictable.

How did they get there in the first place? They got where they are by being good. A successful team was built, not magicked out of thin air, and a successful dynasty built on that team. Surely that’s the sort of thing we want to encourage, not punish. Sure, it’s unappealing that Chelsea have leapfrogged to the top by taking a shortcut, but there’s no evidence that it’s endemic, or that this flash in the pan will be anything but transient. I’d far rather football remain the competitive (yes, competitive) and free institution it is now, than have an assortment of rules contrived to create more “competition”. Competition is not achieved by limiting the capacity of teams to excel, it is achieved by ensuring that as many as possible have the opportunity. Excellence is not just relative to other teams, remember. When it comes down to it, Chelsea are 11 men; I refuse to believe that these men are so all-conquering that the rest of world football must hobble itself.

I do think revenue-sharing is a decent idea, and is beneficial. Even from a self-interested perspective, big clubs should help out little clubs for the proving-ground they provide to younger players. But I think salary caps are the equivalent of saying, “we’re going to make every team equally shit.” No thanks.

I’m curious about one thing in the OP: Soviet people? Where? I thought there weren’t any soviets now.

I think that a practical solution to the quandary put forward in the OP will manifest itself sooner or later, if Mikhail Khordokovsky’s misfortune is any guideline. That apart, the OP doesn’t make sense to me. The dominant teams in English football have all had huge bankrolls. Sure, now and again a people’s club wins the league, but generally speaking you’re looking at lengthy hegemonies of the wealthy clubs. Man U paid 30 million for Rio Ferdinand, 25 million plus for Wayne Rooney, 12 million for Cristiano Ronaldo etc.

You’re saying that Chelsea have crossed a line from filthy rich (like Liverpool, ManU before them) to stinking criminal rich and that this is a meaningful line of division that needs to be legislated against. It doesn’t, primarily because cash does not equate to guaranteed success, as RickJay points out above. It certainly looks like it does right now the way Chelsea are playing, but things change quickly in football. If they go on to emulate the Liverpool side of the 70s, then they’ll just be reaping the benefits that accrue, and always have accrued to rich football clubs.

As a person with a very low interest in soccer, I don’t really see what’s the issue. Soccer is already completely dominated by money. Only the wealthiest clubs have a shot at a title. So, this club will be even wealthier than other major clubs, which are major clubs precisely because they’re wealthier than the other clubs?

The difference with the current situation being?
Now, had soccer been an amateur sport until now, you’d have a point. But in the current situation, it’s really business as usual…

(Generally speaking, why one would support a club is a complete mistery to me. The players change all the time, the coaches change, the owners change. Even if you live in the home city of the club, none of the above has any relationship with this city, as they can come from any random place anywhere in the world. The only thing which is stable is the colour pattern of the jersey. So, I can only assume that people are supporting a colour pattern. This doesn’t apply if you support some very small local club, with local players, coaches, etc…).

They all said the same when Jack Walker poured his fortune into Blackburn Rovers.

Football is still around.

You’re right mate. Vialli and Rude Mullet caused panic at the time with plenty of money and huge influx of overseas players. At the same time there was all the talk of the Euro super league with Man U, Chelsea and Arsenal all mooted for it. What happened? Not much. Liverpool were spending 60% of their income on salaries. Football was at an end. The money men will always try to make money where they can. Fans and supporters will be around longer, high tide, low tide. I’m a Red and know all about it…sigh…next season? :dubious:

Well, OK, I’ll bow to the consensus here and perhaps bring the subject up again only if Chelsea win 4 titles in a row, say. That would show that something above and beyond what’s happened before is going on here, because Roman Abramovic is not Jack Walker, nor is he even Malcolm Glazer: they are used computer salesmen to his Bill Gates. Roman Abramovic is 20th in the world, and not even the richest clubs in the world can afford to operate the way Chelsea does, incurring such vast-but-underwritten debts.

I dunno, look at Juventos, Real Madrid, Milan and one or two other European clubs and wonder how they can afford like £40 million for Morientes and the like ?

They sure as hell dont get the money throught the gate.

Imagine the wage demands of some of these teams, full of top end Brazilians etc ?

Who underwrites these clubs.

I distinctly remember Des Walker leaving to join one such club for lots of money and then returning for relative peanuts.

Some of them buy players at huge amounts, but before the player arrives, the club replaces the manager and the player is surplus to requirements and is sold on at a massive loss.

I wonder where their money comes from ?

Even they (with, incidentally, much bigger gate and merchandise revenues than Chelsea) must still keep an eye on their bottom line. You might hear the occasional huge sum pop up, but £240 million in total, with another £140 million planned, to say nothing of the wage bill? No, one of these things is not like the other. When you’ve got £13 billion, the odd quarter-billion here or there means far less, even though it would be the difference between success and outright bankruptcy in literally any other club than Chelsea.

I agree that Abramovich’s bankroll has basically removed the risk of signing players for Chelsea, and that this makes it much much easier for them to improve as a football team. Very crudely, you could define the cycle of building a team in two stages: First, buy good players and good manager; second, get rid of bad players and/or bad manager; then repeat. If you can do this fast enough such that you keep the good players, develop young players internally as required and keep everyone happy then the team will grow to be a success.

Man U, Arsenal and Liverpool definitely have the resources to do this, but they need luck. If they buy one or more good players who turn out to be a disappointment then its questionable whether the team can recover in time to keep up with the cycle of getting better. How much has Reyes cost Arsenal for instance? An expensive player, very overrated IMO, and unquestionably has not made them a better football team. They’re paying the price for that transfer in not being able to just go out and buy someone else.

Chelsea have largely removed luck from the equation, disappointing players are replaced at the drop of a hat, e.g Scott Parker, Wayne Bridge, Kezman etc. The whole life cycle of a football team’s development is compressed, its like hothouse growth.

The more middle class teams need huge amounts of luck with their signings. For Newcastle (for example) to win the league would probably take a near perfect record of recruitment, literally everyone they bought would have to be a big success. The rest of us, of course, are completely f’ed.

As I said in my first post, I think time will show Chelsea to be unable of building an unassailable dynasty. However, its not something I’d completely discount. You might be right.

Dead Badger, I see your points, but I’m not necessarily arguing with everything you said. What I’m saying is that I personally think a sport (or at least, a league, to be specific) is ruined when the same team or small number of teams continuously win every year. I love football (real football, not what we over here call football despite feet only rarely touching the ball in a game), but I just can’t get excited about a season when I know it’s going to be another championship for Man U again, or this time around for Chelsea. It’s just not interesting when there are 20 teams, and they all finish roughly in the same places every year except for a few surprises, and the same teams get relegated and the same teams get promoted over time. What’s there to root for? Why even be a Newcastle fan, for example, when you know there’s no way they’ll be able to win?

I don’t want to see regulated randomness or anything, just parity of choice, where teams can feel free to equally pursue the best talent available and it will all come down to how well they come together on the field more than anything. You can argue that that is what it comes down to now, but really, honestly, you know it’s about the money, and who can buy the best talent, and the rest are screwed. Chelsea will keep winning as long as they can pay, and if not them it will be Man U, or Arsenal (hopefully), or possibly Liverpool. But who else could afford to bring in the talent? The salary caps in NFL football and NBA basketball have been great, because quality teams have been formed, by proper drafting and recruiting, but they are not all but guaranteed to win, and every now and then a small market, like San Antonio, gets a chance to come up and win it all. That would never happen in the Premiership, or anywhere in the big European leagues, entirely because of money.

Update: largest operating loss ever seen in football.

I repeat, this is not the same as other rich clubs which still have to operate within ‘normal’ business margins based on the gate receipts, TV/merchandise money and other revenue determined by how popular a club is. Roman Abramovich is not Jack Walker or Malcolm Glazer.

Sorry: update.