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?