A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad...Football World?

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 18: Olivier Giroud and Gervinho of Arsenal react to a play during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Sunderland at Emirates Stadium on August 18, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

In the 1963 movie, "A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", a who's-who cast from that time period end up chasing and attempting to outwit each other to be the first to find a massive cash treasure buried in a mysterious spot. The movie highlights the greed and selfish desires for one's betterment, which leads to unhealthy pursuits, car chases and dramatic scenes atop high-rise buildings - all for the sake of being the sole proprietor of the buried treasure. Of course, plans get unfoiled and disintegrate before each of the pursuitant's eyes, mainly because the plans are so outrageous and there are so many others involved and in-the-know that, to keep the charade up, becomes untenable.

Which leads me to a fascinating article published yesterday by Musa Okwonga in The Independent that isappropriately-titled ""The Football Crash": Are footballers the bankers of modern sport?" Okwonga draws conclusions, based on facts derived from Dave Boyle's report "Football Mad: Are We Paying More for Less?" that the sport as we know is nose-diving quickly on a steep decline due to many factors in the EPL that we, as Arsenal supporters, know all too well about; a sample of eye-watering statistical facts:

  • "since the creation of the Premier League in 1992, top footballers' salaries have mushroomed, rising by 1508% to 2010
  • "Over the same period average wages (i.e., those of an ordinary UK worker) have increased by just 186%."
  • "Fans are now paying up to 1000% more to watch their teams play, all in order to support their club's gargantuan wage bills"
  • "Fans watching at home are similarly seen as a captive market, whilst those who want to watch at the pub are paying more - or finding their local can't afford it, given the 10,000% increase in pay subscriptions."
  • "since 1992, over half of England's professional football clubs have been formally insolvent. Most only survived because the wider community received less of what they were owed in order to ensure players continued to get all of what they were promised."

These numbers are contrasted by the continual support of the clubs, the league and overall growth of the product, but Okwonga is quick to state that the growth of the sport fails to address two massive issues: a lack of competitiveness and sustainability. Of course, one might say that it's the clubs ultimate responsibility to provide a winning product, at any cost, because of thoughts like "Well, when you play in a league with Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United, you have to spend more money than one is comfortable with in order to win", and in that case one might be right. Okwonga goes on to state that in the last three years, the bottom three clubs in the league standings have beaten the top three clubs in the standings only 7% of the time, scoring a grand total of 41 goals in those 54 matches while conceding 151 (leading to an average score per match to 2.80 to 0.76). Combine this, he says, along with Directors feeling the need to spend past their means in order to gain quick results as opposed to looking at the overall long-term future of the club; the gamble - that is, spending more than what's on hand in order to gain access to future European league TV riches - being much what Leeds and Portsmouth took on, and ultimately failed at. Of course, FFP will take a lot of this out of the equation, but in the short-term, clubs can accumulate more debt than when it's completely in place, nor does anyone know what the total consequences of such an undertaking will look like, since nothing like this has ever been in place.

Therefore, as we approach next Friday and the close of yet another transfer window, with visions of Nuri Sahin, Yann M'Vila and other potential surprises possibly awaiting us around the bend, I pose the question to you, the readers and commenters: Knowing our club one of the richest in the world, a club that prides itself on being self-sustained thus sticking to a budget of tangible resources, with a squad that has available resources within the squad but could stand to prop up a position or two, would you be happy if the club, and Wenger, didn't spend a single dime between now and the 31st and instead pocketed the money earned from the Robin van Persie and Alex Song sales, knowing that we might need it to sustain the sort of budget we've been afforded the past 15 seasons - which has been set primarily due to Champions League income and said matchday gate receipts - if we don't qualify for a CL spot in an ever-competitive EPL?

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