The international break has football in its icy grip and no amount of Nicklas Bendtner hat-tricks or Lukas Podolski late goals is going to change that. Even for the media, it’s a quiet spell. One where the tabloids are readying themselves to salaciously feast on the latest “Premier League superstar” who has lost his right to anonymity following extra-marital activities. Fear ye not people, for in ten days you too will know the identity of the Manchester United reserve in question.
Before you ask, I don’t know who it is nor do I care unless it is an Arsenal player whose form has suffered as a result.
It’s so quiet that Deloitte’s appeared to be putting themselves out of business as they trumpeted the latest report which proclaimed the Premier League to be collectively profitable. One of the suits behind it all observed, “The primary aim of a football club is, and always should be, on-pitch success for the fans“, as the club execs smirked and giggled in the background.
The timing of the report couldn’t be worse for the clubs. Today sees the FSF marching on Premier League HQ with the intent of creating enough pressure to reduce ticket prices. If you are interested, more details can be found here. Whether anything will come of it, I don’t know but I am not hopeful. Clubs have a track record of not reducing ticket prices and perhaps the best we can hope for is a price freeze.
That doesn’t mean we should be let off the hook. £190m profit isn’t much for the twenty clubs to be making but given they accumulated £2.6bn in preceding ten years, it’s an improvement. The question morphs into what we expect of clubs if their primary aim is as Deloitte’s believe? Are they businesses, in which case their existence is the profit motive or is there a deeper social function which overrides that?
Accepting the capitalist motivation means profit-maximisation is their aim and cutting revenues from one stream isn’t going to help achieve that, on paper at least. Other revenues may well rise as a result of course but that should come from volume as, taking Arsenal as an example, it isn’t cheap once you get to a game unless you ignore the catering and retail pressures. Which isn’t easy with young children. The clubs know that, of course, and have no intention on making it easier for you or I.
With broadcasting revenues becoming more important than supporter driven moneys, the question changes. Is there any obligation on the part of the clubs to pass that on. The answer to that depends on your view of their role; entertainers or still rooted in the community, albeit the global one rather than the locale from which they sprang.
Football clubs existence and the reasons for it at their core, remain the same. It’s still to play football even if the playing fields have changed on and off the pitch. The clubs themselves still struggle with the balance between community and balance sheet. Well-intentioned schemes should not be derided or criticised but when collective profits are moving upwards and number in the hundreds of millions, then it is hard to shake the feeling that more should be done.
Social responsibility is as much about contributing to helping communities with schemes as it is with alleviating poverty through paying a Living Wage. Cutting ticket prices remains part of the concept; it helps all and has the added benefit of continuing the match-going ritual. It’s hard to instil that into future generations if you are pricing them out of the game.
And that is a fundamental problem in football. Clubs believe they are impervious to any financial downturn, certainly in the Premier League. The economic downturn, austerity; these all mean nothing to football clubs beyond being buzzphrases and words in a dictionary. Dark days of the past with top flight clubs facing closure are not going to be repeated in the near future and the ever-increasing broadcast rivalry manifesting in more money has generated a distasteful smugness in the Premier League circles. Any other industry might be concerned with customers protesting; not football.
Even if they do cut the cost of going to a game in one area, you can pretty much guarantee they will follow Arsenal’s lead when the Young Guns pricing was implemented. What they give with one hand, they take with another…
Elsewhere, local media are enjoying having their stars close by for international duty. Mesut Özil is apparently targeting winning the Balon d’Or in the next three years which is a new way of handing in a transfer request. Which is exactly what Jerzy Dudek believes Wojciech Szczesny should do with Arsène favouring David Ospina this season.