The year is 1945 and people in London were just about getting back to normality after the brutality of the war years.
It had been a tumultuous half decade in Britain’s largest city and people were looking forward to getting their lives back on track. This included attending sport as the football league had been suspended briefly during the war.
Dynamo Moscow brought a team from Russia to tour Britain and one of the matches included a friendly against Arsenal at White Hart Lane. Arsenal’s team was seriously depleted with many players still serving abroad in the British army. The game went ahead nonetheless. A thick dense fog descended on the North London Stadium but the referee imprudently decided that play should continue.
The game resorted to anarchy as the players, “mystified” in the conditions, just about managed to see the few yards in front of them. Arsenal had a player sent off but taking advantage of the weather, they decided to play by their own rules and send him back on a few minutes later. It wasn’t long until Karma kicked in with the Gunners keeper knocking himself out after running into his own goalpost in the strident conditions. Accounts by some supporters at the match report that, in bizarre fashion, a spectator took his place in goal for the remainder of the match.
Arsenal were up 3-1 at half time but in a cruel twist of fate created their own bad luck and lost 4-3. Accusations that the Russian outfit were fielding approximately 15 players at one point may also have contributed to their outlandish demise.
Forward the clock on 70 years and the administration at the Holloway club appear to have had their vision blurred once again. Similarly to that hazy day in 1945, Arsenal could create their own bad luck by fundamentally taking their eye off the ball. A club’s best interests are clearly not at heart when charging an extortionate £1,014 for the cheapest season ticket. Many components make up a successful Premier League club but it is the fans that make it tick.
Fans spend their weeks working hard in middle and lower-class jobs, all the time their eyes permanently fixed on the weekend’s game. From arguing with co-workers to reading about the latest rumours on the daily commute, the club consumes their average lives. Quite frankly, there are being shown no more respect than a tillage farmer would show to a rabbit.
In contrast, Arsenal’s board fill their days with statistics and figures preying upon the working class man. The big club condors have failed to realise that overeating can diminish supply down the food chain resulting in imminent starvation.
Indeed Arsenal and the Premier League are not on their own in sheer disregard of their loyal fans. The largest shareholder at Arsenal Football Club, Stan Kroenke, is also well-known for owning the St. Louis Rams, the former St. Louis Rams that is. Kroenke decided to shut up shop in Missouri in order to set up a state of the art franchise in one of the most lucrative television markets in the USA in Los Angeles, a controversial story to say the very least. For months, NFL owners debated who should be afforded the much sought after golden ticket of moving to Los Angeles.
One half of the owners favoured Kroenke’s plans of building an 80,000 seater stadium worth $2.7billion near LAX airport. Other cash-fuelled owners preferred the Carson option shared between both the Chargers and Raiders respective franchises.
President of the Arizona Cardinals, Michael Bidwill, preferred the Carson proposition to Kroenke’s Inglewood plans noting that the NFL doesn’t exist just to make rich owners richer. He urged his fellow owners to reflect on what is best for the league. A refreshing perspective from a man of his stature but his history doesn’t reflect these thoughts as he too moved from St. Louis to Phoenix, a city twice its size in 1987. Was that move for the betterment of the league or was the attraction of Arizona’s gold mines too compelling?
It’s not getting increasingly difficult to run a club either it would appear. Manchester United recently revealed a record quarterly revenue of £133.8million, an increase of 26.6% on their last figures. They have seen a growth of 42.5% growth in commercial revenue and still, there is no sign of rewards for dutiful patriots bracing the weather as well as rates every week.
The effect of the Football Leaks sensation has proved astronomical in the world of international football. Operating in a similar manner to WikiLeaks, they act as a whistleblower platform posting player contacts as well as other official documents on their website. In a recent interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel, they revealed their motives in setting up the initiative.
“We want to make the transfer system more transparent and we want to reduce the influence of player agents and investment funds that have a growing hold on football.”
In a recent leak, the details of David de Gea’s prospective move to Real Madrid were revealed. The Spaniard was set to receive an astonishing £8.5million for just signing on and before even kicking, or in his case catching a ball. The £177,000 a week deal eventually fell through on deadline day but the 25 year old received a staggering £200,000 a week deal as a commiserating gesture from Manchester United.
Clubs have finally discovered the recipe for success and everyone is enjoying their slice of the cake, everyone besides the fans who work hard for the opportunity to get a glimpse of their team at the weekend.
It must be refreshing for those loyal to their club, shunned for years, to see their administrative structures sweat with the emergence of Football Leaks. Dodgy deals and tax avoidance previously buried are beginning to crop up as a result of the Portuguese set up.
“We would also like to see the creation of a publicly accessible database that would include all the details about transfers and breakdowns of transfer fees, signing fees, clauses and third-party ownership of players,” revealed one of the anonymous founders of Football Leaks.
A recent U-turn by Liverpool FC was a positive change for established big money sports clubs but it is not enough. The time has come to appreciate what the fans bring and share the cake.
George Orwell once referred to sport as war minus the shooting and to a certain degree, you cannot refute that. Sadly, it is the fans that are in the trenches at the moment.
By Aonghus Ó Maicín