It’s been an interesting few days going walk-about, and meeting new folks while working in what I’d describe as a “pulling-your-teeth-out-without-a-local-anaesthetic” type of economy. You know the kind of economy that demands that you bend over, grab your ankles and doesn’t offer you the courtesy of using lubrication while shafting you in the most uncomfortable fashion.
“We’re heading to the dog house”, Joshua reminds all of us round the table discussing how best to stop our client from having to fold its tents and go to the wall.
To which I remind folks that whatever needs to be done should be done by Monday night so I can make my way back home. I have a very important
European engagement on Tuesday night with an organization in Germany that specializes in the kind of artistic expression I normally indulge in at the home of football.
“Since when was football an art”, comes the retort from Steve across the table.
See, you have to forgive Steve. Not only does he have the personality of a puff adder, he resents that I call Wengerball and what Arsenal does as art. Personally, I think he’s a closet United fan, but he pretends he doesn’t give a hooting funt about football.
“Europe is fucked anyway. How long will they pretend the frigging elephant in the room is a hippo”, Joshua eloquently brings some order to the table.
And it makes you think. Greece is way past staring at the abyss, and they’re at the point where the abyss is smiling right back at them before it swallows the whole country into a very dark place. Ireland and Portugal like most other fairly mediocre economies were propelled by the smoke and mirrors of a European political plot hatched in Maastricht to create the United States of Europe. A plot which has back fired spectacularly with the impending collapse of whichever is the lesser of two evils, the Eurozone and its single currency, or the European Union in its current form.
The amazing thing is this though. The football establishment still thinks that everything is normal and that what is happening around them will not affect their existence. You only have to listen to the illiterate punditocracy jizzing and sycophanting about the amount of money being spent by a cabal of filthy rich individuals, or in the case of Manchester City, another country’s sovereign wealth fund.
When talking about Everton, a club that pretty much has to ask Barclays Bank for permission to pay the bills – the solution offered is that they should go to the middle east and look for a sugar daddy because that’s the only way to survive.
This kind of “chocolate tea pot” reasoning is what has contributed to a culture of recklessness when it comes to football finance. The expectation is that the only way of working through the challenges of the game is by spending money you don’t even have to buy your way out of it. We’re constantly told that “it’s the way the world is now”. Accept it or take the highway. If you don’t have money, you can’t compete.
The hacks get bemused when Arséne Wenger suggests that football is pretty much going to hit a cash crisis in the very near future. You can almost see their rolling eyes scream out “Wenger should just stick to managing Arsenal and buying the big name, big money players he needs to compete with City and United”.
Mind you, Wenger is a guy who has a masters degree in economics, and it wouldn’t be farfetched to suggest that he actually has a clue about what he says regarding the economy. As they famously say, the tide is coming, and only after it has left will we see those who’ve been swimming naked.
It’s not even about the Financial Fair Play rules. Clubs will find loopholes around that. They won’t be able to cheat the economy though. I hear people say that clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid or even the debt riddled Man United will never be allowed to fail. There’s an Asian tycoon or Arab billionaire waiting in the wings to save them.
The thing is this though, it really doesn’t matter how luxurious and state of the art your yacht is. It could be the world’s most expensive and the world’s most fanciful boat. If you don’t have a lake or an ocean to prounce around in, then it’s pretty useless.
If the economies of Spain and Italy collapse – and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility – the super clubs in these countries will come tumbling down like a house of cards built on a foundation of smoke and mirrors. Ireland, Portugal and Greece are the proverbial warning signs and even though they represent a small percentage of the European economy, they’re the biggest red flags in town.
Italy alone represents 23% of the European economy and it’s pretty much unsavable by the patch up “rescue” packages being pushed around by Germany and France.
And people ask me why I love Arsenal so much. The answer – Arsenal is an oasis of sanity in an orgy of excess.
We get another opportunity to enjoy a new European adventure for the 14th consecutive season. We get to play a great team like Borussia Dortmund in an electric atmosphere.
And this is the thing to remember. Because of the foundations that Arsenal has built, we will continue to enjoy being at the high table of football for a very long time to come. While others figure out how to get out of their financial quagmire – well, they’ll probably try find a sugar daddy – we’ll be straddling the European landscape with our brand of scintillating and exciting football.
What more can you ask for?