Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Spending the Arsene Wenger Way
Pound-for-Pound Nonsense

Arsene Wenger is so tight with Arsenal's cash, you'd think he was spending out of his pocket to acquire players, purchase light bulbs and wash kits.

Of course I'm being sarcastic here, he's handed a budget from the board and spends accordingly. None of us knows what that budget is, or what Wenger's orders are on how to manage it. Therefore, his frugality leaves him open to too much speculation and criticism from Gunner fans.

Publicly, Wenger deplores the raging spending sprees clubs are currently enjoying. He says they're fiscally irresponsible, welcomes UEFA's investigation of clubs' ledger sheets and says those non-tightwads should be given the boot from competition until their balance sheet, well, balances.

Is his thinking out of line?

Tough call. Part of me thinks that clubs are independent for-profit entities that should use whatever strategy at their disposal to win games, championships and notoriety. If they want to spend themselves red, then have at it, but don't ever come looking for bailouts.

On the other hand, clubs are not like enterprises that operate within an industry. Companies are not bound to an over-arching structure such as a Premier League. Pro sports is one case where the sum of the whole is greater than its individual parts. Teams have to exist within the Premier League and contribute to its overall health by putting the best product on the field; if one leg fails then all suffer.

Where I part company with Wenger and UEFA president Michel Platini is when they say it is cheating to rack up insurmountable debt. United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are deep in debt for a variety of reasons. Yet things are unlikely to change so long as lending instutions farm out the money, the clubs make the payments and the product on the field remains stellar.

Once United hits relegation because it can no longer afford the Ronaldos and Berbatovs of the world, then perhaps the tune will change. It's already happened to a lesser degree in Spain to Celta Vigo and Portugal with Boavista. Valencia is in financial peril as well in Spain.
"I think teams who have deficit should be kicked out of Europe. The only way to go is that there is a control over all of Europe, and I think it will go that way whether you like it or not. UEFA will bring in a control of the management of every individual club and every individual club will be controlled."
Again, I part ways here with Wenger's socialistic view. Just look at MLS' single-entity situation; is that what he wants? One structure where the federation owns and manages all the clubs and transactions? Teams are strangled and cannot drastically improve their situations. Development is encouraged, but still falters. Interest--and money--is subsequently lost hand over foot.

I think Wenger and Arsenal's board need to steer their own ship, and let those who are destined to fail to do so. So be it. If fiscal respnsibility is Arsenal's choice, then so be it. Sign marginal players, keep the ledger balanced and appease shareholders and lenders with profits and on-time payments. What Wenger wants is for UEFA to legislate the approach to management he has chosen, and create a level playing field, one in which Arsenal could thrive. This club hasn't won a trophy since 2004 and a major European cup since 1994. Maybe he wants some outside help to return Arsenal to the top? Maybe the debt service on Emirates is the real chokepoint here. Maybe Wenger should not be so disingenuous when he says he wants clubs in debt kicked out of Europe. If that were the case, he'd be mighty lonely--and oh yeah, on the outside looking in too.


Anonymous said...

Arsenal won the FA Cup in 2005, otherwise....useless Blog

Starting11 said...

That's what you get out of the whole thing? One mistake? And you call it useless. Brilliant!

Anonymous said...

nice blog mate...i like the way you have addressed the situation deeply and have pulled no punches....this blog surely has the potential to dominate every blog in the world in the coming months....just keep going.