Soccer Scandal – It’s Just a Business Now
Soccer used to be the people’s game with teams relying on their loyal fans for support and finance. Now the top clubs are owned by billionaires who treat the game either as a toy – or a financial gamble that might pay off
The top clubs of the UK Premier League are owned by a mixture of US and Russian billionaires, a Bahamas based financial speculator, and the oil state of Abu Dhabi. They have moved in to dominate what was formerly the sport of the working man.
One result is that ticket prices have escalated way beyond the reach of ordinary families. Parents who would like to take their sons and daughters to the match soon discover that total costs are fast approaching the $200 mark. As a result the sport is slipping away from the fan, into the world of corporate boxes and hospitality packages.
Most fans now watch at home or in a bar – either way Rupert Murdock is the winner.
That’s why his New International corporation was prepared to use ruthless and criminal methods to maintain the strength of his UK media empire. As the scandal of phone hacking creeps ever closer to the Murdock family, that power may begin to seep away, but he will fight desperately to retain it.His Sky TV company gained monopoly broadcast rights with the way smoothed for him by Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He has managed to hang on to most of them, despite opposition from the European Union. Murdock’s domination of UK politicians has paid off hugely for him.
Of the top clubs Manchester United are owned by US sports entrepreneurs, the Glazer family. Manchester City, the world’s richest club is owned indirectly by the oil state of Abu Dhabi, and Liverpool is controlled by a group of US millionaires. Arsenal are owned by a US millionaire but a Russian tycoon has a big minority stake, while Chelsea are owned outright by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovitch. Bahamas based financier Joe Lewis owns Spurs.
A new generation of fans is growing up which will never have the chance to see a top class club play in their stadium. They can only afford to follow games on TV and this kind of “artificial” spectating adds to the general unreality of modern soccer.
It’s a game in which some stars earn ten times an average annual salary – in one week. Then they often complain about it.
Off the field some agents make even more money – while contributing nothing the sport. Kia Joorabchian, the agent of the Argentine player Carlos Tevez, made around 28 million dollars when his client signed for Manchester City. Some of this fee is being claimed by another Russian oligarch, Boris Berezovsky.
Soccer is now the territory of international oligarchs, the super rich and hedge funds. The average fan has been written out of the picture in deals that have little to do with the game. Of all the owners, Chelsea chief Abramovitch is probably the only one really interested in soccer and he is passionate for success.
But his overall attitude reflects the way the game has changed. Abramovitch often makes big decisions based on a personal whim with no reference to soccer professionals or the fans. The club has moved away from its roots in the stands.
Chelsea and the rest of the big clubs are all about business, finance – and their fickle, opportunistic owners.