Category Archives: World Football

I bet they would sell the naming rights on the back stand too!

7 reasons why Tottenham’s new stadium deal is bad for them and bad for football

7. Taxpayer subsidies

This is not a partisan issue. When football teams threaten their local council that they will either move or refuse to upgrade in order to force those councils to give them millions of pounds in subsidies then English Football is in danger of being flushed down the bowl of American sports.

Make no mistake, Spurs threatened to leave North London for Stratford. This is an old school strong-arm tactic here in America where team owners threaten local governments: build me a new stadium or I will take my team to another town.  Spurs did the exact same thing American sports teams do when they pursued a move to the Olympic stadium in Stratford.

But the worst part for me is that Tottenham threatened a deprived area.  As one Spurs fan put it, “Tottenham is quite a deprived area and by (the club threatening to pull) out, the long-term outlook for that area is relatively bleak.” Joe Lewis, one of the owners of Tottenham, is one of the wealthiest men on the planet and he successfully strong-armed £27m out of Haringey and London (from their riot recovery fund!!!) to help fund their football club.

This is the worst kind of robber barron politics, the wealthy taking from the poor, and the council and city giving in set a horrible example for other cities. I’m not one to make the “slippery slope argument” but teams in the USA often cite precedent when using this tactic to force taxpayers to give them money.

And wait to see what happens if the whole project starts to go pear shaped. The cry from Tottenham will be “we will have to close this project down” or “we will have to play our games at Wembley from now on” and that will “take thousands of jobs away from the people in your council” unless you “give us ________________ tax break/subsidy/write-off/land/etc/etc.”

6. Increased competition

I keep seeing people say that Tottenham will have it easier than Arsenal did because of the new TV deals, the increase in sponsorship money, and the higher profile of the Premier League. All of those things are true.

The only problem is that all of that increased money is going toward player salaries and transfers. And all of that money is being used to bring in top players to traditionally mediocre clubs: Crystal Palace signed Cabaye from PSG, Payet signed for West Ham, and Shaqiri just signed with Stoke City other upper-level named players will sign for clubs we never thought possible before. The level of competition in the Premier League is taking a huge jump forward as all of these clubs spend their money on bringing in talent that would normally have been reserved for bigger clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea, and Man City.

All around them the competition is growing stronger, buying better players, and threatening Tottenham’s place in the middle of the table. This stadium could hamstring this club.

5. Increased Ticket Prices

Did you know that Tottenham supporters already pay the second highest ticket prices in the land? This is because unlike the Tank Shed in Fulham and the Oil Well in Manchester, Spurs are run like a business and the owners of the Spurs business don’t subsidize ticket prices.

Building a stadium ain’t cheap and even with taxpayer subsidies Spurs are going to have massive loans and massive repayment structures. Combined with the fact that they won’t be in the Champions League, will have to spend to attract new players, and can’t grow their commercial revenue, they will almost certainly eclipse Arsenal in terms of ticket prices when those loan markers come due.

Their fans are going to be paying some of the highest ticket prices in world sports to watch a team that can’t even make the Champions League? How long will that last?

4. Football is in a bubble

One of the hallmarks of a bubble is that no one ever notices that they are in the bubble; they just think the growth will go on forever. You think commercial sponsorships are just going to keep growing? That foreign television revenue will keep growing? That player salaries and transfer fees can keep growing unabated? This is a bubble. It’s going to burst soon.

And I suspect it may have already burst a bit. Many fans are expecting Tottenham to get a record deal for Naming Rights stadium. But do you think the major corporate sponsors are going to be eager to put their name on a stadium that isn’t even going to be featured in the Champions League? I actually think the sponsors have Spurs over the barrel a bit here and will be looking for value for their money. Without the leverage of a winning history, without Champions League football, and located in a depressed area, Tottenham might find the bride lacks suitors.

3. No history

Tottenham haven’t won a trophy in 7 years, haven’t won a major (FA Cup) trophy in 24 years, haven’t won the League in 54 years, and have only played ONE season in the Champions League since 1962. Unlike Arsenal, who built their stadium on the back of the Invincibles, Tottenham have no such foundation of recent winning for new fans to latch onto.

Many writers are lauding Tottenham’s deal to play a whopping 20 NFL games at the new stadium and saying that this will open the lucrative American market but I completely disagree. I can’t see many Americans adopting a club with no history just because their stadium was used to host an NFL game.

Fans who aren’t born into a club tend to be band-wagon fans. This isn’t a criticism — I love the band wagon fans when they pick my team — it’s just a fact that when you have no reason to pick a team, you tend to pick winners.

Most of the new football fans I meet in the States support Man U, Chelsea, Man City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich. In fact, many of them support more than one of those big teams at a time!

So, unless Tottenham can work miracles and win something with little to no spend, or break into the Champions League, then if anything, this NFL deal might end up benefiting rivals who have won trophies and are in the Champions League: like Arsenal.

2. They are terrible in the transfer market

Without Champions League football, and the tens of millions of pounds (plus prestige) it brings to clubs, Tottenham will continue to struggle to keep their best players and will continue to struggle to buy top quality players. This leads to increased costs and diminishing returns.

Look at the clear out they had to do this season, Holtby, Capoue, and Paulinho have all been sold this summer. Soldado cost them €30m and they are currently flogging him for a packet of crisps. Huerelo Gomes was on their books until his free transfer to Watford last season, a loss of over €9m in transfer fees alone.  This list of transfer failures in the last four years is longer than the list of honors the club has won in its entire history. Tottenham have proved time and again that they are terrible in the transfer market.

1. There’s only one Arsene Wenger

It took Arsenal nearly a decade of austerity into their stadium project before they were able to spend freely again. In that time, Arsene Wenger was able to put together a football squad which perennially qualified for the Champions League, on a shoe-string budget, while being forced to sell off a star player (or more) every season.

Tactically, and by being astute in the transfer market, it was Wenger somehow keeping Arsenal in the Champions League with a ragtag bunch of misfits (Denilson and Song played midfield while Andrei Arshavin played center forward), that, more than any other factor, kept Arsenal in consideration for these top of the table sponsorships which eventually led to signing big name players.

Who will be their Arsene Wenger?

Oh and also, how great has Wenger been for Arsenal? I guess we will find out if Tottenham ever get their stadium built.



Sepp Blatter: Say Hello to My Little Friend

If you’ve seen one gangster movie, you’ve seen them all. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lavish production with big named actors like the Godfather trilogy, a cheesy story about a crack dealer staring Ice T like New Jack City, or even Thelma and Louise. Each and every gangster movie basically ends the same way, in a blaze of glory. And just like every other gangster movie I was kind of hoping that the end of FIFA would be at least a little dramatic. Like maybe Sepp Blatter would hold a press conference at his home, pop out onto a gaudy balcony, yell out “SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND!”, and start firing one of those tee-shirt cannons full of euros at all the collected media types.

But real life is boring. Despite being one of the biggest criminal gangs in the world, the fall of FIFA head Sepp Blatter didn’t end in a dramatic shootout. It ended with a resignation. It was the dramatic equivalent of Tony Montana throwing wet ladyfingers at his enemies.

For his next move Blatter will probably abscond to some country with no extradition treaty with the USA, like Russia, and spend the rest of his life in exile — wealthy, wealthy, exile. Вы говорите по-русски, Sepp? Well, you better learn!


And now that Sepp has stepped aside everyone in world football is dreaming big about what FIFA might become. Well, you might as well go ahead and stop dreaming now because despite Sepp Blatter stepping down I will bet you dollars to donuts that FIFA doesn’t change much. Because the problem with FIFA isn’t just Sepp Blatter and his criminal gang. The problem with FIFA is the entire structure.

There is a fantastic article on the Washington Post which details both how Sepp Blatter maintained his power and the complex global politics at the heart of FIFA. While everyone knew that FIFA was corrupt, while they had executives arrested, people pleading guilty, admissions of ticket stealing, and while Blatter kept making ridiculous pronouncements about race, gender, and sexuality, Sepp Blatter kept getting re-elected and my friends kept asking how.

The answer is simple, there are 209 nations in FIFA and every one gets just one vote.  So, France has the same voting power as Trinidad and Tobago. That is how Blatter held on to power, by catering to small countries. He almost literally didn’t care what countries like England and the USA had to say about his governance. There were more than enough votes in the small countries, countries which can be controlled easily, for him to maintain power.

FIFA also governs player transfers. By the laws of game players are not actually allowed to say no to international call ups. If a player tried to refuse to play in Qatar or Russia on the moral grounds that they refuse to be party to homophobic, racist, human rights violations, the player can be banned from club play.

FIFA uses its power to compel big name players to play in special, one-off, tournaments. For example, the USA is set to host the 2016 “Centenario” of the Copa America. That’s right, Messi, Neymar, and Alexis Sanchez are going to be playing in a special Copa America in Seattle and other places in the USA, the first Copa America ever held outside of Latin America, on the centenary of the founding of the Copa America. Just one year after their previous Copa America which follows the World Cup. South American players won’t be getting a single moment’s rest for three years straight.

And while the world has been wringing their hands over World Cup bribery and wondering why Qatar gets a world cup when they have no history of soccer, have no soccer infrastructure, and have a history of horrible human rights violations the real corruption has been passing right before our very eyes. It’s all about sponsorship money: $1.6bn in sponsorship money.

The Department of Justice’s case against FIFA turned up $150m in bribes.  And that’s just what they turned up here in North America. The indictment makes it clear, FIFA have operated like a mafia for over 20 years:

The indictment alleges that, between 1991 and the present, the defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted the enterprise by engaging in various criminal activities, including fraud, bribery and money laundering.  Two generations of soccer officials abused their positions of trust for personal gain, frequently through an alliance with unscrupulous sports marketing executives who shut out competitors and kept highly lucrative contracts for themselves through the systematic payment of bribes and kickbacks.  All told, the soccer officials are charged with conspiring to solicit and receive well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for their official support of the sports marketing executives who agreed to make the unlawful payments.

Maybe it’s just CONCACAF and COMNEBOL where this money laundering, bribery, and fraud has been taking place? I doubt it. There was a revelation today that FIFA paid $5m to the FA of Ireland so that they would drop their lawsuit against France over the infamous Hand of Gaul. And we’ve already heard some rumors about the Qatar World Cup bid being tied to massive commercial giveaways. I suppose we will have to wait to see the results of those investigations.

But in the end, this is an astonishing level of corruption, more than most of us even thought. It is corruption spanning over 20 years, with a price tag of at least $150m, and involving a host of FIFA vice-presidents and multinational sports marketing corporations. It looks like systemic corruption in an organization which only adopted ethics rules in 2004.

So, sure, dream of changing FIFA. Maybe we can all wish that there will be fewer pointless International friendlies? Maybe we can all wish that the new head of FIFA limits the absurd menagerie of pre- and post- World Cup tournaments that players are forced to participate in? But with all the money at stake, with number of international tournaments on the rise, and with the players almost enslaved to FIFA’s governance of player transfers… I wouldn’t bet on it.


You know it's the first thing you thought!

Bale is a little fish in a big pond: thoughts on the Champions League final

Good morning everyone, quick post today, nothing well written or interesting. So, you know, like the old days.

I’m excited for the Champions League finals for the first time in a while and it’s because of Juventus. For me Juve embodies the perfect combination of attacking and defensive football. They kinda park the bus, but they do it with style.

Someone will read that I just said that Juve park the bus and get all angsty but what I mean is that they are a well organized defensive team. I like that. I think it’s a thing of beauty to watch a well organized defensive team. Not just in the way that they move as a unit but with Juventus there is also a certain attitude which hearkens back to the old days.

I’m not calling Juventus’ defense the C¹ word. They are just a good team who play a well organized brand of defense.

They are also an exciting attacking team and Pogba, Pirlo, and Vidal are three of my favorite midfielders in the world right now. Pirlo plays passes that make me wish I’d started paying football when I was a kid. Pogba is probably the best in the world right now at turning defense into attack. A lot of players get labeled as “the new Patrick Vieira” but he’s the real deal. And Vidal is very similar to Pogba. Those three compliment each other very well.

It’s a misnomer that watching a team like Juventus put on a defense-first performance isn’t fun, exciting, or entertaining. Once you realize what they are doing, the excitement is in every moment of build-up play, every tackle, every block. It’s like NASCAR, the excitement is in the idea that there might be a crash.

And when the defense-first team does break away with the ball, everyone is on their toes. No one breathes for that 30 seconds as the attacking team is suddenly countered.

I should say, it’s exciting for the neutral. For the attacking team’s fans it’s a combination of frustration and heartbreak. For the defensive team’s fans it’s a combination of panic and bliss.

And so, this Champions League final, pitting Italy’s Juventus versus the Spanish Barcelona, with the Spanish side’s star attack of Messi, Suarez, and Neymar, is going to be 90 minutes of fun. That’s what I hope anyway.

In my heart I suspect that Barcelona’s attack is going to be too strong and that Juve won’t have an answer.

I suspect that because let’s face it, Real Madrid probably should have scored at least another goal. But for Bale there went Real.

Bale had 7 chances in that game, more than any other player, and only got one on target — a long range, speculative effort. He also had two “big chances”, shots right in front of goal, which he failed to get on target. And where the Bale of last year finished those chances, the Bale of this year looked a bit like a headless chicken.

I haven’t watched him enough this season but his dip in stats, plus reading the reports and hearing the Real Madrid fans voice their utter disdain for him, makes me wonder if he isn’t quite at the level of a club like Real Madrid. You know, a little fish in a big pond. You put him at a small club like West Brom, West Ham, or Tottenham (all the hams), and he looks remarkably good. You put him next to Ronaldo and Benzema and he looks remarkably ordinary.

My guess is that when he moves back to a smaller club he’ll look like a world beater again.

That’s it for today. Les will have a column out tomorrow and I will make some comments about Walcott/Bale in the comments section at lunch.

See you then.