Now I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of the financial stuff because to be honest, I don’t want to bore you.
Real Madrid have announced some stunning financial figures to the world of football. After borrowing £151mill last summer to sign a whole bunch of marquee players, they have proved the doubters wrong and come back with strong profits despite the economic down turn and despite them failing to win a trophy.
Their gross revenue has increased by 8.6% to £363million (versus our £223mill), they reduced their net debt by £70million to £201million (versus our £203million) and they delivered pre tax profits of £25million (versus our £40mill).
Now, you might not think those figures are too far off ours. Well, Madrid have done this off the back of spending nearly £200million on players, plus spending another £90million this summer.
You can get all preachy about the vulgarity of what they’ve done, or you can think about it and say, isn’t that a fantastic achievement? Isn’t that the way a football club should be run?
I know it’s highly unfashionable to say such things. Many Arsenal fans on my twitter account were cooing over the potential collapse of Liverpool, saying things like,
‘Give me 4th place in the league and financial security any day of the week!’
Well, I like the idea of financial security as well, but at the same time, I’d like to think we’d never be run by a couple of chancers like Gillett and Hicks. Liverpool aren’t in debt because of player spending, nor are Manchester United. They are in debt becuase their owners couldn’t afford to buy them in the first place.
Madrid are being run by a man who has made serious amounts of money and a man who love his football. He puts the football first. After all, if he was looking for big returns, he’d probably be better off playing the stock markets. His vision is always to create the best teams for the Madrid fans. He knows with great teams come great revenues. So he went out, he bought the best on the market, he brought in a coach he thought could deliver in a season and he maximised commercial revenue streams all over the world.
Ok, they didn’t win everything like he’d hoped, but they came within a whisker of over turning Barcelona and they will no doubt be in contention again this year.
So my point about this whole Madrid circus is that whilst I’m not encouraging Arsenal to go out and do the same, I am asking them to look at what the Spaniards have done and take some notes. Spending money does not always equate to a Portsmouth / Leeds collapse.
Big players bring in a new generation of fans, they shift shirts, TV deals and improve the money sponsors are willing to pay you. They also encourage businesses to sign up for corporate boxes, they ensure the ground is always filled and in general, if managed correctly, they ensure you’ll be competing.
Arsenal sacrificed a season because we didn’t want to pay £4million for Mark Schwarzer in June. I’ve had countless Arsenal fans tell me he wasn’t worth the money. What sort of attitude is that to take? Since when did our fans start counting the pennies like that? They’d rather go a season with a keeper we know isn’t good enough than spend an extra £2million on solving the problem for 3 years?
We’ve been programmed to be prudent with our dreams. When we moved into the stadium it was so we could compete with Manchester United and the biggest clubs in Europe. People say Chelsea changed that… well, again, I disagree, have we come anywhere near matching United’s spending power pre-Abramovich? Not at all… we’ve moved over to the Emirates and we’re risking a season on £2million.
Does that smack of a club who want to be the biggest in the world?
Arsenal need to stop thinking about breaking pretax profit records and remember what a football club is all about at this level. If you sign the right players, all the commercial stuff will follow. Football is about signing the best players, taking a few risks and competing for as many trophies as possible. Under Arsene Wenger, I feel we’ve lost our way over the last few years and the coach, for some reason, has become addicted to the transfer surplus.
People talk about Arsenal class all the time. I don’t see what’s classy about our policy. We charge fans outrageous sums of money, we brag about the amazing profits we make off the back of that, then we don’t reinvest that money back into the squad. We talk about financial prudence and how we do things the right way, then we go around Europe exploiting loop holes and steal clubs young players before they get the chance to make any decent money out of their investment.
Where is the class in that?
Arsene, Gazidis and the board should start thinking about how they can improve the squad this season instead of looking at the next money making caper that comes at the expense of the fans. We’ve taken a huge risk again this season by buying up expensive tickets few of them could afford… I think the club should have matched that investment by signing a Pepe Reina type goalkeeper. It’s time for the board to give the fans something back, time to show us the point of moving stadium, time to act like a big club and announce our intentions on the world stage.
Madrid have proved that spending money can work commercially… though I wouldn’t expect us to match their spending or the risks they took, I do think there could be a middle ground where we at least spend the money we generate on something other than giving young players pay rises based on performances they haven’t given yet.
Come on Arsenal, loosen those purse strings!