Of Bimbettes & Elite Euro Football Club Finances

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 2/12/2011 02:31:00 PM
Let's have a weekend feature (for the first time in quite a few weeks). Sport, gossip, music and, er, supermarket items...ain't no other man in IPE brings it to you [baby]. Towards the turn of the millennium, there was an explosion of teen blonde bimbettes manufactured by the United States entertainment industry: Britney Spears. Jessica Simpson, and Christina Aguilera.* Each have achieved a measure of success as well as notoriety: Britney went bald and became a drug addict; Jessica jinxed Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and gained...fuller proportions. And last Super Sunday, the just-divorced Christina did the worst thing possible in trying to shed the bimbette tag despite reaching thirty years of age by flubbing the American national anthem during the most watched event in America. What's a %^&*()! rampart, anyway? Ah well, these bimbettes emerged during a better time for the US before it started spewing forth folks attired in meat products. How's that for a symbol of decline?

Thankfully, botched rendition of the, er, "The Star-Mangled Bummer" and so-so halftime show aside, Super Bowl XLV was darn good where it really counts--action on the playing field. While watching it on commercial-free BBC painfully reminded me of how much more suited it is to commercial-festooned American TV, there is little doubting that NFL football is an excellent spectator sport. (And yes, I know what a flea flicker and a two-point conversion are.) As someone who roots for the underdog, it was nice to see two teams from modest towns make it to such a sporting event: a rust belt bastion (Pittsburgh) and a town whose population is little more than 100000 (Green Bay). Indeed, the NFL is noted for the remarkable chances most teams have of reaching the playoffs or even the Super Bowl each season. Having studied in Arizona, I was astounded that perpetual losers the Cardinals (who play at the "University of Phoenix" stadium...in my old environs the city of Glendale) almost won it all in 2009. Some have attributed this remarkable evenness to the implementation of a league salary cap from 1994 to 2009. However, there was no such cap this past season when such a remarkable parity was nonetheless in effect.

This roundabout discussion brings me to an arena where such evenness is not observed with European football. A few days ago, consulting firm Deloitte put out the 2011 issue of its interesting Money League report for those interested in the intersection of sports and business with its valuation of the world's top 20 clubs by revenue. It is already lamentable that all sides mentioned are in Western Europe. Worse still, only one club out of the top 20 has won the Champions League in the last decade (Porto in 2004), and only 16 have taken the pan-European title in its 55-year history by my count (Borussia Dortmund slipped out of the top 20 this year; otherwise it would have been just 15.)

To even things up, UEFA bigwigs have agreed to let the genie in a bottle out and begin implement "financial fair play" starting in 2012 that mandates that clubs generally spend only what they earn (4MB PDF for those with too much free time here). While I understand that a hard salary cap would have run into tremendous opposition, and it would have been nearly unworkable given differing revenue-generating conditions between say Portugal and Spain, achieving greater parity may not really be the objective. If implemented successfully--and that's a big *if* given possibilities for creative accounting--fiscal sustainability may be more of a goal than levelling the playing field. Speaking of which, Goal.com offers additional commentary to what's already contained in the Deloitte report:
It does not follow, though, that Real Madrid will be on a level playing field with neighbours Atletico or that Chelsea and Fulham will suddenly be recruiting the same calibre of player. The Champions League elite have the ability to make money from broadcasting, matches and commercial deals that cannot be matched by those lower down the chain.

“In the coming years, particularly as UEFA’s financial fair play rules take effect, Real Madrid’s revenue prowess should, in theory, translate into a competitive advantage on the pitch,” the report says. Given that Real generated €85.7m more than Manchester United, the standard-bearer of the Premier League’s commercial clout, and assuming that the club’s star signings justify their transfer value and wages on the pitch, the Spanish giants should maintain their position at the top of the financial tree.

As Deloitte director Alan Switzer told Goal.com UK: “The likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester City will have to adjust to comply to the new rules but if you don’t generate the revenue then you can’t spend it. “Some of these clubs will have to take action to balance revenues and costs. It might involve trimming the squad or focusing high wages on a smaller core of players. It is likely they will address FFP in both ways, by increasing revenues and cutting costs in certain areas.”
There's even a suggestion that taxation differences will mean English Premier League players taking their talents to lesser taxes Spain (hasta la vista, baby?):
It will also be a concern to Premier League clubs that the tax advantages of working in Spain, where around 22 per cent rather than 50% of the players’ salary is diverted to the tax man, mean that there will always be the attraction of playing in La Liga. Will someone like Gareth Bale find it hard to turn down Real when they come knocking at his door every summer with big promises and suitcases full of cash?

Ditto Cesc Fabregas. Despite the claims of Nou Camp top brass that Arsenal’s talisman is out of their financial reach, Barca’s new administration have demonstrated financial realism by securing a €160m five-year shirt sponsorship deal with Qatar Sports Investment from the start of next season. FFP will keep directors and accountants on their toes and should prompt a new era of relative restraint. But the rich will remain rich. It will always be the way.
If only European football could have NFL style parity. Heck, if only European WAGS (wives and girlfriends of footballers) had the same franchise-jinxing ability as Jessica Simpson in her prime--or the warbling ability of Christina for that matter. In the meantime, Euroreaders, it ain't over till the tiny lady sings.

Come on over, indeed.

*Mandy Moore during her bottle blonde phase doesn't count.