Football is a true sport. Where mind, body and human spirit is tested. A game where 22 strong individuals compete against each other to come out on top. The beautiful game is so much more. It’s a simple game, requiring either your best of mates or just some random group of strangers. A place where the line between You and I is blurred to bold Us. It’s a game which unites people irrespective of who they are, where they come from or what they do. Over 90 minutes, you could have two random strangers meet, get to know each other, have a good time, exchange details and be friends for life. That’s the beauty of the game. It’s where we don’t discriminate or differentiate. Everyone is equal once the whistle blows. But for the past few years, the beautiful game is struggling. From when the game was all about what’s next to who’s the next big thing. From crowd chants and community engagement to huge sponsorship deals and club takeovers. The football landscape has changed with the commercialization of the sport. The beautiful game turned into a giant money-minting machine
Neymar Jr. being unveiled at Stade Parc de Prince, Paris by PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi
Football has been marred with such trivialities. But the biggest one must be player transfers. They’ve always been part of football lore. It always surprised fans and the public alike. Anything could’ve happened, from one player moving to a rival team, a player moving to a foreign league, big steals or players breaking transfer records. The last part however, was always etched in the minds of the people. From £100 in 1893 to £198 million in 2017. That’s a huge leap even after considering inflation. It was back in 2000 when the first £30 million player transfer happened prompting the BBC to ask “has the world gone mad?”. Now, in 2017, the world record transfer of Neymar has people asking the same question. And most importantly, is it worth it?
Football transfers, specifically professional football transfers, require money and for good reason. Each professional football player is registered with their respective national football associations whom they would have to represent in international friendlies and international competitions. Each football association is registered with FIFA, the international governing body for football. Furthermore, a player is subject to training and would in his time as a player join a professional football club to use those talents which he acquired over the years, things which he must’ve trained for years together at a football academy within which he rose through the ranks to be an amateur to finally be a professional player. Seems complicated but I just explained as to why a player needs to be paid his exorbitant wages. He/She, like every other professional has worked hard for years together to gain knowledge about his/her field of work and to apply said knowledge in their respective field of work. Now, football requires a lot of technical know-how and creativity from the players’ side. Every footballer maybe trained to play in a certain position, but their individual mettle and skill is what makes them stand out. Football clubs would do anything to keep talent locked in their ranks as they could prove to be the difference between fame and shame. Most football clubs place ridiculously high release clauses in players contracts if they believe the player has scope to exceed his output and prove to be an accolade winning player. Paris St. Germain’s (PSG) recent purchase of Neymar shouldn’t be questioned. He is a fantastic player who helped FC Barcelona to 10 titles in 4 years. Ask anyone and they would’ve seen Neymar at least once in any form of media as he’s the most marketable sportsman in the world. He is the face of football. So, when you ask me “Is £198 million justified for a single player?”, I would agree hands down or I drown. However, what needs to be questioned is where is this money coming from?
Now, source of funds in the football industry is a very complex thing to breakdown. However, it can be simplified to four simple things, namely sponsorship deals including rights from broadcasting rights, merchandise revenue, club revenue and club owners. Most football club transfers in the world are in the excess of millions and is paid by the clubs. But, with the expensive wages, stadium maintenance, staff salary, academy expenses etc. how does a club actually get its money. Here, comes the arrival of club owners. The club could either owned by a single majority shareholder or a conglomerate of shareholders. These are people who would have all the right within the club and can decide what happens at their respective clubs. They, are also the people who fund the clubs. Most of their money is used during transfers. This gives famous and prosperous clubs a chance to exploit the market. Especially a club like Paris St. Germain(PSG), which is owned by Qatar Sports Investment, an indirect government fund of the state of Qatar. When nations start to fund football clubs when do you get to draw the line? Now, I don’t mean to target PSG only here. I’m calling out all the Ambramovich’s, Glazer’s, Venky’s, Korenke’s, etc. Thank God, there exists Financial Fair Play (FFP) preventing clubs from spending more than their means. All European football clubs are asked to balance their football related expenditure with TV and ticket income, including revenue raised by the commercial department. This way all is fair within the transfer market. Each club in the European Union will be denied a monopoly in the market.
PSG are however, not complete idiots. They understand what it means to go against FFP. They were punished earlier. They seek to avoid the same this season and have already started offloading players to reduce costs. It is soon looking to obtain the services of 19 year old wonder kid Kylian Mbappe in 2018 for almost three fourth of Neymar’s transfer fees. This form of exclusivity and pursuit of domination threatens the game. Not because of the money involved, but rather the way the game is changing from who is a more cohesive and skilled unit to who has the most expensive players. From a time when players used to play for personal and team pride to now playing for the team which could buy you a supercar every week. The game now belongs to the headlines. Where people flock to the stores and pitches because at one time, the government of a nation paid the highest transfer fee for a player and they read it in big bold black letters across a white canvas. It’s a shame, that a game which once brought people together on the streets is now played in boardrooms and behind printing machines.
- Arcangelo Anthony