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September 03, 2008


Igor Belanov

Sheik More-Money-Than-Sense has a good sense of humour though. He's going to sign Ronaldo, Torres and Fabregas in January. Will those City fans be so cocky when he gets bored and sods off back to the Gulf leaving them heavily indebted? Peter Ridsdale might have been an incompetent, but at least he supported Leeds.


Imagine the scene in January 2009:

Abu Dhabi United Spokesman: We want Ronaldo. We are prepared to pay £135m.

Sir Alex Ferguson: You left off a zero there, son.

Abu Dhabi United Spokesman: It's a deal!

Dave Weeden

Wikipedia has disillusioned me again! The start of the Ayatollah [football celebration] has often mistakenly been credited to former chairman Sam Hammam. And I thought this was a serious homage to Khomeini. Man City can't take it up because it's the wrong kind of Islam too.


Rather homage to him than homage to Kevin Keegan, as is the religion with the fuckwits on Tyneside.

When I was living there the Chronicle (which puts football on its hoardings every single fucking day) had one which said "Amoebi On Way To St James' Park". That's nothing, I thought, there's forty thousand or so amoebae turn up every second Saturday.

chris y

a huge gang of nitwits prepared to pay through the nose to be part of the crowd scene in some plutocrat’s fantasy world

Well, they are prepared to, so fuck 'em. When did professional football last regard the fans as anything but a (minor) income stream? At some stage you've just got to walk away.


"At some stage you've just got to walk away."

This is exactly right. But they never do, for the most part.


And I thought the Thaksin thing was weird...Seriously, for a while it looked like the foreign billionaire thing would run out of steam after both Manchester clubs (and Liverpool) were bought by people with no actual money - MU and the pool by crafty dealers hoping to LBO the whole thing with a ton of debt, City with Thaksin (don't they read the fucking papers?)

The Grauniad reported a couple of days before this that City had been repeatedly borrowing sums around £2m from one of the old directors; they denied unconvincingly that they were struggling to meet the payroll, but frankly, what else? Presumably they're losing money and Thaksin turned out to be living on his credit cards. Now there's a man who's lucked out hugely.

Frankly, the only photo of the new guy I've seen shows him looking alarmingly young; you wonder if his parents know.


It may be tht he's not spending enough for his parents to worry about it.


I get the strong feeling in the case of Newcastle that the waste of money is now the purpose; that in the minds of the fans, the football is secondary to the potlatch aspect. They keep having these "greatest moments in the history of the club", and they aren't about winning trophies, they're about paying wildly over the odds for a player who's famous because of the success he enjoyed at a different club.


When I lived in Newcastle, in High Heaton, there was once a balloon festival in a nearby park involving all sorts of balloons in unusual shapes, including one in the shape of the FA Cup. It floated, therefore, above the city but out of reach, in what was quite possibly the single most symbolic scene I have ever witnessed in my life.

In re: Keegan, the devotion to him makes some of the stuff you see in the Philippines every Easter almost comprehensible.


I suspect the real role of much supporter culture is costly signalling; you remain a Newcastle United fan *because* of the crushed expectations, not in spite of them, as the very suffering demonstrates your commitment to the Toon Ummah.

Says the Keighley RLFC fan.


True, but true of most clubs, says the Stoke City fan. On the other hand we never had the same sense of entitlement: our land of lost content is halfway down the top league. The Geordies think everything's been stolen from them in some mysterious way, so if they weren't in a perpetual state of resentment they wouldn't be Newcastle fans.


I like the comparison that seems to be emerging between Shia Islam and the Toon Army. Presumably Kevin Keegan hasn't resigned, he's just gone into occultation (possibly down a well near St James Park).


In a sense, at the sports we are all Shia. You can see exactly how Hezbollah works.


"It's not the despair. I can handle the despair. It's the hope..." - John Cleese, "Clockwise".


Signalling, yes indeed. Everton fans on a couple of websites I occasionally frequent are styling themselves "The People's Club" nowadays, the idea being that (and this view has some empirical backing, particularly in Liverpool) there is something inauthentic about success, and you can only be genuinely in touch with your Scouser fans if you struggle around bouncing between disaster and mediocrity, not like those airy fairy Red Spice Boys and their high-faluting, probably homosexual "winning". Everton fans also seem to believe that they are "harder" than Liverpool fans, seemingly only on the evidence that they must be tough in order to withstand the pain of supporting such a shit club. I'm rather glad I changed my mind a couple of years ago and started supporting Arsenal instead - I was accused of doing so "just because they're successful", despite the fact I obviously live much nearer the Arsenal ground than Goodison. Actually I did change allegiance because they're more successful and am bloody glad I did - it makes the season much more interesting.

Millwall are advertising for supporters on posters at Canary Wharf and Bank tubes. I wonder which marketing genius came up with that one?


"...which marketing genius came up with that one?"

Not a bad one, I'd say. At a guess, a lot of that demographic really wish they were barrow boys.

I see Everton aren't "the school of science" anymore then.


No, nor the "Bank of England Club".

Actually, thinking about it (and kicking myself with Wor Jackie Milburn's football boots because I've made this point myself before), Millwall are obviously advertising to the actual working class. The average tube passenger at either of those stations isn't someone like me; by headcount he's far more likely to be one of the back office clerks who catch the train in from Essex.


Bit late for the diaspora surely? Unless they're going for a straight nostalgia play.


nah, it makes a certain amount of commercial sense in that Essex doesn't have a decent football club in it and Millwall is reasonably easy to get to by road or tube if you're coming in from that way; it's a "People's Club" with tickets in reach of the common man, for people who are sick of the bloated plutocrats and Spice Boys of West Ham.


1. I always thought the Bank Of England Club were Sunderland, although I've seen the phrase applied to Herbert Chapman's Arsenal (who would precede the Sunderland side chronologically).

2. I support the club which has a reasonable strong claim to being the single most unsuccessful in English professional football over the past dozen seasons, and I can tell dsquared that following them is a fucking authentic experience. It's not anything else, but it's authentic all right.

3. On the whole I tend to agree that losing is better than winning in one's choice of club. When in Newcastle as mentioned above, I chose to follow Hartlepool, who when I arrived were second bottom of the fourth tier, rather than Darlington, who were second top.

Bizarrely, 'pools then proceeded to win the first seven matches I attended.

4. Are Millwall still run by Constantine Gonticas?

Igor Belanov


Your switching allegiance to Arsenal because they're successful clearly marks you out as someone who isn't an authentic football supporter. As for it being more interesting, most games Everton (for example) play are unpredictable and could go either way. With Arsenal you know that there's only about 10 important games a season in all competitions and the rest are practically decided in advance. I can't understand the mentality with 'fans' of clubs where if you win a match you just shrug your shoulders and wait until the next time you're up against Man Utd or Chelsea.

Igor Belanov

Dsquared (again):

Essex has both Colchester and Southend who have been more successful than Millwall in recent years and even less 'plutocratic'.


I think this Mi'wa' initiative will fail; if you live in an Essex new town you're almost certainly already aligned, and even more so due to the costly signalling factor. Basildon, frex, is core West Ham country.

Meanwhile, Arsenal's chairman Peter Hill-Wood is the only competent person in the game; I read not so long ago that they clear about £20-30m in cash flow for each home game, and doing the sums on the £260m loan (fixed at 6 per cent) they took out (from a *bank*, would you believe it, rather than Viktor Bout's younger brother or Jean-Bedel Bokassa), they only need to fill the ground a couple of times to cover the nut, leaving all the other stuff (megastore devotionalia/telly/sponsorship/prize money/the other 30 games) for spice.


Arsenal's chairman Peter Hill-Wood is the only competent person in the game

Hardly: there are miracles of book-balancing performed at lower levels of the game, by people who haven't got tens of thousands of devotees to help them out financially if they screw up.


[Your switching allegiance to Arsenal because they're successful clearly marks you out as someone who isn't an authentic football supporter]

I can see we're going to have to start calling you "Sherlock", Igor.

Related to Alex's point, the conference facilities at the Emirates Stadium also had me singing "Good Old Arsenal!" the time I went to an offsite there - they're really excellent. It would be an interesting exercise to do the organic cash generation exercise on a club-by-club basis, as I suspect that it would give you some very good long term predictions for the shape of the Premiership 2012.


Who else knew about this "comments wrap onto another page" function then?

Igor Belanov


Thank you. I just needed a bit of a break from my search for Lord Lucan. I'm not far off now.

Your other point shows up a problem for me. Fair enough, conference facilities raise money for clubs. But they're supposed to be sports clubs! I wonder how many professional football clubs have sports and leisure provision that can be used by the public? The story in the Metro newspaper that the Olympic Stadium might be demolished after 2012 just showed up the ridiculous attitude to sport in this country. If it doesn't involve vast sums of wealth or opportunities for flag-waving then nobody's interested. In France they have an 80'000 capacity multi-sport stadium and local facilities that put ours to shame.

Rant over, I'm going to play squash at a leisure centre our council wants to close.


the ridiculous attitude to sport in this country. If it doesn't involve vast sums of wealth or opportunities for flag-waving then nobody's interested.

Not at all sure this is true - "this" is surely the country with the greatest amount of interest in lower-division and non-league football in the world.

What is true is that in many other European countries (the one I'm in, for instance) the municipal authorities provide, and are obliged to provide, financing for culture, which includes sport. This means that they provide some of the facilities which in the UK would be provided (if indeed they are) by private finance, and for this reason they tend to take on diferent shape: sports clubs with social facilities, rather than loads of gyms.

I suspect that it would give you some very good long term predictions for the shape of the Premiership 2012

Well mebbe, but given the current trend for billionair takeovers, I'm not sure that the provision of conference and entertaining facilities is likely to be the most important determining factor.

I'm not discounting the role of good financial management and the provision of substantial revenue from sources outwith the football itself: believe me, football fans spend more time discussing this sort of thing than we could possibly ever have expected to (or wanted to). But at the end of the day, it's still going to count for relatively little if the club across the city can afford to lose a million billion trillion pounds each season because it's still less than the interest on the owner's bank account.


mmmm, but Abramoviches and Sheikhs are actually pretty thin on the ground - a lot more common are skint billionaires like the Glazers and Hicks/Gilette - people for whom interest is something you pay rather than something you receive. Or Mike Ashley types for that matter. Looking at Alex's calculation, it seems to me that Ashburton Grove is capable of handing Arsenal a reliable inflation-indexed £100m every single year, and it can't get into a temper and sell out to a stadium with less money to invest, and it's unlikely to start appointing "Directors of Football". I think the big point of interest here is that the success or failure of the new Anfield stadium more or less determines whether Liverpool FC lives or dies as a top flight club.


Ooh, that's a serious exaggeration unless you're using the term "top flight" to mean something other than it normally means.

Megabillionaires are, of course, not all that many in number, but how many do there need to be? It only takes another couple and one or two clubs whose setup depends on being in the so-called Champions' League are going to be really struggling - Liverpool being the most obvious example. And if they've invested in a new stadium then we may be in a situation reminiscent of Chelsea's West Stand all those years ago. Not that they'll ever go bust, though.

Actually they could perhaps raise extra revenue by their supporters having an annual four-cornered contest with Celtic, Barcelona and Newcastle United to determine which of them really are the Best Supporters In The World. Which reminds me of the Brazilian joke about how you make a profit....

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