Thursday, July 28, 2005

Bad for football

European clubs touring around the world to places like Asia and North America is bad for the game.

Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea and AC Milan are among a host of clubs which subjugate their players to this meaningless practice.

It’s clear to me in the last few World Cups that the players were tired. The trend of big names dropping in the group stages are as much a product of many teams improving as it is about tired international superstar players. Both exist.

There is a small argument for the practice of touring. Its great exposure for the game and people all over the world see players they would normally not. That’s all great, but the practice of touring is causing harm.

The trend is increasing as FIFA pretends that its changes to the football calendar are making a difference while players load up on matches and have less to give for the different championships.

The problem, like always is money. These games are lucrative, for the players too, the sponsors like it, and obviously the Real Madrid bank account favors it as well.

FIFA’s political players see a host of forces all backed up with money. What is good for bank accounts makes Manchester United more likely to tour and less likely for anyone to act on the harm.

Is it fair to wait 4 years and then have tired-ass players show up at the World Cup?

A smarter strategy would be to have the second teams travel and some youth players. I know, everyone earns a lot less, but there is real benefit in it. And it’s been tried (but not given enough time).

A huge club like Manchester United has quite a good second squad; Chelsea has a second unit that could make Europe on their own. Tour your future and in a decade people will come because they know they will hear the names they see on tour again.

But 2005 is about the quickie, not the investment. And you wonder why these guys are always in debt? Tour, tire your players for money, add risk to losing silverware, and maybe go deeper in debt.

Giving games to players that play less often is good for player’s morale, not to mention experience and exposure.

Touring exposes the fundamental problem in pro sports: business comes first. In the quest for earnings, AC Milan, Chelsea, Manchester United, et al, continue damaging their own prospects.


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Blogger Cathal Breathnach said...

I couldn't agree more. great article

7/28/2005 6:40 PM  
Blogger Dale said...

Teams have to tour because the extra revenue props up the coffers, helping the clubs to build their squads and/or academies and contribute to buffering overall operating costs.

Then you have the exposure factor, which provides people with the opportunity to see players they would only normally get to see on TV or in newspapers/magazines and has the capability of strengthening a clubs’ fan base. This is particularly relevant to fans in Asia. (For that reason, touring a second squad wouldn’t cut it and would not be commercially viable to anyone).

Clubs tour Asia every year. There were 5 Premiership teams this summer and it would have been 6 had Liverpool not cancelled. Add to that Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern and its been a busy old time. Clubs generally return every 2-3 years - the organizers pay handsome appearance fees in addition to the expense of the team travel, food & accommodation, logistics and security (all 5-star) to ensure it’s worthwhile (and safe) for the clubs to travel half-way around the world; and the subsequent local sponsors pay-through-the-nose to the organizers, for the privilege of having their brand temporarily associated with the club name/logo and being emblazoned on TV and print-ads throughout the relevant territory for 2-3 weeks, plus A-boards and programme ads on matchday, in the effort of ultimately selling more product. Seemingly, a good business opportunity for all concerned.

Not exactly. Due to the high fees (Man Utd netted around 3 million Pounds for 4 games – which is more than they would nett for 4 domestic games) that the organizers pay and the sponsors cover, means high ticket prices (average 65 pounds) which is out of reach for the majority of fans (even in the UK) which equates to less than expected attendances which results in less merchandise sales. So, it becomes extremely short term for everyone.

Most Premiership clubs, are claiming that they want to break into the lucrative Asian market with its viewer-ship of a single live Premiership/FA Cup game averaging 120 million (and there are at least 4 live games broadcast each weekend throughout the season), not to mention the Champions League games during the week - yet they constrain themselves. Man Utd (and Real Madrid) have only scratched the surface of this potential 2 Billion Pound a year Asian market.

There are hundreds of Asian corporates gagging to get some form of an association with Premiership clubs (and Real Madrid et al), but your United’s and RM’s (we won’t mention a couple of London clubs) ask for ludicrous upfront fees whilst many other clubs seem intent on partnering with sponsors that only benefit from their local UK/European market.

The clubs know there is a huge market in Asia and if some of the club commercial departments could just take their heads out of their bottoms for a few moments, they could perhaps understand that asking silly upfront fees causes the potential continual revenue streams to basically end there and then. Where, in fact, they could go for lower upfront fees and a generous revenue share going forward.

I’m being a little conservative here, but just imagine what an additional 80-100 million Pounds a year could do for a club! That’s more than some clubs get from their current main sponsor in 10 years!

And so, we go back to the beginning of your post. I agree up to a point on the tiring-out of International players.

And that point is - that the clubs have only themselves to blame for not maximizing the effects of a tour with its ongoing commercial potential and the opportunity to create a large squad that can survive not only the hectic domestic season but also the Champions League and International schedules.

7/29/2005 1:11 PM  
Blogger Football Commentator said...


Well reasoned comment.

I agree in many ways with you. It does add to the bottom line and that matters when the pressure to buy more talent is on.

When you look at the football market though, Madrid is buckets in debt and splashing another 20 million here or there for players.

The only way they can afford these names is to tour, if I understand you.

Thats more or less correct, because the teams are paying thru the nose for the player. Overheated prices.

The point I disagree with you on is that the clubs in the article dont have talent below the famous names that can draw people.

They do.

Watch Lionel Messi from Barcelona, who cant even get a game in the first team.

These sorts of large squads you are talking about already exist.

7/29/2005 9:24 PM  
Blogger Kim Stian Ervik said...

Atleast it is good for Arsenal that the other top teams go around the globe! ^^

7/30/2005 1:30 PM  

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