The price of a season ticket at the Emirates? Just shy of a grand. A ‘cheap’ day out at Anfield? A hefty £47.30. Even a cup of tea, accompanied with a programme boastings Sir Alex Fergusons written word to thumb through at Old Trafford will cost you more than a fiver.
Such criminally high prices, it’s of little wonder that the temperament of the modern day football supporter becomes ever more impatient and demanding with each season that passes.
At the mere first sign of what might only be a slight hiccup in form, a supporter’s natural instinct is to crank up the pressures on their team and manager, fueled by the resentment that comes with consistently paying through the nose. An unwritten contract – but no less binding – demanding a certain, minimum level of football, is perceived as one’s divine right. And, when the football fails to live up to its pricey tag, managers are usually first in line to hear the supporter’s discontent.
If lusting for the manager’s blood fails to quench the thirst there is usually a bigger, more systemic problem: The owner.
Peter Risdale, back in the early 2000’s, was probably the first example of an owner who bet big and lost on the Premier League’s emerging wealth. Leeds United supporters eventually, turned on the incompetent owner, when his big gambles didn’t payoff and the team went from duking out a Champions League semi final to Championship football in little over two years.
A descent of breathtaking speed. A more recent example, but thankfully less catastrophic ownership, would be the Tom Hicks and George Gillett leveraged buyout of Liverpool that quickly soured and had supporters calling for an end to their insufferable stewardship.
While I am sure many a supporter would go far further than to describe the activities of the likes of Risdale, Hicks and Gillett as criminal, their fiscal delinquencies unfortunately, did not leave them vulnerable to a white collar conviction.
They may have been deeply incompetent but they were clean enough not to end up with a jail sentence – such injustice you might say. A fate though, which can not be said of AC Milan supremo, Silvio Berlusconi, who a couple of weeks back was convicted for tax evasion and sentenced to 4 years pending a likely appeal.
The former Premier League owners look clean as a whistle in comparison to the litany of scandals Berlusconi has endeared himself to over the decades. During his political career and as early as 1990, the media billionaire has been accused of mafia collusion, abuse of office, police bribery and, only last year, the solicitation of minors for sex. None of which though materialised in a conviction.
When Berlusconi has not been preoccupied manipulating legislation to worm his way out of his latest scandal, he has been busy building a reputation for making gaffes on the world stage.
Talking in 2009 Berlusconi said he would have handled the global economic crisis differently to Barack Obama, because “I’m paler”. Berlusconi also described Obama as “Handsome, young and also suntanned” in 2008. In reference to 3 brutal rape cases in early 2009, Berlusconi caused outrage by stating that although he had deployed 30,000 troops to Italian cities, it would never be enough to prevent the many Beautiful women from being raped. The list goes on.
Throughout his career, Berlusconi has described himself as affable, and able to connect with the common man with his down to earth sense of humour. The misogyny and racism an apparently deeply misunderstood comedic repertoire. Perhaps his vulgar act simply hasn’t aged well since his jokey personality first came to prominence many years ago.
Berlusconi bought AC Milan in 1986 and was instrumental in guiding the Rossoneri to what was the most successful period of their history. However, now his political career has come to end, and the scandals have started to catch up with him, fighting these legal battles and sustaining some resemblance of a legacy might begin to put a strain on his tenure at Milan, especially if the club starts to under-perform.
While it is still early days in Serie A, this season Milan presently sit mid table and with two games remaining in the group stage of the Champions League, qualification to the next round is not a guarantee. It is also notable that during the summer, Milan cashed in the sales of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva for a combined £50m to Paris Saint-Germain. Such was the dismay of the San Siro faithful, that some refunds were given to season ticket holders.
It may just be wishful thinking on my part, but perhaps these are signals that it’s the beginning of the end for the Berlusconi-Milan relationship.
It’s yet to be seen whether Berlusconi will ever see the inside of a jail for his conviction, such is the lenience and snail’s pace of Italian judiciary, but the sordid saga will be another unwanted distraction for Milan however it plays out over the coming months and probable years. The loyal supporters in the San Siro, of all venues, may well truly deserve the divine right to ask for a more fitting owner for their illustrious club.
Whatever the outcome for Berlusconi, the next time you’re sat on the sideline and your team is struggling to string more than a few passes together, before you take aim at the back of the manager’s head with your expensive meat pie, spare a thought for AC Milan, burdened by there bungling, convicted criminal Silvio Berlusconi.