Why Roman Abramovich and Co are good for football
Since Roman Abramovich brought Chelsea back in 2003 the club has constantly come under scrutiny for ‘buying success’ and the same goes for Manchester City who have now recently won their second Premier League since the owner bought the club. There is no doubt that the rise of these football giants have made the Premier League and football in general more exciting to watch.
It was on the 13th May 2012 at around 4:48pm where the game was entering the 3rd minute of stoppage time. The fans on edge. The manager stunned. The players desperately looking for a goal. The player picked up the ball 30 yards out, he played a one-two to his teammate. After dodging a challenge and shuffling the ball to the right, the player steadied himself. Ready to shoot. Ready to score. Ready to make football history. It was at this moment where we heard commentator Martin Tyler at his very best. “AGUEROOOO!” he screamed. Could this really be happening?
No one was ready for this. City rivals Manchester United had already won at Sunderland. Sir Alex was on the pitch with his players, anxiously holding his breath. Awaiting and praying for the final whistle back in Manchester. They surely couldn’t pull this back? Could they? Only Manchester United could do something like this. What we were all about to witness around the globe was not in the script.
The player struck the ball hard and low at the near post. The ‘keeper left with no chance. There was a moment of stillness, a moment of shock. Moments later the stadium erupted. The player enthralled. After ripping off his shirt and sprinting down the side-line he knew that he had done it. He had ended the 44 year wait. He had won the Barclays Premier League for Manchester City. Manchester United left devastated. One of the most dramatic moments football has ever seen had just been witnessed by the footballing world. And it’s all thanks to the owner, Sheikh Mansour.
Manchester City and football as a whole would have never experienced this brilliant, hair-raising moment if it wasn’t for the millions invested into the club. Players like Sergio Aguero wouldn’t have been bought for £38m. Manchester City would have never been in this position challenging for the title until the last kick, and winning it. This is a prime example of how owners and investment have made football special.
Less than a week after the events at the Etihad Stadium, it was the 19th May, and more footballing magic was grasped by the world. They were a goal down with two minutes to go. A Champions League trophy on the line. The ball went out for a corner. The supporters waiting for a spark, a piece of magic that could get them back into the game. It was unlikely; they had so few chances over the course of the game. But they had a corner, a chance.
The corner was whipped in. The striker sprinting to the near post, leaping up and turning his entire body. Surely an impossible angle to score a header. The ball flew off his head and was goal-bound. The world sat in silence. The power of the header was unreal. It was impossible to generate that much force. As the ball approached the goal it had one more obstacle to get through. The ‘keeper, rated as the world’s best. But there was nothing he could do to stop this ball hitting the back of the net. It was inevitable. The ball shattered past his arm and that was the moment that Chelsea were back on level terms in the Champions League Final, and it was thanks to Didier Drogba.
After thirty minutes of anxious waiting and several penalties they had to endure, Chelsea were now one penalty away from winning the Champions League. But they were also one penalty away in Moscow. The night that caused heartbreak to every single Chelsea fan across the globe. Were they going to lose it again? It was Didier Drogba, playing his last game for his beloved club, who had the chance to win it. Chelsea hearts were pounding. The wait was endless. Was it written in the stars? He stepped up. Cool, calm and focused. A perfect side-footed stroke into the bottom corner, sending Manuel Neuer the wrong way. Once again Martin Tyler was at his best when he cried “HE’S DONE IT!”. Chaotic scenes were occurring at the Chelsea end. Roman Abramovich was celebrating in the stands. The Chelsea players going wild.
“The greatest night in the history of Chelsea football club” roared Martin Tyler after Drogba’s winning spot kick. That phrase there sums up just how much of an impact owners like Abramovich have had on their clubs. The Premier League may have never embraced the likes of Drogba if it wasn’t for the money needed to bring him to the club. These owners have created a legacy for their clubs, they have let football fans dream and in the two examples stated above, these fans have lived their dream.
Many would disagree. Some might argue teams like Manchester City don’t deserve the money, that they were a mid-table team before this investment. But that is the beauty of it, these fans couldn’t have possibly imagined their team was about to be transformed into one of the best in the world. Getting beat 8-1 to Middlesbrough in 2008 is a particular example of how far money has taken Manchester City who are now winning league titles. But why should this be frowned upon? Why should we be discouraging teams from spending money and making the club better? Do we criticise any other business for spending money and making it better? With more teams competing for the title will this not make the Premier League better? Do we really want the same teams such as Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool (in the past) winning titles year-in-year-out? These are all questions that fans of the Premier League and football as a whole need to answer.
The beauty of football is that any team can experience the transformation that the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea have over recent years. Fans that dislike the concept now may just have the same situation occur at their own club. Would you still feel the same way when your new-look team is spending millions of world-class players and is winning trophies? Probably not, but with more and more money entering football, expect more mega rich teams to develop in the near future.
This transformation of football as a business is harsh on teams like Arsenal who make a profit regularly, who don’t splash out millions of players (Ozil is an exception to their recent trend) but still compete in the league on a yearly basis and are regulars in the Champions League knock-out rounds. Does this mean that they don’t have the money to spend like other teams do? No, but they choose not to spend and they are respected across the footballing world for this approach.
The problem with Arsenal’s method is that they have struggled to win trophies in recent years. Despite having a great chance of lifting the FA Cup next week against Hull, it would be their first trophy in 9 years. This is not good enough for a team like Arsenal and their fans who deserve some silverware for their consistent support and patience over these tough years. Compare Arsenal to the likes of Chelsea who have won 3 premier leagues, 4 FA Cups, 1 League Cup and a Champions League since Arsenal last won a trophy back in 2005. The difference is Chelsea have invested millions into new players and it has been rewarded with trophies. Arsenal have not.
That’s not to say teams like Chelsea, Manchester City or French champions Paris Saint-Germain should be able to bid ridiculous amounts of money on players to simply stop other teams from signing them and this has been discouraged through the newly introduced Financial Fair Play rule which prevents clubs from doing so.
Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher best summed up foreign ownership on the Monday Night Football show last month. They both emphasised that they were ‘OK’ with these teams spending money as long as it didn’t lead to similar circumstances that Portsmouth suffered a few years ago where the owners walked out and left Portsmouth to be thrown into administration and now find themselves sitting in League Two. It is hard to believe that they won the FA Cup six years ago in 2008 and were in the Premier League less than 5 years ago, but this has shown the negative impacts of foreign owners on football.
Nevertheless owners such as Roman Abramovich and Sheik Mansour have been good for football. They have given the Premier League fresh contenders to challenge for the title making it the most entertaining league in the world and have given England a better name in European competitions with Chelsea recently winning both the Champions League and Europa League as well as appearing in many semi-finals in recent years. Some teams will suffer in the wake of these new financial powerhouses but many will experience it themselves in the years to come. It can happen to anyone. Football fans can dream.
Now it’s your turn. Have owners like Abramovich and Mansour ruined football? Or have they made it more exciting and competitive?