Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's All About The Benjamins - Abramovich, Madoff and the Business of Sports

Name your price, any price.
The transfer window in English football closed this week and as usually happens, the biggest deals came right down to the wire and involved tons of cash being thrown around.  Interestingly enough, the two biggest culprits in this excessive spending frenzy are two of the traditional "Big Four", Liverpool and Chelsea.  However, rather than being perceived as smart business moves, both franchises are being chastised for spending big out of desperation rather than anything else.

Brother can you spare a dime?
Chelski and their billionaire owner Roman Abramovich are the worst offenders.  With their once dominant squad now showing their age and slipping in the standings, Mr. money bags drops £50 million to sign Liverpool's biggest star, disgruntled striker Fernando Torres and over £20 million on defender David Luiz.  While crazy money in sports has become common, £50 million for even a player as good as Torres is INSANE.  As Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger pointed out, one day Chelsea announce a loss of £70 million and then turn around and spend £75 million on new players.  I'm no financial wizard but I can tell that doesn't sound fiscally responsible.

Liverpool have had a turbulent season and have seen their form drop while also going through an ownership change.  I can't really jump all over Liverpool for spending, as they definitely needed reinforcements.  First Liverpool paid £22.75m for Luis Suarez from Ajax which seemed expensive, but he is a quality player.  Then their hands were forced when Fernando "Judas" Torres started crying that he wanted to leave and Daddy "Warbucks" Abramovich swooped in and gave Liverpool crazy money for his services.  With time running out, the much touted but still unproven Andy Carroll became available.  The price, just a small £35 million.  He's definitely a good looking guy, but even that doesn't justify paying so much for an unproven striker. 

Begrudgingly I'll give Man. U. credit as they did not throw money around in this transfer window.  Of course I will also give praise to my beloved Arsenal.  While many fans, myself included, think that the team could have benefited from some defensive help, Wenger has proven time and time again that he knows how to build a winning team rather than simply buying pieces.  The entire starting 11 in Arsenal's latest game cost a total of £40 million combined...£10m less than Fernando Torres...yet Arsenal are the only team in England still alive in all four major competitions and are in second place five points behind current leaders ManUre United.  Arsenal fans should be proud that the club was singled out by UEFA as an example of a well run club.

With the world in a recession and debt everywhere it's astonishing to see such money thrown around.  In recent years clubs such as Leeds, Portsmouth and Fiorentina have all been demoted and lost tons of money because of bad business.  It could happen again.

On the other side of the money madness are my other team, the New York Mets.  This is the letter sent to Mets fans by our owners, father and son Wilpon.  Seems our owners' dealings with everyones' favorite ponzi scheme criminal Bernie Madoff has left them worse off than they originally led fans to believe

Long story short, the team's owners have no money to invest in the team, the team is going to be mediocre this year and that's that.  Maybe we'll get lucky and Chelsea's Roman Abramovich will buy a stake in the NY Mets.  He obviously has the money.

On the pitch, Arsenal put in some nervy performances.  Division One Huddersfield visited the Emirates for the 4th round of the FA Cup and the Gunners looked pretty pedestrian.  Bendtner opened the scoring in the 21st minute and what should have been an easy win turned out to be anything but.   First Sebastien Squillaci clumsily got sent off towards the end of the first half.  Then, Huddersfield equalized on a corner in the 67th minute.  Eventually, Arsenal were awarded a penalty in the 86th minute which Cesc Fabregas put away sealing advancement to the 5th round.  The draw was lucky and Arsenal will travel to Leyton Orient of League One later this month.

In the league, Everton visited London in a game that saw the ref get a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons.  In the 24th minute, a clearly offside Louis Saha, put the ball in the back of the net and both the ref and the linesman allowed the goal to stand.  Interestingly enough, this injustice seemed to wake Arsenal up.

Losing was not an option if Arsenal wanted to keep pace with ManUre for the title.  Despite leaving it late, Arsenal came back.  First the little Russian, Andrey Arshavin came on as a sub and scored the equaliser.  Six minutes later, center back Laurent Koscielny scored the winner with a header from a corner kick.  In years past these are the type of games that Arsenal always seemed to lose.  This performance showed true grit and determination.

As the Yankees have demonstrated over the years, money can buy superstars, but it can't build team chemistry.  Hopefully Chelsea will learn this and a team put together the right way, such as Arsenal will come out ahead. 

Winning with team unity

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