Date: 7th January 2013 at 4:37pm
Written by:

FFP and Why Chelsea Benefits the Most

Dear friends this is the first of my new series where we try to go in depth into the Chelsea story and what challenges await us in the 21st century. Being a fan of the late Mr. Peter F Drucker, the management guru, I, Saber, will try to apply some of the principles of management to unlock the mystery of the future of Chelsea Football Club in a comprehensive manner. While I don`t claim to be the wise guy, during the course of this series you will understand that my deductions are based on deep logical and analytical theories that are not based on fantasy or love for CFC, just an understanding of it,

In today`s discourse we will try and understand what FFP means to the next decade of English football and Chelsea`s position in this decade. In the last decade we had 4 power centers in English football. Manchester United continued their unrelenting march. Liverpool continued to be a major force in football although they did not win much. The exception being the famous Champions League win engineered by the very man who now leads us (I can see merlin cringing right now, and it wont be because of the virus).B but slowly and surely their star faded. Arsenal enjoyed the early part of the decade but have gone on a barren run for 7 years now. and finally Chelsea, a club whose meteoric rise to fame rubbed many the wrong way as it was ‘dirty foreign money’ that made us a superpower in the 2003-2010 era. if you could rank the power centers of the last decade it would look like this

1. Manchester United
2. Chelsea
3. Arsenal
4. Liverpool

Now let us look into the beginning of this decade ie the 2 years 2011 and 2012 years. The most startling change in these years is the power shift in England to Manchester and the emergence of City as a new power centre. Chelsea now find themselves in a new scenario where they have two rivals who hate each other. From being a big four there are now three clubs in England thirsty for power. Simultaneous to these changes is the decline of English dominance in Europe (Chelsea’s success last year was due to human will power not dominance on footballing terms). Alarmingly in the last two years only 2 English clubs were able to proceed to the knockout stages. surprisingly only Arsenal have qualified both times. So What has brought about this trend??

1. Smaller European clubs. ie teams not from England, Spain and Italy are now much stronger due to a systematic change of qualities on their youth development programmes.
2. Poor youth systems in English soil and poor homegrown talent (the average ones are hyped up refer to – Henderson, Downing, Young)
3. The sudden change of perception of how football should be played in England. The physicality is reducing and the flair is increasing. English clubs are no longer playing the way they are used to. This explains Arsenal surviving the group in both years and also the rise of passing teams like Swansea. This shift of style takes getting used to. so expect this trend to continue in the next two years.
4. Spanish dominance in club and country tournaments is not just due to the la masia story but also due to unfair revenue sharing where 2 clubs (Madrid and Barca) get 80% of the revenue in La Liga rights. This has left clubs like Valencia (who were forced to sell Mata, Silva and Villa) and Atletico no chance of competing. Weak league but very strong top two teams. In England you have a competitive league, a strong league, but the common misconception is strong league means stronger European performance.

Coming back to the English scenario, who will be the leaders in the next decade? The most common answer will be Manchester United and City. Not so. It will be Chelsea, Liverpool and maybe Man United? Shocked? Don`t be! That is the power of foresight. Let`s look at why.

The FFP is the trump card that is going to help the very club it was designed to destroy. When the idea was conceived it was Chelsea -‘the enemy of football’ and its` purchased success it was designed to fight against. But by the time FFP sees the light of the day Chelsea are the ones who benefit the most. Shocked? Even in this world of economic crisis its quite fashionable to own and spend on a football club. If FFP had taken a few years more there would have been bigger fish than us in the pond. More Man City`s, PSG`s and Anzhis. What FFP does is it ensures we are still one of the big sharks as men who are richer than Roman can not come in and spoil our party. if the FFP had come in a few years sooner or later it would have not have helped us. Chelsea possessed an array of youth talents and an array of veteran world class players in 09-10. What it lacked up to now was ‘the generation in between’. we would not have had the generation of Luiz, Cahill, Rami, Mata, Oscar, Moses, Hazard, Azpi and co if it had come too soon leading us to a slow and sure decline. If it had come too late you would have had more Man City type teams outmuscling us to good players with more money. So as you can see FFP is perfect. Stupid Platini has unwittingly helped the club he hates and screwed up the PSG, City and Anzhi type teams nice and proper.

Now lets look at the current power centers and what will certainly happen to them-

1. Manchester City – This is the club that will get hit the most by FFP. They may somehow manage to meet the obligations and continue to play in Europe but it will hit them. If not now, 3-4 yrs from now. A majority of their team is in its peak or already beyond it. These guys won`t be able to perform a few years from now. City will not be able to dispose them because no club will ever pay those kinds of salaries to anyone. Imagine trying to dispose ten Florent Malouda`s who won`t leave the club because they don`t want to lose out on the money and ten Paulo Ferreira`s earning £200k a week. (Paolo earns very little. the point is he is way past his prime). City are on quicksand and no amount of financial support will save them. While it lasts its going to be great for them but its not going to last long and in 4 years they can`t buy their way out like we did this summer.

How do they avoid this? – seems hard. They don`t have the most talented youth players nor do they look like they are going to develop any. They need to get that part right. They need a couple of really good runs in Europe to shore up the income. Perhaps expand their stadium as they have an owner who can afford it (stadium development costs don`t count under FFP). Plus selling high wage earners which is not only tough but, if done, will screw up their present chances of winning silverware.

2. Arsenal – They come across as a role model club in terms of financial prudence. But if I were an Arsenal fan I would be very, very worried about the future. The board are more interested in the profits than titles. Don`t believe me? I’ll tell you a secret. Arsene isn`t going to get fired. Like ever. Because it`s plain simple. Him and the top bosses at Arsenal have a fantastic mutual understanding, ‘look Arsene you`re job is safe, it always will be. You can stay here for as long as you like. Just don`t spend on too much money. Just enough to stay competitive’ and Arsene is all ‘gee thanks. I`m never going to spend anyway. I`m obsessed with developing kids for City, United are Barca to take away; and my lucky number is 4. Thats why I love fourth place although I don`t mind 3. Who cares about silverware anyway, I like qualifying for the trophy well never win because it gets us money. Wait is silverware actually made of silver?’. A club whose owners think ‘how do I make money’ and a manager who thinks ‘lets aim for Champions League qualification’ (even before the season has begun) is never going to threaten for top honours. Sure they just may win a cup here or there someday. But it`s the fundamental attitude problem that will never make them winners. Players like winners medals (and better salaries), not ‘I used to play for a financially prudent club that had the highest profits’. Top players will always continue leaving. But if you are a young and talented youth player Arsenal is where you should go. Perfect place to spend training till you become bigger than the club (to think they were once invincibles!)

3. Manchester United – Tricky. When one emperor dies, the future of the empire depends on 2 things. How smooth the succession is and how good the successor will be. A lot of Man Utd`s future depends upon who succeeds Sir Alex Ferguson and how smoothly the transition is handled. The positives for United are the stadium size, the fan base (good revenue), good brand image. Compared to Arsenal and City they have a much better chance of continuing as a top power in the next decade. Negatives – bad owners. can a Mourinho or Pep or whoever it is succeeds him be okay with working under really selfish set of owners (I can imagine a Mourinho joining the fans in protest of the Glazers and making them burn down Old Trafford in spite or Pep needing more sabbaticals). SAF and United were a match made in heaven. But will the next man be the right man or will they fade away like Leeds or Liverpool? (I suspect they will continue to be a major force in the next decade. but it all depends on the perfect succession plan)

4. Liverpool – I find it funny that Dalglish managed to blow up more money on Caroll, Henderson and Downing than we ‘invested’ on Hazard, Oscar, Moses and Azpi! But this is one team that will once again be right up there when the time comes. Why? Firstly the owners are really a shrewd bunch. They are not afraid to spend if need be but they have real foresight. The way they ‘interviewed’ a long list of managers before hiring Rodgers. How they are building the club from scratch tightening the purses, giving the youth a chance and letting Rodgers build something. Pool also have a great academy and are obsessed about coming back up. Look at Boston Red Sox and you`ll see that Fenway Sports Group are not to be underestimated. In 5 years Pool will once again be a force.

5. Tottenham – A lot will depend on where they find themselves after 3 years. i.e at the end of AVB’s ‘project’. Beyond that I suggest their support stop thinking about beating us every time they think about the word ‘achievement’. That`S not how big clubs are supposed to think.

6. Chelsea – They will be THE CLUB for the next 15 years (not because i love them). Why?

Well find out in part two of this new series.