To the nearest billion, how much money does a football team need?

23 May

The town was pretty quiet last Saturday when a few thousand football fans traveled to Glasgow for the Scottish Cup Final. An afternoon in the “weeg” was no doubt interesting for the Hearts and Hibs fans and of course they had more on their minds than cultural differences between the Capital City and the one that the BBC pretends is the capital city.

The game itself wasn’t great but then it never was going to be. Hearts won as you will already be aware although the score flattered them, the penalty wasn’t one and Ian Black should have been sent off, all of which might have made the game more interesting.

Then of course Chelsea won the Champions League, which was a bit surprising although I’m sure their fans always thought they’d win. Of course, the difference in resources between Chelsea, Hearts and Hibs is significant although they all have millionaire owners. It’s like the fastest gun in the west, you never know who really is the fastest until they show up and start shooting or spending in this case.

Let’s have a peek at the three owners of Chelsea – Roman Abramovich with a worth of £8.6 Billion (68th in the Forbes Billionaires list), Hearts – Vladimir Romanov with a worth of around £200m and Hibs – Tom Farmer  with a worth of £110m.

It’s well know that Abramovich has spent significantly over the past few years, perhaps almost a billion pounds. He has deep pockets and owning a highflying football club requires very deep pockets indeed. At last he’s won the European Champions League and he has found a decent manager although by default rather than plan. Abramovich however, wants to win another three Champions Leagues. Hmmmm…

In Scotland things are nor so high flying shall we say?

It’s not immediately clear if Romanov has been a good thing for Hearts or not. Certainly Hearts haven’t been troubling any of the big European competitions and they’ve not exactly set the heather alight in the Scottish Premier League. Yes I know they just won the Scottish Cup but it’s not exactly a very taxing competition now is it?

Romanov isn’t keen on the SFA and the SPL. He’s not keen on Scottish referees either. He feels he gets picked on a bit and he may be right. The SFA and the SPL suffer from huge infighting with a balance of power, which is positive. In the SPL Rangers and Celtic dominate things and given their size and their support it’s hard to question this, unless they go too far.

The Chairmen of the other clubs fight over the scraps that are left and they perhaps don’t get as many breaks as the Old Firm do. Romanov has found himself on the outside and the wrong side when he’s had a go at referees, the SPL in general and Scottish football en masse. His retaliation seems to be aimed at not providing the money required to pay his players and generally not spending much at all. Most of the players who played last week in the cup final are out of contract as is the manager. Not exactly helpful really.

So now to Tom Farmer. Tom stepped up to the mark when there was a hint of Hearts and Hibs uniting into one bigger club. That makes some sense, but not if your are a fan of one team or the other, as the resulting club would have a much greater fan base, which would generate a far higher income etc. Farmer saved Hibs and invested in the ground, which was looking pretty tired, although it’s only been finished in the last few years.

Farmer hasn’t thrown his money about either. The club is surviving but only just at the moment. Hibs hold out great hopes for their youth policy as do all teams nowadays but these smaller SPL teams desperately need it to work extremely well. Hibs were almost relegated last season and Hearts finished in fifth place, just outside of the European places.

Hearts and Hibs can’t compete with the bigger clubs because their financial clout is well short of what would be needed to make their mark. Even if they managed to win the SPL what then? The first decent team in Europe would send them packing in the same way that Celtic and Rangers have been the past couple of seasons.

Football is all about money, which buys success, just ask Manchester City fans.

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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in Health, Politics, Sport


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