Yes, he’s as confused on this subject as he is on all the others.
Instead of the profits being spread to the roots of the game and the communities in which the clubs are embedded, the Premier League has become the vehicle for financial engineering that makes private equity look honourable. In essence, clubs are being bought at astronomic prices, then the revenue they generate is used to pay back the debt their new owners incurred. The winners are the selling shareholders, the loser is football.
So the winners are the selling shareholders. That’s the Brits who currently own the clubs, eh? You’d think that a bunch of Brits doing well from hte way they hav developed an industry over some decades would be regarded as a good thing but no, in Hutton World, this is a bad thing.
Last week, Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov took his stake in Arsenal closer to the 30 per cent that would trigger a full bid. Despite the club’s robust talk of staying British, the eye-watering price he can afford to pay for the shares, to be financed by the club’s own revenues post takeover, surely means it is only a matter of time before even this citadel falls.
But Will. If it’s all being financed out of the club’s own revenues then it doesn’t have to be a billionaire that buys it, does it?
Chelsea and England captain John Terry’s recent £135,000-a-week contract, a catch-up with the pay of Chelsea imports Michael Ballack and Andrei Shevchenko, is a classic example of the inflationary dynamic.
Indeed, this is absolutely a classic example. Of the way in which in talent based industries, all the money flows to those with the talent. They might only be 1% better than the other hundreds of thousands of soccer players in the country but that 1% means that they are in great demand. The same is true of merchant bankers, film stars, actors and so on. The owners (whether individuals or more widely spread shareholders in listed companies) get the short end of the stick here as that competition to hire that rare talent means that the workers’ wages spiral ever upwards.
But then I thought that as a man of the left, Hutton was in favour of the workers getting the money, rather than the capitalist overlords?
What to do? Ten days ago, Michael Platini, incoming president of the Union of European Football Associations (Uefa) wrote to Gordon Brown arguing passionately that ‘the values championed by football are a powerful source of social integration and civic education’. Now the values are money. He wants pan-European action: wage caps on players; quotas for home-grown players; regulations on agents; financial checks on owners; revenue sharing between clubs; and redistribution of revenue into lower leagues. Platini even wants a reference to sport’s special nature in the EU Reform Treaty.
Does Hutton want this? Salary caps for God’s sake? That the workers should not get the full value of their contribution?
Football values must be reasserted and some limits have to be negotiated and it will have to be an initiative on a pan-European scale. The way things are, it cannot and will not include free-market, Eurosceptic, every- asset-can-bought-by-anyone England.
Apparently so. What a liberal man Will Hutton is, to be sure.