Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tottenham crowned Financial Fair Play European champions!

When it comes to window shopping it would seem Daniel Levy favours Primark over Prada.

As the spending of the nouveau rich City and Chelsea spirals wildly out of control with irresponsible transfer fees and madcap wages amid a Pan-European economic crisis, Tottenham have opted for pragmatism in the transfer market believing (quite possibly praying) that UEFA Napoleon Michel Platini’s incoming Financial Fair Play regulations will see sensible spending and good business practice recognised and rewarded. Yet loopholes are, inevitably, already appearing. Will Levy’s careful spending policy pay off?

In the last two transfer windows, Spurs have shifted Pavlyuchenko, Crouch, Palacios, Hutton, O’Hara and Keane at an estimated £36 million. In that same timeframe, the club only BOUGHT two players; Parker (£5 million) and raw prospect Falque (£1.5 million) alongside high end loanee Adebayor and a host of bargain basement free transfers (most notably Friedel, Saha and Nelsen).

So Spurs essentially made a minimum of £29.5 million on transfer deals over two windows. And that doesn’t factor in the host of lucrative loan fees received (for Caulker, Corluka, Pienaar, Naughton et al) which effectively hamstrung the charge for Champions League football in the dying embers of the season. Was that short-term gain worth the long-term sacrifice?

Life and football are seldom ‘black and white’, always a shade of grey, but my feeling is that Levy has taken a circumspect transfer policy a step too far. It would obviously be ludicrous to emulate City and Chelsea’s profligate transfer policy without a billionaire owner (setting aside if that’s ethically acceptable – no doubt if Hitler was alive that Nazi gold would have been invested in a certain East London club), but spending incoming transfer funds is hardly a foray into financially obscene waters.

Tottenham’s notoriously bottom heavy squad should see plenty of capable benchwarmers moved on this summer with Bassong, Pienaar, Bentley, Kranjcar, Jenas, Gomes, Corluka, Dos Santos bringing in, at a conservative estimate, £30 million in disposable income. But will these monies be reinvested? Our recent experience suggests ‘no’.

The sale of the mercurial but over-valued Luka Modric for £40 million could introduce two or three game-changing players into the Spurs side. Add that to our departing squad members and Tottenham could potentially have £70 million to blow by merely repurposing current assets while still retaining key performers like Bale, Lennon, Sandro, Kaboul and Walker. Yet the last two seasons have hinted that incoming funds are more likely to disappear in a puff of smoke into the ubiquitous Tottenham Hotspur Foundation, the slow motion stadium project or an increased quality in the West Stand bagel.

This week Deloitte published the Premier League wage bills from the previous season (2010/11). The top five ‘employers’ were Chelsea (£191m), Manchester City (£174m), Manchester United (£153m), Liverpool (£135m) and Arsenal (£124m). That Spurs (£91m) manage to compete on such an uneven playing field deserves credit.

Sadly, football is no longer a competitive sport. Titles and trophies are bought rather than earned. Ethically dubious billionaires engage in a vulgar wealth competition while clubs like Spurs play by the old rules and punch above their weight without reward. A restrictive wage policy (which I believe should be alleviated for three marquee players such as Bale, Adebayor and an incoming star) means we will always be fishing for a secondary catch. Maybe Harry was right. This is as good as it gets.

I’m not advocating irresponsible wages (Hazard’s public whoring for more money illustrates how far our sport has fallen) or obscene transfer fees just a simple reinvestment of the monies the club receives via transfers. Is that really too much to ask?

Maybe Levy has played a blinder, but the nagging suspicion is that ‘money’ always finds a way to negotiate the rules. In the next few seasons, it’s inevitable that Spurs will be crowned Financial Fair Play European Champions. Too bad no-one else bothered to enter the competition.

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