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Sunday, 23 October 2011

Does money really make the ball go round....

Manchester was rocked by a sports result of unheralded proportions today - as United (arguably the world’s largest sporting brand) was swept aside by City (unarguably the world’s wealthiest club).  City dominating United 6 goals to 1.
Whilst it would be foolish to read too much into one result - and no doubt Sir Alex Ferguson will have plugged the hair-dryer in to get the best reaction from his players - for me this result was indicative of the way that the Premier League has been run since its inception and was a result that highlights some of the problems that sports has to deal with.
So - the result.  No one saw it coming but the #1 reason for City’s win is Cash - and lots of it.  Roberto Mancini appears to be a fine fellow, City have bought some great players, and the club seem to organizing themselves really well.  But without the cash - they would be nowhere.

Manchester United have been the biggest club since the start of the Premier League - and whilst many will tell you that Sir Alex is the best manager, or their team is a better run one that all their competitors - the reason they have won the bulk of the Premier League titles - is exactly that - they are the biggest club.  Their income can be 10 (or more) times larger thad some of their opponents and is at least 25% bigger than their nearest rivals.
We all want sport to be about the battle of the human spirit - a collection of talented and motivated individuals forged into the best team with a combination of training, tactics and passion.  And it is possible to outperform against your competitors if you do your job better than them.  However - some advantages can be really tough to overcome - and in an industry where everyone is looking for 1% gains - a 25% bigger budget should really lead to victory every time!!
What Man City’s win does for me was simply prove that money can and will buy success.  They are now everyone’s favorite to win the title.  They have done this because they have more money - and they are using it correctly.  The simple extrapolation is hence that Man Utd have been winning because they are the biggest - not because Sir Alex is a guru.
Not a great place to be really.  As sports should be decided on the pitch by supreme athletes battling on a level playing field.  Not by who has the biggest wallet.
UEFA’s financial fair play rules will go some way to address this - whilst Liverpool’s recent call for a ‘fairer’ distribution of overseas TV revenue will not.  But for a truly fair competition - clubs need to look West and bite the bullet.  The American sports franchise models are against the culture of British sports - with salary caps, revenue sharing and player drafts all leading to a hugely competitive and variable winners.  Would the Premier League ever really go down that route.
Past statements have always said a resounding “NO” - but the City 6-1 win will leave a lasting impression.  And if Man United see that they can no longer guarantee their forward march - maybe they might even join the call for a greater good.

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