Jose Mourinho thrown under the bus he parked

CALCIO: PROCURA SEGNALA 'MANETTE' A GIUDICE,MOURINHO RISCHIA

Mourinho looks set for his stint as an X Factor judge. ANSA/MATTEO BAZZI/DC

Chelsea have fired manager Jose Mourinho after he took the London club to 16th position in the Premier League after 16 games. The reigning champions have won just four matches this season whilst losing nine, meaning they sit just a single point above the relegation zone.

The decision by the Chelsea board seemed an obvious one. Your team isn’t doing well, especially considering the calibre of players that the Blues have, so you get rid of the man in charge.

The simple question is: why?

You can look at the failings of the club this season: 16th in the Premier League, a leaky defence, a misfiring front line and a lack of a League Cup run, and it all seems bad.  But in some form of cruel irony, Mourinho appears to have been thrown under the bus he parked.

The manager does have to take a certain degree of responsibility for Chelsea’s form in the last few months, but also a lot of it has to fall on his players. Let’s take a look at the main culprits:

Diego Costa – He banged in 20 league goals last season, but Costa has found the target just three times whilst picking up four yellow cards this time around.

Pedro – The Spaniard should have been a great signing as Chelsea looked to bolster their attack that scored 73 goals last season, but he has hit the back of the net just once in the league and has looked like a shadow of the player that was bought for £21 million.

The defence – John Terry and Gary Cahill formed one of the most formidable partnerships in recent years last season, but now they look like Terry has messed around with Cahill’s missus and don’t want to know each other. Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta have been mediocre at best, whilst Kurt Zouma has been unsurprisingly poor, which are all contributing factors to Chelsea conceding a sixth-worst 26 goals this season.

The list continues with the likes of Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Oscar also not performing in the way everyone knows they can. Mind you, they’re probably all sick of Jose telling everyone to get behind the ball and park the bus instead of actually attacking, which is a tactic that would work for them this season.

Only one player this season actually looks like he gives a damn, and that person is Willian. Perhaps a bit of a shock to some, the lively winger has been the driving force of most of Chelsea’s attacks this season despite only being involved in three league goals. However he has been the reason they got out of their Champions League group, putting in outstanding performances every week on his way to scoring five goals.

Back to the Special One. He has definitely made some bad decisions in recent memory, most notably in the summer transfer window. He only added Radamel Falcao, who couldn’t find water if he fell off a cruise ship, Pedro (see above), whilst Kenedy and Baba Rahman were signed for no discernible reason.

There was also the Dr. Eva Carneiro fiasco, which is still ongoing although tumours suggest she may return to the club now that Mourinho has been fired.

However. All this should not lead to the firing of one of the best mangers in the world right now, for the simple reason that there is no one as good to replace him with. The only candidates on Jose’s level are Pep Guardiola, who seems set to leave Bayern Munich in summer, and Carlo Ancelotti, would be returning for a second spell. They’re both reasons why neither would go to Chelsea, at least right now, which leaves them to hunt around the managers without a job.

Brendan Rodgers, Garry Monk and Tim Sherwood are the only managers of note who are available, and are any of those really going to be able to lead Chelsea out of the mire they find themselves in? Not likely.

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Ballon d’Or: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar?

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Suarez, Neymar and Messi see the ice-cream man. Credit: PA

Yesterday’s announcement that Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and A.N. Other are the nominations for the 2015 Ballon d’Or will have come as a surprise to precisely zero football fans on this great planet we live on. Since 2008 (that’s seven awards for those who can’t do maths), the FIFA World Player of the Year/Ballon d’Or (as it was renamed in 2010) has been won by either Ronaldo or Messi.

Four of the prestigious trophies belong to the sublime Argentine, who has finished either first or second every year for the past eight awards, whilst ex-Red Devil Ronaldo has three. He has finished in the top three every year except 2010 in the same span as Messi.

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Ronaldo realises he won’t win another Ballon d’Or. Credit: Lars Baron/Getty Images

The third nominee has never really been in with a shout of winning and no one has consistently reached the same heights that these two deities of football has. Since 2008, there have been five other players who have made up the top three: Fernando Torres (when he was actually able to hit a cow’s bottom with a banjo) Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Manuel Neuer and Franck Ribery.

This year, the third prize will be going to Brazil’s Neymar. One who has always split opinion, it may now be time to recognise that he is one of the world’s best and at just 23 years of age, the Ballon d’Or is his to lose in the next ten years.

But should the third prize be going to a different part of Barcelona’s attacking trio, Luis Suarez? Let’s take a look at club and country stats for the four players in 2015:

Messi Ronaldo Neymar Suarez
Games 56 52 59 52
Goals 48 48 45 40
Assists 24 14 9 21

Barça’s MSN attack force, so named because of Luis Enrique’s passion for the Microsoft messaging system that anyone born in the ’90s used, is quite staggering. Messi averages 0.85 goals per game, whilst Suarez sits on 0.77 with Neymar at 0.76. Eclipsing them all is Ronaldo though, who hits the back of the net 0.92 times per game.

Goals are great. Everyone loves scoring goals; hitting the ball into the top corner from 25 yards, tapping home after a drool-inducing team goal, or scoring a bicycle kick in the last minute to give your team all three points. They’re pretty great. But the mark of a true striker, especially in the best teams in the world, comes in his decision-making. More specifically, his assists.

Messi leads the way with 24 assists, an average of 0.43 per game. However he doesn’t really count since his feet were blessed by a sorcerer as a young child which enables him to find space and make passes that should not be possible. Ronaldo and Neymar are both lagging behind as they combined for just 23 in 2015, making Suarez is the key player here.

21 assists in 52 games gives him an average of 0.4 per game, and makes him the complete striker. This was evident during his time at Liverpool, where he recorded 23 assists for the Reds in the Premier League whilst scoring 69 times in just 110 matches.

The ever-hungry Uruguayan has tasted victory in 40 of his 52 games this year, giving him an astounding win percentage of 83%, matched only by Neymar. In contrast, Messi’s is 77% and Ronaldo’s is at a substandard 63%. Tim Sherwood will be having words.

In truth, if anyone should make way for Suarez it should be Ronaldo. The Portu-geezer just doesn’t have enough influence in his side, and using Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema as an excuse just doesn’t fly since MSN work so well together. Ronaldo is the most individual player out there, especially when it comes to international football (although with the lack of quality in Portugal’s side this is hardly a surprise), but he’s just not had a good enough 2015 to retain the Ballon d’Or and make it three in a row.

Obviously Messi will win. At time of writing, the little genius’ best odds at Oddschecker.com is 1/8 at Betway. His shortest are 1/14. Ronaldo’s shortest is 7/1 with William Hill (his longest is 12/1), whilst Neymar’s worst is out at 8/1 with various sites. His longest also stands at 12s.

In a perfect world, Suarez would claim second whilst Neymar would be third. But as this is not that, Ronaldo is likely to bag runner-up with Neymar third.

Bourne to be dull

Christian Benteke celebrates his winner. (AP Photo/Clint Hughes)

Christian Benteke celebrates his winner. (AP Photo/Clint Hughes)

Another week, another television game, and another terribly dull 1-0 win.

This week’s rescue came courtesy of Christian Benteke, who prodded home his first goal for the club on his first Anfield start. It shouldn’t have even stood, in truth, as Stoke saviour Philippe Coutinho was offside moments before.

Full credit to Bournemouth, mind. The newly-promoted team took the game to Liverpool early on and had a goal rightly disallowed, but overall they were unlucky not to take at least a point back daarn saarf.

Moral of the story: Rodgers simply must change things up before next week’s Monday Night Football or Liverpool will get embarrassed at the Emirates.

Liverpool player ratings

Simon Mignolet – Looked confident and solid. Made some assured saves despite one misjudgement which he palmed away for a corner. 7

Nathaniel Clyne – Pretty much the same as last week. Dealt with most things that came his way and made a couple of good runs going forward. 7

Martin Skrtel – Took him 20 minutes to settle in and was lucky not to give away a penalty for doing a Martin Skrtel and opting to drag an attacker to the ground rather than mark him. Was a bit shaky all night. 5

Dejan Lovren – See above, minus the penalty incident. 5

Joe Gomez – Again, good but not great. However for an 18-year-old being thrust into the starting XI, he was very assertive. 6

Jordan Henderson – Unspectacular but controlled play by running and passing. Standard Hendo. Inexplicably taken off after just 51 minutes as Rodgers decided to follow Mourinho’s example and take part in ‘substitute your captain week’. Got an assist with a lovely cross. 6

James Milner – Ran and passed a lot, never threatened going forward. Ballooned a 20 yard free kick into Goodison Park. 6

Philippe Coutinho – Tried to dictate the attack but not much fell for him. Missed a gilt-edge chance from just 12 yards out and chased. 5

Adam Lallana – Seemed to get the ball a lot but never did anything with it. Must get dropped for Arsenal next week. 3

Jordon Ibe – Blasted a couple of shots miles away from the goal but was largely ineffective. 4

Christian Benteke – Made a decent run to get in position for his goal, but it was a 3-yard tap-in after all the defenders stopped trying to catch him offside. A paraplegic nun born in 1910 could’ve scored it. Hit the bar from six yards out late on. 6

Substitutes

Emre Can (Henderson, 51) – An extremely bizarre decision to bring him on for captain Hendo, and nearly went off two minutes later after being kicked in the head. Did what Henderson did but with still amazing hair, and was confident going forward. 6

Firmino (Ibe, 70) – Had a couple of flashes of excellence but 20 minutes is not long enough for him, especially 20 minutes of being on the back-foot. 5

Moreno (Coutinho, 81) – Lost his place for reasons unknown after a great season last year, and looked like a man on a mission in his nine minutes. Made an outstanding 50 yard run to win a free kick on the edge of the box. 7

AFC Bournemouth player ratings

Artur Boruc – Could do nothing about the goal but had very little else to do all night. 6

Simon Francis – Had to deal with Ibe most of the night and was generally rather successful in doing so. 6

Tommy Elphick – Had a goal ruled out after just five minutes for using Lovren as a climbing frame, but otherwise did well against Benteke. 6

Steve Cook – Again, did well with most of the crosses Liverpool put in but never really had to strain himself. 6

Charlie Daniels – Kept Lallana quiet (like that’s tough) and did his best against Firmino. 6

Matt Ritchie – Much of the Cherries’ attack went through him, and he was desperately unlucky not to equalise when his piledriver hit the outside of the post. 7

Eunan O’Kane – Spent more time defending than attacking but looked good. 6

Andrew Surman – Never had much of an impact. 5

Max Gradel – May as well have not been playing. About as useful as a vacuum cleaner on the moon. 2

Callum Wilson – Couldn’t get much going for himself but spread the attack well. 6

Joshua King – Didn’t do all that much for anyone, but made a few good passes. 5

Substitutes

Lee Tomlin (King, 61) – Had a couple of shots and did well in his half an hour. 6

Adam Smith (Gradel, 81) – Never had chance to get in the game. 5

Dan Gosling (O’Kane, 87) – Possibly didn’t touch the ball in his few minutes

Referee

Craig Pawson – Did well but didn’t have much to do. Gave out five deserved bookings and kept everyone in check. 8

Hardly revenge, but a win is a win and Liverpool are Stoked with three points

Coutinho and co. celebrate an undeserved winner. (Getty)

Coutinho and co. celebrate an undeserved winner. (Getty)

It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t exciting, and it wasn’t deserved. If football allowed negative goals for boredom, this game would’ve finished -5 plays -5. Well, -5 plays -4 thanks to Philippe Coutinho’s 86th minute wonder strike that gave Brendan Rodgers’ side all three points to start the new season. Certainly beats getting hammered 6-1, at least.

I could go on and on about how it’s the start of a new era without Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling, but no-one associated with the club should care about that. They’ve gone and now we need to focus on the season ahead.

In truth, we looked okay at times. Stoke, kings of the transfer market, also looked okay. Both teams will want more than ‘okay’ in the future, but it’s opening day and there’s still months of football left to play. However given the heaps of signings both clubs have made in the last month, this game should not have been the snooze-fest it was. Two hours of my life I’ll never get back…

Stoke City player ratings

Jack Butland – Had literally nothing to do all game but made a decent save for the cameras from Martin Skrtel. Absolutely powerless to prevent Coutinho’s winner. 6

Glen Johnson – Assume you didn’t watch the game. Take the idea you have of how you think Glen Johnson played. That is how he played. Uninspired as ever and scooped a good chance from just 12 yards out into the next county. 5

Geoff Cameron – More often than not, he beat Christian Benteke in the air and generally marshalled the defence. 6

Marc Muniesa – Made a wonderful challenge on Jordon Ibe in the box, but was invisible otherwise. 6

Erik Pieters – Had nothing to do, really. Got injured after 45 mins, well before Liverpool got anything going upfront. 4

Glenn Whelan – Could’ve been replaced by a dog on its hind legs and it wouldn’t have made a difference. 4

Charlie Adam – Another ex-Anfield player and another load of rubbish. Not back to his usual self with the ball yet, but without it he was; should’ve been booked for pushing James Milner and was booked for a poor tackle later on. 5

Jon Walters – Still in Joe Gomez’ pocket. 3

Marco van Ginkel – touched the ball maybe twice in attacking positions. Had a goalbound effort blocked but was ineffectual otherwise. 5

Ibrahim Afellay – Not quite the debut the ex-Barcelona man wanted, but showed signs of what he can do. Had a well-hit volley blocked by Nathaniel Clyne early on. 6

Mame Biram Diouf – Won a header. Maybe. Was offside a couple of times. Peter Crouch would’ve been the better option. 5

Substitutes

Philipp Wollscheid (Pieters, 46) – Dealt with Liverpool well but didn’t have much to do outside of normal defensive duties. 6

Steve Sidwell (Adam, 78) – Had no idea he played for Stoke and may as well not have done today. 4

Peter Odemwingie (Afellay, 78) – See above. 4

Liverpool player ratings

Simon Mignolet – Made a couple of good saves and looked assured. Didn’t drop any crosses, which is another bonus. 6

Nathaniel Clyne – Solid defensively and going forward minus some poor passing, and made a great block to deny Afellay. 6

Martin Skrtel – Showed why he’s Liverpool’s best defender and didn’t put a foot wrong all day. Not that he had much to do, mind. 6

Dejan Lovren – Was lucky not to be sent off for an elbow on Diouf, and had Liverpool’s first shot on goal of the season just after the hour. 5

Joe Gomez – Applied himself excellently for a young lad, looked confident all game. Made a sloppy pass across the box but was superb otherwise. 7

Jordan Henderson – Ran and passed well. 5

James Milner – As above but on a booking for a foul on Adam that was not a foul. 5

Philippe Coutinho – Blazed one into orbit before curling in a beauty. Was poor aside from that, though. 6

Adam Lallana – Went for a pint after 10 minutes. 3

Jordon Ibe – Not too bad but went to the Raheem Sterling School of How To Only Use Your Right Foot. 6

Christian Benteke – Lost a lot in the air but made a couple of decent runs. 5

Substitutes

Emre Can (Lallana, 63) – Bossed the midfield with his gorgeous hair and general attractiveness. The Stoke players were probably put off by his mere presence. 6

Roberto Firmino (Ibe, 78) – Showed flashes of what he can do but 12 minutes isn’t enough. 5

Referee

Anthony Taylor – Made some horrible decisions throughout but just about retained control of it. In fairness, he was probably asleep. 4

Can England get out of their 2014 World Cup group?

After England were drawn with Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica in the ‘Group of Death‘ for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, I asked a few people on the streets of Preston whether they thought they could progress or not.

The people I asked weren’t rife with optimism, with the general thought being that England will have to rely on their attacking players, such as in-form Daniel Sturridge who has scored 11 goals in 14 games this season, to cover their defensive frailties. The Three Lions have put in poor performances at recent major championships, so it is understandable for even the most die-hard of fans to be wary.

https://soundcloud.com/user8489976/can-england-get-out-of-their

Just where has all the money in football come from?

The financial aspect of sport is one that has often been the cause of controversy. Far gone are the days when top-level sport was still considered a leisure activity, with football being the frontrunner when it comes to British sport and the money surrounding it.

The top-earning players in the Premier League are Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie (both of Manchester United) and Yaya Toure (Manchester City), who earn around £250,000, £240,000 and £240,000 a week respectively. These figures are approximately nine times the average UK annual salary. To any member of the general public, whether they are football fans or not, this may seem like an absurd amount for someone who essentially runs around a field kicking a ball.

Some players, like Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner, says that players deserve such high wages because they aren’t allowed to do activities that may injure them, such as go skiing. However a lot of players prefer to remain quiet on the topic due to the nature of it, especially in the current economic climate. Retired striker Alan Shearer is one of the more recent people directly involved in football to extend his opinion on the matter, saying it isn’t right that players get paid so much.

On top of that, transfer fees are getting higher and higher every year. Gareth Bale’s world record transfer of £85 million from Spurs to Real Madrid set a benchmark that shouldn’t be surpassed for some time, but it could easily be. Players are becoming more and more valuable in the transfer market as they become more and more valuable to their teams, which prices them over and above what they would normally be worth. Another good example lately is Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian moved from Everton to Manchester United on transfer deadline day for £27.5 million, a figure that surprised fans and critics alike. They also agree that Fellaini has been quite substandard this season so far, and that United may have overpaid for the midfielder.

But the real question, in my mind, isn’t whether players should be earning so much. It’s how and why do they earn so much.

I consider there to be two main reasons for this: Foreign Owners and TV Rights. There then comes the question of whether spending will ever decrease.

TV Rights – Every Broadcaster for Themselves

 The other major financial factor surrounding football is the media. Since TV is the biggest broadcaster of the sport, this section will concentrate on that more than radio.

The three major broadcasters of football in the UK, Sky Sports, BBC and ITV, have fought over the rights for the Beautiful Game for years, with Sky often winning out for the right to show Premier League games. With other channels such as Setanta and ESPN entering the fray in recent years before opting out, it remains to be seen whether big-spending BT Sport can hold firm.

The evidence from the past year suggests they can, with the new-boys spending around £750 million last year to show 38 games per season for the next three years. They then shocked the footballing world in November by paying nearly £900 million across three years to be the only UK broadcaster allowed to show Champions League games.

The infograms here show how much UK broadcasters have spent to show football, whether it be live or highlights, for the 2012/13 season.

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the Premier League this season

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the Premier League this season

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the FA Cup this season

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the FA Cup this season

Football League

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the Football League this season

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the Champions League this season

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the Champions League this season

As it stands, according to the FA, 50% of revenue is divided equally all 20 clubs, 25% is awarded depending on a club’s final league position, with the final 25% distributed as a facilities fee depending on how many games are shown live on TV. Income from any foreign broadcasters, such as Al Jazeera Sport in the United Arab Emirates and NBC Sports in the USA, is divided equally amongst every Premier League club. Last season this amount was £18,391,726.

The amount it costs per season to show football has increased every single year, meaning that Premier League teams earn more and more revenue each year from simply playing in the league. In the 2012/13 season, QPR finished bottom of the Premier League and earned £5.8 million from media revenue, along with an extra £0.75 million from the FA for finishing 20th.

The winners of the league, by contrast, will rake in approximately £72 million for their hard work as opposed to the £61.4 million Manchester United earned in 2013. They earned £15 million on merit for finishing top, and this amount decreases by around £0.75 million the lower down a team finishes. The ratio of earnings from Manchester United to QPR was 1.53:1. Each team also received nearly £14 million from the FA for competing on top of the overseas broadcast payments, a number which fluctuates from season-to-season depending on their income.

Arguably the most interesting statistic, and certainly the most useful, is that a team is paid a minimum of 10 ‘facility fees’ – no matter how many times they are shown on live TV. Last season, the sides on TV the most were Manchester United (25), Liverpool (22), Arsenal (22) and Manchester City (21). The facility fee was around £550,000. This leads to the conclusion that if a team wasn’t on TV at least 10 times a season, the broadcasters (which was only Sky Sports at the time) must feel that they will bring in more money from advertising and sponsors by showing a game involving better-supported sides and paying facility fees to the teams that missed out as well as those involved.

These figures are only going to continue to rise and it will only be a matter of time before broadcasters pay over £1 billion for one season of Premier League rights, which is an astronomical amount of money, even in sport. The chart below shows how much money each team made from broadcasting rights last season: Premier League amounts by team

As a rule here, the amount earned by a team is directly proportional to their league position; the higher up they finish, the more money they receive. There are odd exceptions, like Newcastle United finishing 16th but having the 13th highest income, but this is likely because of their 5th-place finish the season before. On top of being one of the most well-supported clubs in England, broadcasters will have hoped they could have had another similar season so they could be shown on TV more. The Magpies ended up being shown on Sky Sports 16 times last season, the 6th most in the league.

Infogram sources

Premier League: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18430036

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/may/25/bbc-premier-league-highlights

FA Cup: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2012/jan/16/fa-cup-england-internationals-itv

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21577676

Champions League: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/apr/27/itv-sky-sports

Football League: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12965536

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/7080696.stm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/18153109

Will Spending Ever Decrease?

Now comes the time for the Premier League, European Leagues and UEFA to put their heads together and work out the best method to regulate spending. Financial Fair Play was introduced by UEFA in 2011, which essentially stops clubs from spending more than they bring in. Money brought in includes prize money for winning tournaments and gate money, with money going out including transfers and wages. If a team fails to comply, they can be fined or banned from European competition.

However some of the richer sides, such as Manchester City whose owner Sheikh Mansour is worth over £20 billion, are able to rely income like on massive sponsorship deals to make sure they don’t overspend. Despite spending over £100 million and bringing in just £10 million in the 2013 summer transfer market, it is unlikely that they will get reprimanded by UEFA.

Another idea that has been considered, more so by the English FA than UEFA or any other European FA, is the Salary Cap. This system is already implemented in the MLS (Major League Soccer) in the USA, with no player able to earn more than $368,750 a year (approximately £225,000) and no team able to spend more than $2.95million (approximately £1.8 million). The exception to this system is the Designated Player (DP) rule, which enables a franchise to pay up to three players above the individual salary cap, with it only counting as $368,750 towards the team salary cap.

The salary cap also exists in many other sports, including the four major “American Sports” leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB), and Rugby League in England and Australia. The rule in the Super League in England has been much criticised in recent years for not being high enough and causing top class players, such as Sam Tomkins, to go to the National Rugby League (NRL) in Australia where the cap is higher. In some cases, such as with Sam’s brother Joel Tomkins and New Zealander Sonny Bill Williams, players change codes to play Rugby Union where the caps are considerably higher.

In the Super League, a team can only pay £1.65 million to the top 25 earners within the squad, whereas in the NRL a team can spend up to $5.85 million (approximately £3.26 million) to the top 25. This doesn’t stop the cap being breached in either league though, but it is far more common in Australia with seven teams being fined in July this year. The last Super League breach was by Wigan Warriors in 2007, although new Salford City Reds owner Marwan Koukash claimed he’s willing to break the cap if it isn’t raised.

To get an idea of whether this could work in the Premier League, I asked a group of New York Red Bulls fans, an MLS side, on Facebook about money in football in general, and whether the salary cap could work. The results were not only similar, they were quite unsurprising.

43% of the respondents said that they thought TV Rights were a bigger factor in the amount of money in football, 43% said they believed it was down to Foreign Owners whilst the remaining 14% said they thought it was down to both equally. I also asked them about whether they thought there was too much in money football, which provided me with a greater variety of answers because they were given the option to expand on their thoughts.

One of the respondents agreed that there was too much money in football, and went on to say: “Money will always have a pull on the game. But it is at the point where players move for money not to a great team that suits. There are so many examples of local Australian players going to the Middle East and Asian leagues to pick up their last pay cheques instead of helping the game in Australia.” However they also argued that the money is good for the game in certain aspects, saying: “Look at Tottenham, sold Gareth Bale for 90mil or whatever it was. They have since bought an entire team for that much.

As for the salary cap system, another respondent said that it works in the MLS because it provides parity and makes the playing field more level: “There is a limit to the amount of dominance you can have, which is vital. In La Liga and Bundesliga, Barcelona, Madrid and Bayern Munich all have a duopoly and monopoly of their respective leagues.” But when it comes to the Premier League, the overwhelming reaction was that it was too late for it to be implemented. One respondent said: “It is too far into the life of the league to make such a big change. In the current age of the mercenary footballer, many would most likely leave elsewhere for more money if they could get it.”, whilst another said: “No teams would be able to make it work at this point.

This interview with Clarke Carlisle, retired Premier League defender and former chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, on BBC HARDtalk encapsulates the financial aspect of football perfectly. (Video courtesy of YouTube channel News via BBC HARDtalk)

Foreign Owners – The Abramovich Effect

Image

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
Image courtesy of Mark Freeman
http://www.flickr.com/photos/46357488@N00/398878345/

When Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, no one could have predicted the influence it would have over the next 10 years. The Blues spent big in the very next transfer window, spending an unprecedented £121 million, and won the Premier League for the first time in their history the next season before winning it again a year later.

After the success of Abramovich’s investment, many other businessmen started to buy, or bought more, shares of clubs. Some of the more high-profile takeovers included Malcolm Glazer buying Manchester UnitedTom Hicks and George Gillett buying Liverpool (who sold to John W. Henry, founder of Fenway Sports Group, just three years later in another well-publicised move), and Randy Lerner buying Aston Villa.

As it stands, 11 clubs in England’s top flight are majority owned by foreign investors, with another 15 clubs in the Football League also being having foreign owners. 13 of these are in The Championship and five of those have been in the Premier League under their current owners.

Whilst not all of these moves have brought success to the clubs, it definitely increased the already huge profile of the Premier League exponentially. It also contributed to making English sides more competitive in European competition, with a minimum of one Premier League side making it to the Champions League semi-finals eight times in nine years. Three of those sides went on to win the tournament and five were losing finalists. Not all of these sides had foreign owners, but the influx of them in the Premier League meant other teams had to adapt, usually by changing their playing style to make it more effective against bigger clubs.

At the time, Chelsea were accused of “buying the title” and spending excessive amounts. It could be argued that this lead to the introduction of Financial Fair Play (FFP), which UEFA introduced to regulate spending, but to squarely put the blame on Abramovich wouldn’t be fair on him, nor on other foreign owners who bought Premier League clubs soon after.

The criticism doesn’t stop there. In 2008, much-maligned FIFA president Sepp Blatter claimed that the “economic power of football is immense” and that the investment in the sport is out of control. Richard Bevan, head of the League Managers’ Association (LMA), said in March 2012 that Chelsea had become an “embarrassment” to the Premier League after Abramovich sacked manager Andre Villas-Boas just 257 days after he took charge of the club.

In a survey by Global Sports Forum published around the same time as Bevan’s comments, it was found that similar sentiments were echoed by fans. 52% of the 3,500 fans polled said that overseas owners do not have the best interests of a club at heart, whilst 63% said they don’t want foreign owners in their domestic league.

Hull City fans would likely agree with these stories after their Egyptian owner Assem Allam said that some fans can “die as soon as they want” after they opposed his idea to rename the club Hull Tigers from Hull City. At recent home matches, fans have been holding banners saying “We are Hull City” and chanting “City till we die” in response to the proposed name change, causing Allam to make those comments. The African has already rebranded the club Hull City Tigers for trading purposes, much to the disdain of the KC Stadium faithful. He also said he would be happy to put the club up for sale if the fans wanted him out, an offer that may be taken up in the near future.

In a somewhat less controversial move, Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov, who owns 30% of the club, recently said that foreign owners are good for English football. The Russian continued by saying that investors pumping money into the British economy can only be a good thing, and that if a team is successful, then there should be no issue with foreign owners.

This may be true for clubs like Arsenal with a long history and richer investors, but with smaller clubs like Birmingham City (majority owned by Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung) and Queens Park Rangers (majority owned by Malaysian Tony Fernandes) who have suffered relegations since being bought.

To view a timeline of when Premier League sides were bought by foreign owners, click on this link.

How Australia’s attack won them the Rugby League World Cup 2013

rlwc top try scorerss The chart above shows the top try scorers during the Rugby League World Cup 2013, and serves to highlight Australia’s dominance of the tournament. The Kangaroos beat New Zealand 34-2 in the final to regain the trophy after losing 34-28 to the Kiwis in the final of the 2008 tournament. Throughout the finals, Australia scored an incredible 272 points in their six matches (an average of 45 per game), with Jarryd Hayne and Brett Morris contributing 72 of those points through their nine tries each. Half of the players in the top 10 try scorers are Australian, with the non-Australian players being Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (New Zealand), Ryan Hall (England), Antonio Winterstein (Samoa), Manu Vatuvei (New Zealand) and Matthew Russell (Scotland).

For the data to accompany the chart, visit https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0As66_R38ou2sdGZNWDZxYzUtOElyZ21fYS14T0FjMkE&single=true&gid=2&output=html

For a full list of all player stats, including try scorers, go to http://www.rlwc2013.com/fixtures/player_stats