Every last penny. Football takes from the poor to give to the rich...... again.
By Oliver Wilson
Football has, over the last 20 years or so, begun to distance itself from the common football fan. Players are paid extraordinary amounts of money as they jump from club to club, showing little loyalty towards their employers, while fans are kept at arms length – or usually a good 20-yards away with a security team and a steel gate in the way – from their idols, with little interaction between the man in the stands who holds his season ticket and the player he watches every week. The days of joining a player in the local after a game are long gone.
Fans who are feeling less and less connected to their idols and their club, though, are being given an opportunity to become more involved the industry, merely by clicking a mouse button. The digital age is upon us and now it’s being used to get fans reintegrated to their clubs and giving them the opportunity to make a direct impact in their clubs transfer policy.
Last week, former Real Madrid defender Michel Salgado and current Arsenal fullback Bacary Sagna helped to launch the latest oddity football has conceived, BuyMy Player.com.
The premise behind BuyMyPlayer.com is very simple. Fans register to the site and, once logged on, create ‘pre-pledges’. This allows them to pick a player who they would like to see move to their club - or any other club for that matter - and have it logged into the website’s database. They, and other fans, can then click to support a pre-pledge until it gets 10,000 individual votes of support. Once the magic 10k mark is met, the pre-pledge becomes a live transfer and fans are able to donate money through either their PayPal account or credit/debit card towards the players transfer fee. If the transfer goes through, the money donated by the fans will go to the club to pay part – or possibly all – of the fee. If the transfer doesn’t go through the fans will be given their money back. It’s believed to be a genius idea to get fans more involved, and thus feeling more connected, to their club.
It is, in it’s simplest and glorified form, a unique way to give fans a chance to feel directly involved in the dealings of a club and for that the site must be commended. Its actual impact on the game of football is likely to leave fans feeling disillusioned and out of pocket.
An Arsenal fan with a season ticket at the Emirates will pay a minimum of £985 this coming season for his seat. Add into that the cost of a Arsenal shirt (RRP £50), two beers and possibly some food in the ground every match day (£12 x 19 home games = £228), and a match day program at every game (£76), and suddenly your season ticket holding Gunner is spending around £1339 every season just to watch his/her side play and enjoy the experience. That doesn’t take into account the membership fee it costs to have the opportunity to buy tickets from the club, travel costs, or any other Arsenal associated luxuries a fan will pickup throughout the season.
To market, then, a website where fans can give more of their hard earned cash to help their multi-million pound club and get involved with their transfer dealings tips the scale of audacity to new levels.
Why do these clubs need more of the fan’s money? Our fictitious Arsenal fan has already paid an incredible amount of money to the club just to have the opportunity to come and see them play. Arsenal are a club, we are told, with a very healthy transfer budget to spend. So why, if the Gunners have over £100,000,000 in the transfer kitty, do the fans want/need/are encouraged to give more to the club that should be able to afford almost any player in the world.
So many of the world’s biggest clubs already spend extraordinary sums of money on securing talent, why are the fans being indirectly encouraged to help fund the purchases of some of the wealthiest organisations on the planet. For a lower league club struggling financially, such as Portsmouth or Luton Town, giving a few thousand as a combined fan base could perhaps make some small impact on the fiscal situation of the club. Their fan bases, however, are unlikely to be large enough to garner a meaningful sum of money, otherwise they probably would have done it already.
The website will also only encourage a greater division of those with, and those without in football.
Any club with a large global fan market, such as Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona, Bayern Munich etc, already is equipped financially to spend in the two transfer windows. Norwich City, whose global outreach of fans is minute compared to those previously mentioned, is unlikely to be able to afford to spend £40+ million twice a season. It is these sides that could use the money taken from the fans on BuyMyPlayer.com to help reduce the gap between themselves and the Premier League’s top 6 or 7 clubs. Manchester United, however, with their millions of fans around the world could potentially receive a £1 donation from every Red Devils supporter from across the globe and would have enough money to match the transfer budget at Carrow Road. The larger the fan base of a club, the more money they are likely to receive towards their transfer fees. Rather than seeing the financial gap between clubs close, the difference between the bottom and top of the league could drastically increase.
From a club’s point of view, BuyMyPlayer.com could be seen as a way around UEFA’s financial fair play regulations, with the fans charitable donation’s not coming under the umbrella of the club’s expenditure. It could make a huge dent in how much they, as a business, have to pay out to secure new talent to bolster their squad, while also helping to bridge the ever-expanding gap between the club and it’s fans.
What the fans get in return, however, is unclear.
Will they get the opportunity to meet the player purchased with their donation face-to-face? Will Arsenal send them a gift or token of thanks for their input into the club? Will their names even be read out at his unveiling press conference?
The website’s information video states that there will be an opportunity to receive rewards for your donation such as, “match tickets and signed jerseys, to even meeting the player himself.”
It doesn’t, however, explain what you need to do to receive these awards. Will it be the highest donor who gets the opportunity to meet ‘their’ star buy, or will it be done at random? How many tickets will be available per-player sold
It appears that, for the majority of fans, all they can hope to gain an overinflated sense of connection between themselves and the club that has lost the understanding of who the modern day football fan is.
The website ultimately to asks football fans to give more money to the multimillionaire businesses they call their football club while emphasising how detached from reality, and the world economic climate, the business of football really is. The majority of fans are likely receive no tangible return for another ‘investment’ in their passion, while their club is able to reduce its costs at the expense of the everyday supporter.
Once again, football is sending a clear message that the money in the fan's wallet is more important than the song in their heart.