The EPL champions versus the UEFA Champions League winners, Manchester City FC versus Chelsea FC. Last Sunday, these heavyweights fought it out for the Community Shield, the annual curtain raiser for the self-proclaimed “greatest league in the world.” City came out victorious with goals from Yaya Toure, Carlos Tevez, and Samir Nasri.
Man City and Chelsea have taken two of the biggest prizes in club football, but as the final whistle blew in a 3/4 filled Villa Park Stadium I couldn’t help but feel that I wished it was any two teams but these.
In one corner Chelsea have Roman Abramovich, the oil-rich Russian who took full advantage of the collapse of the Soviet Union by purchasing the country’s oil wells at 25 times lower than face value. Whilst not to be undone, City have Sheik Mansour of the all ruling Abu Dhabi royal family, who have spent a total of 440 million (give or take a few million) in four and a bit years (not including agent fees, player salaries, and club infrastructure).
I know that both clubs have well-run community programs, but why can’t they fill the 8th-largest football stadium in England? The Olympic games? The recession? Maybe fans can’t be bothered to see the European champions versus the EPL winners? Or maybe closer to the truth is the fact that both clubs continue to isolate loyal lower-wage fans. City have increased season ticket prices by 13% whilst Chelsea, despite freezing season ticket prices, still charge a fair amount more than most.
With the London Olympics ending on the same day and the word “Legacy” engrained into the psyche of British people, maybe certain football clubs could look into how to support their local communities and build a long-term viable franchise by offering lower-wage fans and youth groups free or discounted prices.
The two clubs with their “get success quick” schemes have inflated the cost of every single professional footballer, creating a world where Wolverhampton Wanderers Stephen Fletcher is valued close to some developing countries’ GDP!
This cannot be right, can it? It creates a culture that pushes clubs to chase a dream or face the baying mob that is the modern impatient football fan. Ask the administrators at Portsmouth FC whilst they do their best to prevent the liquidation of the club that is over 114 years old. Was it really worth paying Israeli international Tel Ben Haim a reported weekly five-figure sum to potentially finish in a Europa League position whilst the club dropped to the 3rd tier of English football?
UEFA President and former France footballing legend Michel Platini has often been described as “anti-English” by the British media due to his criticism of the EPL. And yet, his introduction of the Financial Fair Play rules he has championed may have ironically saved the soul of English football.