Christ, it’s hard not to hyperlink to basically everything Andi Thomas writes, so forgive me the odd slip up now and again. Anyhoo, Andi Thomas wrote this yesterday, on Michu (gesundheit):
Watching the 105,378,491 dalasi Michu score against Arsenal should be fun because he’s great and Swansea are good and Arsenal are Arsenal, not because he was cheap and Swansea are poor and Arsenal are rich. This sounds terribly naïve – the big teams are the rich teams, and vice versa; there is a causal connection between money and status – but then, the whole idea of being a football supporter is a naïve one, a faith that there is something worthwhile in and around this silly game played by fools. Whether that’s true or just a happy lie, treating football as a game of competitive shopping only reinforces the notion that there’s nothing else going on, that we’re simply watching money move around in cryptic patterns, while paying handsomely for the privilege.
I often think of this when reading the brain-melting screeching that tends to follow any reasonable calls spending regulation in football, i.e. financial fair play. Right now for example, I’m in the middle of Thomas Peeters & Stefan’s Szymanski’s paper, which uses an ostensibly complex and all-encompassing statistical model to demonstrate why FFP would lock in competitive imbalance forever if instituted in the Premier League.
The model however dictates that higher wages and transfer fees EQUALS better team success, as if it was on par with the law of gravity. No doubt the tendency is for high-wage, transfer fee clubs to win more trophies, to which you might say, “WOW” very sarcastically, but it’s not a one-for-one relationship. An expensively-compiled team still has to win football matches. It still needs to be managed.
It’s true. The tendency for expensive squads to finish top of the table would likely remain after FFP; what wouldn’t remain would be the familiar recourse for smaller teams to take the road most traveled to beat them: spending more money than they earn. We’ve become so jaded that it’s become impossible to think that anything other than money can help small money teams beat big money teams. And if you think European football clubs have explored those other means, than you’ve confused them with Seattle-based tech firms. Football doesn’t yet do R & D. FFP would ideally change that.
Most of us now however are under the spell detailed by Thomas: players for us are just walking and talking dollar signs, either playing over or under their “true” value which exists in some Platonic plane somewhere. It would be nice to begin talking about footballers as footballers.