Friday, 23 May 2008

The global game

. The Economist carries an interesting piece celebrating the recent success of British teams in the Champions League. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United have all reached at least one Champions League final in the past four years. If you add in Rangers making the UEFA Cup final this year then that is an impressive record. However, as the article rightly notes that is not due to the success of home grown talent - something attested to by the fact that none of the Home Nations will be present at the European Championships this summer.

The article lambasts the comments of Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, and his supporter Michel Platini, the head of UEFA, who have cited English dominance of the Champions League as proof of the need to restrict how many foreigners a team may field. In this I feel it is totally correct as it is when it cites the cause of the lack of home grown talent as being the inadequate training infrastructure. However, it stops short of recognising that the solution to that problem does lie in the Premier Leagues "financial clout".

Sport is not like any other commercial activity. In the season which saw plans for a money-spinning 39th game derailed there have been plenty of reminders that it is less a business in the orthodox sense of the word and more a community activity. If the Premier League was encouraged to plough more money into infrastructure then it would potentially reap the rewards in developing a rich seam of talent at a potentially much lower price than a given club would have to pay to buy a player in - so it would be a virtuous circle.

It is only a matter of time before the football bubble bursts with Manchester Uniteds debts presenting it with challenging times ahead. So, speculating to accumulate could reap rewards for us all; how clubs can be creatively encouraged to do that is another discussion.

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