What is a football club?
Sir Bobby Robson explained it perfectly all those years ago, a man who truly understood the concept, felt the passion, strived to improve and deliver better standards at every single juncture. There are many others out there, with lesser profiles, that completely and undoubtedly get it too.
But again, what is a football club? Or should I say, what is a football club in the 21st Century?
It is with a heavy heart, SBR’s words ringing at the back of my mind, that I have to burst a few people’s bubbles, and say that football is, in every sense of the word, a business.
A football club is a business, that operates within a much larger, worldwide corporate system. FIFA sit at the top of the food chain, directing and laying the foundations of the international game. Subsidiary groups then take their direction and implement the model in their respective continental region; UEFA, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL etc.
This feeds into the national associations, such as the FA, the SFA and, for example, The Royal Spanish Football Federation.
Having attempted to discover an entire global worth of the football community to no avail, it is probably not worth going into too much detail of individual club finances and trying to come up with a rough figure. When you consider that the FA in 2015 made a Gross profit of £261 Million, it is easy to assume that the entire global value of football is in the hundreds of billions region, if not pushing trillions.
What does that mean for Newcastle United? Not a lot really, the finances of Villareal or Kidderminster Harriers have no real bearing on our ability to operate as a club or business. The FA’s profits did not fund the purchase of Matt Ritchie, nor did it subsidise the sale of Moussa Sissoko. The global value means nothing to us.
However, the mere fact that the finances exist on the scale that they do, should give us a truer understanding of why certain things, or why certain people, operate in the way that they do.
Currently, NUFC are experiencing a period of enjoyment that hasn’t been witnessed for over 12 years, in fact, you can pretty much pin point the exact date that we all went from positive to negative; 30th August 2004, the day that Sir Bobby Robson was unceremoniously, and unjustifiably, forced out of the club. It happened, it can’t be changed, and what followed, well, it followed.
Two relegations, disastrous transfers, unforgivable management decisions, are slowly but surely, at the hands of Rafa Benitez, being corrected daily. We are winning football matches, albeit in the Championship and not the supposed ‘Hallowed Grounds’ of the Premiership, we find ourselves in the lofty position of a domestic cup quarter-final with what can only be seen as a VERY good draw.
And yet, no matter how good the feel factor is, no matter how exciting the football, how great the scoreline or how many clean sheets recorded, we all see and read here, quite regularly, the gloomy doom mongers harking on about Mike Ashley only doing what he is to protect his investment, to make money.
Sorry folks, but that is the only reason people buy football clubs nowadays. Of course there are a few exceptions, Steve Gibson for example is Boro through and through, and I truly believe that he would happily give his total net worth to that club if it brought success. He is of course, one of the very few.
The majority of club owners buy the clubs because they see the potential value. They see the ticket sales, the merchandise sales, TV revenues, and, as we all know better than most, player sales.
Mike Ashley is no different to any of the others. He is exactly the same as the Glazers, the Henrys, Pozzos and Sullivans. He wants to make money.
How he gets to that money pot has been the main issue of concern for us all. Lack of player investment, bad recruitment, sponsorship choices and failed policies have all been contributing factors to the negativity aimed at our owner.
All those factors were compounded by the fact that we were, as a team, diabolical. We deserved both our relegations, it’s a fact. We deserved to be mocked by opposing fans, we deserved the negative publicity. Currently though, and rightly so, we are not receiving any of that.
Mike Ashley, by trying to protect his asset, has realised that in order to reach the gravy train, you have to buy a ticket, stand at the platform and wait for it to roll into the station. He bought the ticket the day he managed to persuade Rafa to stay. We are all waiting patiently at the station now, and hopefully, the train will arrive in seven months time; Destination – Premiership.
Trying to protect his financial asset is in no way a bad thing. It is a requirement of the current game. Him doing so is the only way NUFC has any chance of success. Let him protect it, allow him to acquire extra wealth. As long as the train doesn’t get derailed, for us as fans, do we really care?