In the non-business of Football, Arsenal are a responsible icon

I say ‘non-business’ because most football clubs are not viable businesses.

The debt racked up by the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester United is the stuff of legend.

In some cases it can be more than double the annual turnover. Treble, even.

If they were real companies or countries their bonds would be rated as junk.

This article from the Guardian shows the extent of the football spending craziness.

But also shows why Arsenal’s manager, Arsene Wenger, is a beacon of hope for responsible management in top flight football.

Here’s a great quote from the piece:

“”Professional football is about winning and balancing the budget. That’s the basic rule, one I fought for. All the rest is half-cheating. For every club it has to be the same. I always pleaded for financial fair play. The clubs belong to the fans. That’s all I feel my responsibility is, to keep the club in good financial condition.””

In an unusual industry, Wenger is as ethical leader as you can get. He actually refuses to spend the £30 odd million in his transfer budget rather than compromise his ethics. Now that’s leadership.

And yes, I am an Arsenal fan. But tell me I’m wrong…:)


  1. Ok. I'll try to remain calm and concise but when the words football, business and responsibility are used within a Rory Delap throw-in distance of each other I cringe.

    The nail was hit on the head with the 'non-business' description. The best quote I heard during eight very long years working at Everton FC was 'clubs are thinly veiled vehicles to transfer Sky money to players and agents'.

    Asking for fair play in the financial realm of football is to be blunt odd. All teams play by the same fiancial rules so what's the problem?

    Sorry fans, but professional football isn't really about sport any more anyway. A better ananlogy is to to think about the non-business of football as investors employing yes men executives with a better than average staff footy team.

    As for Arsenal Toby, well just wait until Kroenke gets his hands on the keys to the Emirates Stadium. Enjoy the moral high ground while you can.

  2. Hard to disagree, but when you say "All teams play by the same financial rules" that's not quite true is it?

    Chelsea and Man U play by rules of massive debt and then, in Chelsea's case, write off.

    And Liverpool… hmm. And then Man C.. anyhow I don't disagree with your comments in the main.

    That sky quote is a tough one!

    It's a murky world. Do you know Sean Hamil's work on football governance at Birkbeck? He's an interesting guy.

    I met the chap who bought Liverpool for Gillette in Canada at a philanthropy conference a while back. President of the Montreal Canadiennes at the time. He had some interesting stories, tell you about it some time. They didn't seem to know much about what they were doing, from what he told me.

    As for Kroenke, you may be right. He does seem a bit smarter than Hicks and Gillette though.

    And my main point was about Arsenal under Wenger, rather than in perpetuity.

    Cross fingers, It's all you can do as a fan eh

  3. Was Wenger not at the helm while Arsenal piled up the debt that they currently have? I assume that is good debt, not bad debt.

    Football is murky in all sorts of ways, from the treatment of young players brought in from foreign countries to the shady world of agents.

    I would also argue that the way that Arsenal have paid their players in previous years, helping to shield them from large amounts of tax, is barely equitable with being a responsible icon.

    You are an Arsenal fan you say? Surprises me. 😉

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