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November 2012
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More grey, less black and white please

By Walter Broeckx

As we have the luck of having a real life long Gooner amongst our readers he can bring some perspective on the day. He can point at events even before WW2, a time we only have seen in books, films and on TV. I always like his comments who are something to remind us on how things go in football for any club.

Now we are facing a bit of a bad spell some supporters show their true colours a bit. And I must say I don’t like their colours at all. Because the way they behave is as if there are only two colours in the world: black and white. The more clever fan will already know why I don’t like this colours in particular. Yep. How can any Arsenal fan only see two colours and certainly how can he just see it all in black and white. If you are such a fan of those colours you can change your sympathy this weekend.

Or a player is brilliant or he is rubbish for some fans. One second he is the best, the next second he is the worst player ever seen in an Arsenal shirt. Nowhere in the world can a player go as fast from zero to hero and back from hero to zero as an Arsenal player.

And on top of that nobody remembers how they praised him/or told him to get lost the second before. For some an Arsenal player is as good as his last shot. It went in: world beater. The keeper saved it: rubbish.  Ore in colours: scored a goal    and all is white, keeper saved and all is black. Of course we all know better than the manager, the entire coaching staff. We know who to buy (I know which car to buy if I would have the money – but I don’t have it so I don’t have to buy it or even look at it) but some of them know it but well as they are only their own experts and don’t have a job in real football they do nothing. Surely if it would have been that simple a lot of you have missed a great career in being a manager, a players agent or so.

Let us take a few examples of this strange and I fear rather bizarre habit of many Arsenal fans to change their point of view on any player in a moment.

Let me start with Santos. Now we all can hate RVP as much as we want for leaving us. I haven’t dealt with his betrayal but well I can only accept it. Did I ever mention that with the team we now have I think we would be next to MU in the league table if he would have stayed? One more reason to hate him from my part. But that is not the subject of this article. Yes we supporters may hate him. But well I do think that there are not many professional football players out there who hate another player.

There is no real reason to hate each other unless your opponent has kicked you in order to ruin your career. Then I can understand players hating each other. But this is rather seldom the case. So why would Santos hate Van Persie? Unless of course Van Persie has knocked him on the face in training or so. But there is no rumour of anything like that. So we can all assume that Santos is a rather friendly and sunny chap who is having a sunny look at life. A very common thing for Brazilians in fact. Maybe we could learn a bit from them. Less moaning, more enjoying life.

So Santos plays against MU and he is playing against a player who he has played with for a year, possibly has became a good friend during that year and who he still has contact with. You would be amazed how close the football world is outside the pitch. They talk with each other, laugh with each other. But on the field, they just play for their own teams.

And Santos had the foolish idea to ask his colleague, former team mate and friend for his shirt. A rather common thing in Brazil it seems. So Santos sees no harm in doing this. And as much as we hate Van Persie there is absolutely no reason why Santos should hate Van Persie. During the start of the game and the final whistle they can fight each other but Santos sees no reason in fighting Van Persie at half time or after the game. For a professional football player, playing against former team mates is just part of the game.

And then we see again this pure black/white vision. Santos should be sold immediately and should never play a game for Arsenal again. Last seasons sunny chap who after a difficult start came to some good games and performances (already long forgotten by the black/white thinkers) and then got a bad injury that kept him from the field for months. Suddenly he is the face of evil for Arsenal fans.

And yes I know he wasn’t playing very well since Gibbs got injured and he had to replace him. But did we forget his contribution from last season. Because let me remind you that Santos is one of the reasons we play CL this season. He was the one that started our come back at Chelsea after playing a very bad first half and then suddenly raised his game  and was very instrumental in us winning 3-5. He also was the one that brought us back to 2-2 at West Bromwich in the final game of the season. I’m not saying he did nothing wrong in total but now just saying : “he is rubbish”….well isn’t that a bit black/white?


I think the truth will be out there in the middle. Santos is a player that needs a few games to find his feet. And sometimes it doesn’t work at times. I can see him struggling. But what do I do when I see a player struggling? Call him shit? Call him rubbish? Will it help him? No I will try to support him. I will try to shout his name and hope he will lift himself back like he did against Chelsea one year ago.  But somehow a lot of Arsenal fans seem to need someone to moan about. And I must admit that Santos did himself no favour by asking the shirt of a former team mate, colleague and friend. But remember players don’t hate each other. Leave the hating to us, the supporters. Why don’t we rather hate Van Persie because he knew all too well the cameras were watching and he knows all too well how things work in England.

Santos who hardly speaks English and has no clue about the football culture in England could have been saved by his former friend. Just saying : I will give it inside would have been enough. Van Persie chose to do it in front of the cameras. Knowing Santos would be dead after that. Maybe NOW  Santos can have a reason to hate Van Persie.

Let us move on to the next left back we have used after Santos. Yes our current captain Vermaelen. Terribly at fault for the first goal at United. And after a few dodgy performances before he has gone from zero to hero and back again by the fickle Arsenal fans.

Remember when he came? And Tony Adams saying: too short, not good enough…. Vermaelen starting with half of the fans already against him. Because Wenger knew nothing (with all the things he has won) and Adams was Mr. Arsenal and knew much better (what did Adams win as a manager again?). Vermaelen came and conquered us all. Make him captain they shouted during his first season. The zero was suddenly a hero.

Then came his injury and a long recovery. One lost season but he came back to his former level. Scoring and defending. We all wanted him back in those days. And now suddenly he is back a zero. After his mistake against United, after some not convincing performances he is rubbish. From black to white and back to black again. Some really seem only to like the colours of that other team in North London.


But maybe there is something else. Just the title of a rather popular book these days there is something in between. And I think that most of us will fall in that category. The ones that know there is also grey. And there are maybe 50 shades of grey between black and white. I’m not a colour expert at all but for me things are not just the colours I dislike.

All those who now declare that Vermaelen is rubbish, was rubbish will always be rubbish; know what is behind him not playing as good as he has done? Well the reason is rather simple. According to the press in Belgium Vermaelen is carrying an ankle injury since a few weeks. He has been playing with pain killers and is getting anti-inflammatory pills. Just like at the end of last season he is playing through injury. He is playing through the pain.  Yes he wasn’t that good but there is a good reason for that.

Why didn’t Arsene say this you might ask. Well even that is rather simple. If Wenger would say: Vermaelen has a problem with his left ankle and can hardly play the first thing that some teams will do is make sure he will be out after a few minutes playing. A little knock on that already injured ankle and off he goes. But let us just call him rubbish that is much easier you know.


And remember Vermaelen is now playing out of position because Santos not performing as hoped but also because Santos being hated by a part of the fans. I sometimes wonder if we have to be so sensitive about what a player does at half time?  We can argue that his performances were not good enough. Fair enough. But let us preserve the hating part for the players of the other teams.

Because as it stands now it seems that many Arsenal fans are doing a great job in doing what the supporters of our opponents should be doing: hating Arsenal players.  Other supporters don’t need to boo our players. We just do it for them. It’s a mad world out there.

Third party ownership. FIFA Agents part 4

Third party ownership. FIFA Agents part 4

“No club should enter into a contract which enables any other part to that contract or any third party to acquire the ability to influence in employment and transfer-related matters its independence, its policies or the performance of its teams”. (FIFA)

This seems a very simple rule to adhere to, however it is just this rule that encompasses a multi-million pound industry within footballs transfer market, the rule does not outlaw third party ownership (TPO), it only states that the third party cannot influence in any way; when, how or to who their investment is transferred. So the rule above is what, 4 lines of literature, yet millions are earned via it every year, welcome to the world of FIFA.

What this rule means is that you or I can purchase a percentage of a professional football player’s transfer/economic rights (future transfer fee) from the club holding the players registration, let’s say 20% for £1 million. The player is then sold on to a bigger league/club for £12 million; my cut would be £2.4 million, not bad eh considering I never trained or paid the player. Clubs outside of England and France are indulging in selling percentages of player’s transfer/economic rights to keep the cost of purchasing the player down. UEFA have revamped FFP this year to discount monies generated from a TPO from being included in the clubs attempts to pass FFP, as this constitutes an unfair advantage for those operating outside of the Premiership or ligue 1 as TPOs are banned within both competitions.

“Any profit in respect of a player for whom the licence applicant retains the registration must not be recognised in the profit and loss account. For the avoidance of doubt, any profit arising from the disposal of economic rights or similar of a player to any other party must be deferred, and a profit can only be recognised in the profit and loss account following the permanent transfer of a player’s registration to another club”.(UEFA).


These rules have also given rise to investment funds set up primarily to invest in professional football players transfer rights, all of this happens outside of the control of footballs governing bodies and no person has to be announced to FIFA as a stake holder in a player only UEFA want to know the percentage owned by the club for FFP purposes, all FIFA asks through TMS, is who negotiated the players employment and transfer contracts,  also that no outsider has influence over the club or players, they asks the clubs to confirm this via TMS (tick a box).

Players’ economic rights (or similar)

“For any player for whom the economic rights or similar are not fully owned by the licence applicant, the name of the player and the percentage of economic rights or similar held by the licence applicant at the beginning of the period (or on acquisition of the registration) and at the end of the period must be disclosed”.(UEFA)


So consequently we are seeing smaller clubs around Europe being able to afford better players due to outside investment; use the example above, but to acquire the player (artificially enhancing the performance of a team). This is a familiar trend we are seeing from agents/solicitors that not only negotiate contracts for the clubs and players but also manage/own the investment funds used to purchase the player in the first place. Add to this scenario, the exemptions of solicitors from being a registered entity and we lose all transparency from footballs transfer market. So again we see FIFA unable to regulate this market. All FIFA have done recently is to make sure that the person being transferred is real.

Not only have we seen inflated prices due to the “sugar daddy” affect I believe we’ve seen an increase in transfer fees due to investment funds and outside influence on the returns on investments, Portugal is a prime example of this (as I have shown in a previous article). We have the importation of footballers from Brazil & Africa to Portugal by Gestifute and other agencies, and then moved on in to one of the “big five” leagues for amounts that defy belief.

When the FA introduced its rules governing Third Party Ownership in July 2009 it only stated that newly registered players couldn’t be influenced by a TPO so any players within the professional pyramid that were signed before 2009 maybe still part owned by a third part. It was shown in a report by the CIES football observatory that a lot of FIFA registered agents had in the past held a percentage of a players future transfer rights, which is probably still the case within associations which allow TPOs.

This brings me to the unfair competition aspect; let’s say Arsenal want a player that Benfica also want. Benfica have a budget of £10million but Arsenal has a Budget of £25million you would think Arsenal have the player in the bag. However when you introduce TOPs which Benfica can indulge in; their budget suddenly becomes unknown as long as the investors get their money back before the players contract runs down. Add to this Benfica only need to inform UEFA of the percentage owned by a third party and declare the £10million it spent for FFP purposes then this puts Arsenal and all other English and French clubs at a distinct disadvantage unless you are Chelsea or Manchester city of course but then these clubs still need to meet FFPR. So I ask; how can this form of contractual arrangement not be in contravention of FIFAs rules governing influence over a club in matters of player transfers let alone artificially enhancing a team’s spending power and on-field performance through the acquisition of better players?

The facts of this business model are clear. A player whose transfer rights are owned or partly owned by a third party will not be allowed to see out his contract at a club , The investors will lose their money which sometimes adds up to millions of Euros or Pounds. Believe it or not but England has the highest longevity for players staying with their clubs around the 3.25 year mark on average which rises even further for top 5 premier clubs which then falls quite dramatically in other countries. The model is not conducive to building a stable club. It promotes change for financial gains that ultimately are removed from the game. Some will argue that this model gives the smaller clubs a chance to compete, yes I agree, however it will not be a sustained challenge, it will be brief with its only intention,  moving players around the transfer market for profit.

To give you further food for thought on the Third Party Ownership model I will give you a comparison of Arsenal and Porto; Porto reportedly had owned 100% of the transfer/economic rights to only 5 of its 27 playing squad last season so 22 players were partly owned by outside investors, Whilst Arsenal has a professional (defined by the player status and transfer regulations)  list of approximately 70 players whose transfer/economic rights have to be owned solely by Arsenal which is obviously more expensive to accumulate than Porto’s. Even if we took Arsenals 27 most expensive players we still see that Porto would be able accrue their playing squads at a fraction of the expense compared to Arsenal. The only time we would be able to get a player that Porto wanted is if the player chooses Arsenal and the selling club ignored Porto’s bid in favour of the player’s wishes. Arsenal not only has to compete with rich “sugar Daddy” clubs but also with investment funds which are not subject to FIFA /UEFA/FA regulations and have potentially unlimited resources. These investment funds target younger players whose future potential transfer fee makes investment worthwhile exactly the same market Arsenal have been operating in for the last decade. Maybe this also explains Arsenals change in acquisition policy regarding signing players without a huge sell on potential? Although this last point is personal opinion only.

So through FIFAs own rules Arsenal finds itself competing with the financial clout acquired and amassed outside of football. Maybe this is why Arsenal shops frequently in France as we can be fairly sure that we are buying a player with no PTO hanging around his neck.

Would it be possible for a club to own 0% of all its players transfer/economic rights?  Outside of England and France; yes. So how can we compete with clubs that can get away with only paying players wages and rarely take the risk of acquiring full ownership of the players future transfer rights or paying a fee in the first place. UEFA it seems are interested in this model and its effects on its competitions as it has incorporated PTOs into its FFP regulations, how do we know we have not already played against teams in Europe who don’t own most of their players?

Written by Adam Brogden