Jean-Michel De Waele: "The supporters participate in the mad money of football" - Economic Policy

Jean-Michel De Waele: “The supporters participate in the mad money of football” – Economic Policy

The ULB professor analyzes a once again crazy transfer window this summer. With the transfer of De Ketelaere, the most expensive outgoing Belgian football, and the headlong rush of FC Barcelona, ​​in particular.

The transfer market is in full swing in football, as European championships resume one after another. Like every year, it contains its share of crazy amounts and seems to indicate that the regulation of sport wanted by UEFA, with financial fair play, is not achieving its objectives. Overview of some key elements with Jean-Michel De Waele, professor at ULB and specialist in sports policy issues.

The transfer market is in full swing in football, as European championships resume one after another. Like every year, it contains its share of crazy amounts and seems to indicate that the regulation of sport wanted by UEFA, with financial fair play, is not achieving its objectives. Overview of some highlights with Jean-Michel De Waele, professor at the ULB and specialist in sports policy issues.Charles De Ketelaere’s move from FC Bruges to AC Milan is the most expensive outgoing transfer in history Belgian football: 35 million euros. The symbol of a growing inequality between clubs, Brugge dominating Belgian football head and shoulders? A few years ago, the same thing was said about Anderlecht who could buy the best Belgian footballers. He was also accused of sometimes buying players to weaken competition rather than to strengthen his team. But obviously, the sums had nothing to do: we bought players for a few million Belgian francs, while we no longer have players on the European market below six or seven million euros. We are in another order of magnitude. It is true: the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. What is interesting in the case of Charles De Ketelaere is that for once, he is a kid who was trained in the club of his city and that Belgian football sells. It’s not the same thing as going to find kids in the depths of Nigeria or Cameroon to resell them for more, with a series that will end up in sinister hotels or on the street if they get hurt. or if they don’t perform. The difference between De Ketelaere like Tielemans or Dendeoncker is that they are products of Belgian training. It’s rather good news. What’s more, De Ketelaere chose his future himself: there was a bigger offer from Leeds, but he chose AC Milan… Yes, he’s a kid intelligent, which is not bling-bling. This being so, the dualisation is indeed important, especially in a championship like Belgium where the means are reduced, the television rights less important than elsewhere. In England, the last of the championship earns much more than Bruges in television rights. What strikes me a lot in the case of Bruges, is the case of Stanley Nsoki who came for 6 million euros and that they manage to resell 12 million a year later, for a player who has talent, but who is a continual blunderer. Brugge have acquired European-level skill in their ability to sell players. Does the annual Champions League windfall play a part in keeping Brugge at the top? Yes, but what’s new this year – and dangerous! – Brugge will make more money selling players than with the Champions League. This is where Bruges enters a new dimension. The Champions League brings in 25-30 million, but they will sell players for 70 or 80 million. It’s gigantic! Even if you have to be careful with the figures that are given. It’s dangerous because it works as long as you make good purchases and can resell. We can know one or two years when the purchases do not work and the team does not perform. Precisely, in this transfer market, the situation of FC Barcelona is extraordinary: this over-indebted club, forced to sell Messi in 2021 to obtain liquidity, makes a headlong rush by buying many players, with the hope that it pays, rather than regularizing their accounts… They found funds with financial maneuvers such as the sale of copyrights for the broadcast at twenty, the sale of part of the subsidiary in charge of the filmed production… These clubs do not only buy and sell players, they also manage a whole series of companies close to their sport and which generate cash. Barcelona are parting with part of the family jewels hoping to buy better players and return to the fore. A club like Barça cannot afford the slump experienced by some Italian clubs like AC Milan or Inter Milan had to live. A similar question arises for other big clubs like Manchester United in Britain. This does indeed appear to be a headlong rush. What is indeed outrageous about all of this, in addition to the absolutely unacceptable amounts of money circulating, is that the wealthiest are actually the most indebted. They hold their weight only from the strength of the brand. Barça, Real are brands… it’s as if Coca Cola couldn’t go bankrupt. Between themselves the powerful and finance let them live as if nothing had happened. And politics does nothing either. The financial fair play set up by UEFA did not take structural debt into account. And there’s practically nothing left of it… There’s nothing left of it, indeed. But it is necessary to sweep in front of its door: the supporters admit that and plebiscite it. They are the first to howl when their club is doing badly or the competition is doing better. In Belgium, big supporters of Anderlecht find that the reign of these wealthy people from Bruges is unbearable. We also have an extraordinary example in England with Newcastle, bought by Saudi Arabia, but after an initial discontent, the supporters fell silent in view of the money and the players arriving. The collective emotion and the pleasure produced by the football makes the supporters not protest. They are against the mad money of the competitor. And I’m sorry, but the place given in the media to all these cases is incredible. Another striking phenomenon this year is the fierce rivalry between clubs who steal players from each other, who outbid each other… I think it’s not new. But what has been fascinating for years is to see how fans follow the transfer window with passion. They go to see every twenty minutes if their club has bought someone somewhere. Even if we know that 80-85% of transfer rumors never come true. Everyone has something to gain from it, except the supporter, who does not realize that he is paying anything even with the advertisements broadcast. Players’ agents are obviously fond of selling information or disinformation to the press, if only to promote their players. While often, we are entitled to wonder what it is based on when we say that a blub is “interested” in a player. But here we are, football is the symbol of the most ferocious capitalism in our society, but fake news. What is also striking in this transfer window is the number of players on loan, with or without an obligation to buy. UEFA have announced that they will reduce the number of players that can be loaned out by a club. But that too is revealing: these players will never play for this club, they are products that we want to resell. In all this talbeau, it is also necessary to realize that the clubs create galaxies to which they belong. This is the example of Sergio Gomez, who could be bought by Manchester City from Anderlecht, before being loaned to a club in his galaxy, before perhaps reselling it for more. What strikes me a lot in all this , it is the lack of interest of the sporting world for all these questions. I organized a webinar with two French economists to try to find out what reform was possible, in French and in English, there were no journalists! Zero! Moreover, it was also extremely difficult to find people capable of presenting an alternative system. However, I think that we will only be able to reform on the basis of an alternative system. Constantly repeating that “foot-money” is not good, then going to see the Champions League in the evening, we are not making progress. We are in all our contradictions.


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