My biggest complaint with the economics of football is actually not the level of disparity. It’s how contracts are not honored by the players, and the bigger clubs act like despots in choosing any player they wish regardless of anything. Take Phil Jones and Manchester United (this from wikipedia):
- Jones signed a new five-year contract with Blackburn Rovers on 4 May 2010.
- On 15 February 2011…Jones added a one-year extension to his existing contract taking him up to the summer of 2016.
- On 13 June 2011…Jones’ Manchester United deal was confirmed
So, one year and 30 some-odd appearances into a 6 year deal and Jones is already out of dodge?
I’m not saying Jones is a bad player and shouldn’t have moved, but, pardon my language, what the hell kind of fucked up system is this?
Whenever I explain the transfer system to my (intelligent-sporting) friends that aren’t into football, they often wonder why anyone would bother to continue to support a team that’s not Manchester United or any other of the Sky Four. Now, it’s no secret every player wants to play for the big teams. Something I’m totally okay with. We all want to work at the best firms, nonprofits, agencies, etc., so this is no different.
But the big teams have all the power (or, money) to make any transaction they wish happen without any regard to ethics or basic contract observance. United acted within the law per se with this deal, but what type of Hammurabi Code is this? It just proves there are no safeguards or guarantees in supporting a club like Blackburn, or Fulham, except one thing: money.
Yet there’s two problems with that: first, it’ not like you’re personally getting any of that money; and more importantly, the same club(s) can come back and swoop for your next blue chip prospect before you can even build something around him or achieve some title/cup too. The cycle ends before it can even begin.
An issue that’s plaguing baseball here stateside is perception that all the good or decent players end up as in New York or Boston because they have all the money and sign whoever they wish. Whether or not this is fully true is irrelevant as that is the belief most fans have. Unfortunately, the same is true in footy, but there’s one caveat:
In American sports, if a player has six years left on his deal, he has six years left on his deal. End of discussion. Even if he plays for the lowly Kansas City Royals, he can’t demand a move to the New York Yankees mid-contract because he wants more money. He has to wait out his deal and then sign with the NYY as a free agent, or wait for a contract year and hope the team trades him.
Same goes for a player on the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars wanting more money with the Washington Redskins, or Cleveland Cavalier with the LA Lakers in the NBA.
The American system, although no where near perfect and stems from an entirely different sporting model, at least gets player contracts right at its core. The system allows a team to build something around young players, which gives the fans reason to cheer, renew season tickets, or even give a damn. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it can.
The Oakland Athletics were a prime example of it working. Sure, their some payrole meant were never going to keep Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson for years and years. but they could at least build around them for awhile and achieve something (4 Division titles in 7 years). Same with the Florida Marlins with Carl Pavano and Josh Beckett (World Series title). Or, very recently with the Tampa Bay Rays with Carl Crawford, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, et al (World Series appearance for a team that was awful from their inauguration).
Same goes if you look at the NBA with Chris Paul in New Orleans, Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, or, yes, even LeBron in Cleveland. LeBron left last year, but Paul and Durant probably won’t remain with their teams whenever their contract(s) expires. That doesn’t mean though they won’t have to give several years of service to their team and maybe make a Finals appearance. Hockey is a bit different but I’m sure there are examples if you search hard enough (I stopped paying attention for a few years until recently; I’m also going to exclude the NFL as their contract system is a basket case).
So, in essence, a player in any sport the U.S. can’t just get tapped up, demand a move, and then get his wish (hello Dimitar Berbatov!). And likewise, big market teams can’t just rob smaller market teams whenever there’s a player they want. I’m not saying there’s a same degree of surreptitiousness with Jones, but how must a Blackburn Rovers fan feel right now? Or, a Sunderland fan feel when Jordan Henderson left for Liverpool?
Sure your club just got a crap ton of cash (that’s mostly all gross considering he/they were youth players), but for what? What legacy or memory is there?
Are you going to remember the money, or the cup final you could have witnessed him playing in?