It’s a common theme in football to lambaste any team who is taken over by foreign owners, who subsequently go on to hurl huge wads of cash around, in the hope of enticing the world’s best footballers to play for their club. A ‘true fan’, we’re told, is someone who grew up supporting their local club, someone who supported them through thick and thin, and would rather see a subpar home grown man who loves the shirt, than some flashy foreign guy who’s only there for the cash. The scorn began (and never really ended) with Abramovich and Chelsea, and has continued to sweep football, until PSG joined the big-spenders league when the Qataris came with their wallets spread wide in 2011. And, while I completely understand the sometimes comforting tribal attachment that comes with home grown support, I’m here to argue for the Big Guys (as though they needed my support).
I fell in love with football by watching the great players. The glitz, the glamour, and the big names are just about all my young mind could comprehend when I saw my first world cup. Youth systems, club loyalty, financial fair play didn’t mean anything to me. I’ve since come to appreciate the dismay of fans, when there once competitive club ceases to be so, as their league is overrun with teams who are assembled with vast wage bills, and lucrative transfers, in lieu of years of development and project building. Despite this, I still find myself excited at the news of every big name transfer, and salivate as a dream squad is built with the backing of some oil mogul whose name is utterly unpronounceable.
Ultimately, sport is about competition. It is about being the best you can be, within the confines of game in question, and big spending clubs facilitate this reality. Whatever is lost by way of tradition or equality is, I think, justifiably side stepped in pursuit of an equally important goal: to see just how good a football team, and footballers, can be. I’m not suggesting that the financial backing itself is motivated by footballing idealists, who are willing to do anything to see the finest expression of passing and movement that the mind can imagine. Their intention, in this case, is irrelevant. The point is simply that the clubs who spare no expense, clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City, PSG, Real Madrid, are largely responsible for advancing the quality of football as a whole.
I hope that anyone who wants to die on their sword at this point, and derides the capitalistic tendencies of modern sport, is an avid supporter of salary capped leagues like the Australian A-League or the MLS in the USA. They are obviously important for the footballing cultures that they are trying to foster, but there’s no denying that the lack of financial investment in the game, is a great impediment to its spectacle as a sport, and the quality of the football which it features.
So, next time you’re tempted to whine about the latest club to spend millions in pursuit of a great team, perhaps you should take a moment to reflect on the fact that you’ll probably enjoy watching them play.