Manchester City’s aspirations of global hegemony?
Posted by John Beech on December 14, 2010
Manchester City are the latest addition to a strategic alliance of football clubs across the world which Atlético Madrid have been building.
Atlético’s international agreements go back as far as November 2009, when they started to collaborate with Shanghai Shenhua of China (1). Collaboration was essentially sporting, with the use of player loans to gain playing experience.
The pace at which Atlético is developing strategic alliances has stepped up a gear of late: recently Atlético has signed up Muangthong United of Thailand (29 Oct; 2), Al Ain of UAE (12 Nov; 3), Raja Casablanca of Morroco (30 Nov; 4), Club América of Mexico (unknown date), and now Manchester City (8 Dec; 5). Targets for further expansion are reported to include Brazil (Atlético Paranaense , Palmeiras and Internacional), USA (Red Bull New York, San Jose and Chivas USA) and Japan (Yokohama Marinos and FC Tokyo).
Not surprisingly the emphasis within this alliance is no longer so clearly sporting (6). To quote David Redshaw of A Different League:
The pioneering scheme aims to seek sponsorship and expand each club’s image to all continents while sharing information on players through a wide scouting network. It also comes at a good time for Atlético as they need investors to help finance the construction of their new 73,000-capacity stadium, La Peineta, which will cost around £175m. The club hope to move in for the 2012/13 season and there are also plans to build a state-of-the-art sports city in the Alcorcón area of Madrid.
He also reports that Atlético have asked La Liga if they can play home games at 12:00. This would allow their games to be shown live at peak times in the Far and Middle East. Amazingly, Atlético “received a favourable response from their own supporters clubs who have agreed the change of hour is the way forward“! There’s more: “a pre-season tournament involving all ten is already being lined up before the start of next season“.
It’s the now increasingly familiar sound of the ‘untapped markets’ argument. What seems to be being forgotten is the tapped market – loyal local fans. Sport and business are troublesome bed fellows at the best of times, but surely it doesn’t make sense to kick one of them out of bed. In any case, the need to boost revenues is rather less significant to Manchester City than to Atlético. Manchester City have probably the most free-spending benefactor ever to grace the director’s box of an English football club.
But wait… What’s that on the horizon? Oh dear, it’s UEFA’s Financial Fair Play protocol. To keep on spending at the rate Manchester City is becoming used to (see an earlier posting Manchester City following in Pompey’s footsteps), they are going to have to do something about boosting their revenues if they want to carry on being a Viv Nicolson (click here if she was before your time!).
Ironically, a measure designed to reign in spending unearned money may well result in a situation that leaves loyal fans fuming at how to raise the money for global air fares and having to reschedule their Saturdays during the main season to accommodate kick-off times, all for the benefit of new fans in the Far East. Yet another example of what can only be described as the Harlem Globetrotterisation of English football.
How long before the Premier League is reduced to the ten teams with the richest benefactors endlessly touring the world playing exhibition matches in front of currently ‘untapped’ fans, and to hell with the real fans?