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Fair play? You must be joking, Michel!


Filed: Thursday, 5th September 2013
By: Paul Walker


Now the dust has settled on the transfer window, we can start looking for who to blame for the shambles of the final day of deals as far as West Ham are concerned.

Frankly, what is very clear is that the last thing the new financial fair play regulations are is fair. Now we have seen them in operation they are just a way for the big clubs to be allowed to maintain their superiority over the rest of us great unwashed. Thanks Michel Platini, you have played a blinder for your rich mates at the super clubs of Europe.

And our owners must also take some of the flak. I don’t blame them for what was a miserable day for Hammers fans on the Sky Sports transfer window, they seem to be the only people who enjoy the carnage.

The Davids and Big Sam did not start the day intent on such failure, I don’t doubt for a minute that they tried their very best to sign a new striker. They failed because we are not able to pay the big wages that a top star warrants, while potential targets no doubt wanted European football. And potential signings could have been put off by it being made pretty clear that they were only going to be playing second fiddle to Andy Carroll.

We also spent too much time on potential lost causes like Duvan Zapata, the young Columbian striker. He had no caps but somehow we felt we could get him a work permit. Whoever was advising us on that legal point, surely got it wrong.

You only had to Google the lad’s name to find out what a flimsy case for a permit there was. We have a Government now with a much tougher immigration policy, so there seemed little room for leniency. Now he’s at Napoli, where the Italians do not have such permit problems. Then there was a unknown striker from Honduras, and an African who also fell way short of getting a work permit.

Apart from the last couple of weeks of the transfer window, we had done pretty well. Sam had acquired a top England striker, another England winger, Romania’s captain with 90 caps and a very decent young goalkeeper from Spain.

We also have a ‘new’ midfielder in Ravel Morrison, who managed one substitute appearance in our promotion season before being shipped off on loan to Birmingham, having clearly got on the wrong side of just about everybody. I really, really want this kid to make it with us.

I know plenty of Manchester United fans who were horrified when their club lost patience with his behaviour and bombed him out. He has been called the ‘new’ Paul Scholes, so the talent is there even if the temperament has been lacking. I just hope he continues with the new attitude.

Watching the final day of the transfer window on TV was painful. A stream of mid-range strikers seemed to be heading to all clubs, but not ours. Then we had Carlton Cole back, before he proved to be not quite as fighting fit as everyone thought be would.

He left because West Ham clearly wanted to reduce his wages with their new contract offer. The fact that he has long-standing wear and tear injuries no doubt prompted that approach. They were not going to offer him £50,000 to sit on the bench, knowing he was going to need careful nursing - like last season - to get him through matches.

Now the scenario is a bit different. Cole hadn't been able to find a new club, here or in France or Turkey, and may well have to settle for something less than he was being offered by West Ham in the first place. A lot of things have been said on both sides, but it’s best now that everybody moves on.

As for fair play, well there’s plenty to be said. And there is no point in David Gold or David Sullivan moaning about how they were being restricted in what they could offer for wages. Transfer fees have nothing to do with this.

Gold and Sullivan were very vocal in support of the new regulations, I recall seeing Gold standing on a London pavement doing a TV interview supporting FFP.

They wanted to cut players wages. Frankly all managements are the same. Reducing the wage bill and boosting productivity at the same time is the best way to make money. I recall them claiming one of their best achievements was leaving Birmingham City with no-one earning more than £30,000 a week. Yep, and look where they are now.

I do not disagree with paying big money to Carroll, or going for Stewart Downing. He was available and better than what we had, and Sam needed to act quickly. What needed to happen was for a few fringe players to be sold or released to free-up enough of the wage budget to fund a new striker within the regulations. Easier said than done, obviously, and getting up Ricardo Vaz Te‘s nose was not the best way either.

But we have still got Mo Diame, and the young local boys, Mark Noble, James Tomkins - always linked with Newcastle - and Jack Collison, are still here.

Our owners were trying to work within new rules that few other clubs seemed to be complaining too much about. The £52million cap was not just applied to us, but to a bulk of mid-range clubs who did not spend that figure last season.

They were able to add £4million to that budget. Promoted clubs like Cardiff had wage budgets vastly smaller in the Championship, so that is why it looks as if they are spending what they want. They were so far from the £52million cap their leeway is miles bigger than ours.

But the bigger clubs are already finding ways around all this with massive sponsorship cash that can be converted to wages and the fact that what they spent last season, they could do again.

So Manchester City can spend £100million on four top players, Chelsea likewise. The rest of the big clubs were not handicapped, so they can always maintain the gap between themselves and the rest.

Rich owners can still operate at the top end of the market. But nobody can now challenge them because of FFP. No more, it seems, can a rich Russian, Arab or Lancashire steel magnate for that matter, throw money at their club and buy whoever they want .

Our own Martin Samuels, in the Daily Mail, has been beating on about this for a while now. As has David Conn from the Guardian. Both have managed in-depth interviews with Platini, and he refuses to see - or care it seems - that he has created a world where aspiring clubs cannot challenge the high and mighty.



"Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries"


He claims it is for their own good, to keep them in business. But I do not want to see UEFA - these rules only apply in Europe - being the policeman of football finances. I want UEFA to provide the mechanism for clubs and countries to play football in an efficient framework, not to tell people how they spend their money.

Football is like any other industry in a capitalist society. You make your own decisions about finance, and if you make a mess of it, you go out of business. That’s how life is for every other industry, if you want a different society then that’s a whole new argument.

We could have gone out of business ourselves after the Icelandic mismanagement, and if that had happened we would have re-formed and returned lower down the divisions and I doubt few apart from us, would have shed a tear. Sad, but that’s the way it is. Very, very few clubs go to the wall and never come back. Platini’s rules are robbing smaller clubs of their dreams.

The top flight now has half a dozen clubs buying astonishingly expensive players, and I fear there could be a few more of the eight-goal thrashings Chelsea handed out to Aston Villa last season. I have spent this summer feeling very divorced from the game because I am just watching from the outside as Europe’s giants step even further away from the rest.

Clubs should be free to make their own decisions and live and die by the consequences. Just look at the Conference and clubs lower down. It is full of outfits who have gone bust, reformed and come back under a slightly different name. Stockport County, for instance, are now playing in the Conference North. Halifax, Boston, and Chester have gone the same way and are fighting their way back.

I blame Gold and Sullivan for actively backing these regulations, although I do sense that we have taken a very severe line on what is and is not allowed. But I blame Platini more, because I smell self-interest here.

Of course he denies it, but Platini came to power when French club football was poor, weak financially and all their best players were playing elsewhere in Europe. You sensed with Platini‘s barely disguised dislike of English football, that he somehow wanted to change that.

Now we have regulations that are allowing Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco to spend like there is no tomorrow. Platini disliked rich Arabs buying into clubs, but PSG are now funded by Qatar, seemingly with his blessing. Monaco still have, despite the French League‘s dislike, a very unfair tax advantage over everyone else. Basically you don‘t pay tax in Monte Carlo.

Platini also voted for Qatar to have the World Cup Finals, despite all logic saying it is not possible to hold the finals there.

He is also a mate of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is a big fan of PSG. Sarkozy wanted the Qatar takeover of his club, and while Platini objects to Manchester City and the like, PSG seem to get what they want. And , of course, we have the unedifying spectacle of Platini’s lawyer son Laurent - once employed by PSG - now working for Qatar. Sometimes you cannot make these things up.

Exactly how we produce a club under these regulations that can compete with Europe’s best, as the Davids seem to want, when we go to the Olympic Stadium, I fail to see.


Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.







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