Monday, 13 October 2008

Next... Millionaires’ row

Friday I was out in the afternoon and came home to find a text from my Dad asking if I speak Arabic. Now if you knew my dad you could be forgiven for thinking that he had been out to lunch and, having sunk a couple of bottles of wine, was sharing with me the back end of a joke that was probably not aimed at me. I duly replied with a response that I thought suitably funny (it probably wasn't - mine never are). Then I saw the flood of emails on my mobile phone....

Now I have never made a huge impact in the foreign (or even English super rich) ownership of football clubs discussion. I have never really thought it was relevant to me. I know you would think that selfish and negligent as in the end it always affects football in general, but I have never had a real problem with it. Sure, it makes me want to beat these 'spoiled' clubs a little more, but that feeling was every bit as strong with Blackburn in the 90s as it was with Chelsea in 2005.

I remember having a conversation with a Chelsea fan and an Arsenal fan about it. The Arsenal fan was trying to belittle Chelsea's success on the basis that it had been bought, that Chelsea wouldn't have won anything if they didn't have loads of money. I pointed out that Arsenal wouldn't have won the Premier League if they hadn't spent £11m on Henri and £7.5m on Bergkamp. You see the truth is that it doesn't matter where it comes from, money is required to be successful in football. Granted you do not to spend the most to win, but it does help. I found it, on a limited basis, to be satisfying that the Arsenal fan (a friend of mine) started to understand what it's like to have a richer (bigger ?) club than yours. He had to learn his place. Arsenal haven't won the Premier League now for four seasons, and they don't look all that likely to do so in the near future. I have to confess that I said, then, that I would personally prefer not to be taken over by a billionaire and lose the identity we have - to be fair, we were 'safe' in the Premier League at the time.

Without considering where it has come from I, personally, believe that the increase of revenues into football have been a good thing. You only need to look at The Valley and compare it to what we had in 1985 when we left it to see what that money has achieved. I accept that the TV deal in particular has benefited the clubs at the top of the football hierarchy than those at the bottom, but all football clubs have benefited from the extra money.

Clearly there are always disadvantages. The lifestyles of some of the millionaire footballers are distasteful. Am I jealous? Of course I am! However, right now I find the lavish lifestyles of the City financiers a little hard to accept. The huge wealth of mediocre players, and their behaviour is merely the outcome of the society that we live in. Free markets will always reward those better performers, and in the main those that earn huge wages are winning games if not trophies.

The huge debts that football clubs currently have are down the management of the businesses, rather than the level of income. Either way, I believe that the money has made our national game better than it was in the 1980s when I started going to The Valley.

That leads me on to Charlton and our potential new owners.

After I had read a few emails I turned on the TV (one email said that we were on Sky Sports News) and there was a reporter outside the club shop. He didn't tell us much, but the impact of what was happening started to sink in.

I was suddenly so exited! Let me say that again because saying it once doesn't seem enough. I was suddenly so excited!

The thought of signing Brazilian World Cup winners didn't enter my mind, honestly. I was imagining 40,000 fans at The Valley. I was imagining us winning games and promotion. After the week we had seen in the financial Markets I could see complete security for the football club. I have been very open about my fears for the club. Next season we will have no parachute payments, and several of our more valuable players are out of contract in June.

Once the realisation that we will not be plying our trade in league 1 anytime soon I did start to think of what the future could hold. I think I would find a Premier League title before 2020 a little soulless. That would be like what Chelsea had done, and I still don't think I want that. However a game against one of the top four where they dare not lose in case we take their forth place would be incredibly exciting, especially after our recent diet of defeat at home to Colchester et al.

The announcement was probably a bit premature for us to pop corks on Champagne, and we have seen at Man City that one or two superstars do not make a team, but if we have any money to spend in January, along with what we already have must give us a decent chance of promotion this season or next. What happens to Pardew is now somewhat irrelevant. Ideally we would like to win promotion this season, but as the impact of next season with no parachute payments has now been avoided it can take us eighteen months and the club is safe.

Why Charlton? Well I don't really know, but I can imagine that an investment company would want to have a presence in London, and in my opinion we are bet best placed London club that is available for the kind of money they will be paying. The board own the ground and the training facilities and there is the potential to extend The Valley, so no move and further acquisitions would be needed.

I think the crucial thing for us to remember is that people of this wealth do not make decisions like the rest of us. When I play the football manager games I find it more satisfying taking on a lower league club and building up the stadium and the team to challenge the 'big boys'. I rarely choose to Manage Man Utd as it is 'too easy'.

Either way, by talking about home grown talent and youth setups, the statement from the potential new owners suggests that their intentions are exactly what we (I) would have wanted. Clearly they were always going to target their audience, but I suspect that many fans would have preferred to have a new manager (debatable) and (or) £200m spent on players in January. One member of the email list suggested Darren Bent, Scott Parker and Michael Owen. The former of that list I would drive over and pick up myself, but I'm not so sure about the others.

What do we know about the new owners? Not much, their web site looks like many others. They do seem to focus on communities, so I can see a real synergy there. Other than that I think we have to assume that there is no easy buck to be made from Charlton, so they must have motives that we would find acceptable in at least the short term. I think the biggest potential banana skin would be if they gear up the operation (and the running costs) then get bored and leave. However, even if that were to happen, it would be a decent ride in the meantime, and I'm not sure we could be in a much worse position than we are right now anyway.

I got married in 2004 and Mrs Kings Hill and I chose to honeymoon in Dubai. We stayed in the Burj Al Arab. Now I have limited experience of high class hotels, I've stayed in a few but I am not a frequent business traveller or anything so I cannot make a comparison based on any more than a limited experience. However, I have to say that it is a bit special. Now I'm not expecting solid gold taps in the East Stand toilets (although if we are that rich hot water would be nice), but I have every confidence in these group to develop The Valley into something that we can be even more proud of than what we have today if that is, indeed, possible.

Since being so excited on Friday that I hardly slept at all (reminds me of Christmas when I was seven) I have become a little more accustomed to being the second richest football club in the world. That sounds nice doesn't it? The second richest football club in the world - even if it's not actually true.

Up the Addicks!

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