UK: Books - The beautiful gain.

UK: Books - The beautiful gain. - Books - The beautiful gain - Charlie Whelan finds insights in a study linking winning football to its success as big business.

by CHARLIE WHELAN.
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Books - The beautiful gain - Charlie Whelan finds insights in a study linking winning football to its success as big business.

'The game is about glory and doing things in style,' said the late Danny Blanchflower, the famous Spurs and Northern Ireland captain. Today football is about business, about making money. The book Winners and Losers: The Business Strategy of Football, by Stefan Szymanski and Tim Kuypers, is the first thorough study of football as a business, offering insights into the finances of the game and the relationship between success on and off the field.

The fact is - and this book proves it - the richer your club, the more likely you are to win. The league tables of profits are remarkably similar to the real league tables. As footballers are paid more and more, it comes as little surprise that every team to win the championship since 1975 has been among the top six wage spenders.

Money has always influenced the running of football clubs. When Arsenal moved from its Woolwich, south London, home to Highbury in north London, it was for financial reasons. It felt there was more of a fan base in north London with only Spurs to compete with for spectators.

Szymanski and Kuypers also look at the massive influence of TV on football.

The game has always sold itself short when dealing with the TV companies.

It had taken the clubs years to allow live TV coverage, thinking wrongly that attendance would suffer. When they did finally sell the TV rights, the price was far too low, and the broadcasters dictated terms in respect of shirt advertising. When the deal is renegotiated football should get a fair reward - that is if the so-called Office of Fair Trading (OFT) doesn't stop the league from freely negotiating with all the TV companies.

The authors claim that as clubs seek ever-higher profits there will be greater burdens on the fans, and that without the protection of the competition authorities they will suffer. I only hope they are not referring to the OFT, which doesn't understand football any more than Margaret Thatcher did. If it stops a free negotiation, the TV companies will stitch up a deal between them and pay a lot less for the rights than they're worth.

Most of us don't like the fact money is important to football, but as a Spurs fan I know more than most what bad business can do. Twice I've seen the club almost go to the wall. A former manager famously said: 'We once had a football club there.' But, as the book shows, cash and championships go together.

Charlie Whelan is the former press secretary to Gordon Brown

WINNERS & LOSERS, by Stefan Szymanski and Tim Kuypers. Viking pounds £17.99.

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