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Expectations in the modern game

by The Supercoach on Aug 01, 2012

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The recent events at Arsenal, most notably that of Robin van Persie releasing a statement on his personal website where he told fans that he would not be signing a new contract, has highlighed a major issue within world football. That issue is of expectation, the fans expectations surrounding players and owners.

For those who aren’t across the story, van Persie is entering the last year of his contract and sat down with the Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis and Manager Arsene Wenger to talk his own and the club’s future. At that meeting he obviously didn’t hear what he wanted to hear and decided that he will not renew his current deal.

Scuttlebutt is saying numerous things in regards to this story. Some claim that van Persie had already made his mind up. That he already wanted to leave and is using this as an excuse. They accuse van Persie of being a mercenary, that after one admittedly fantastic season he is turning his back on the club that has supported him immensely, turning him from a precocious and troubled youngster into one of the world’s best strikers. A club that stood by him through his numerous injury concerns and nurtured him into the player he is today.

Others are suggesting that the club doesn’t match his legitimate desire and ambitions to win trophies and find his honesty refreshing. They claim that this is the wakeup call that the owner, board and manager need to get them to change their approach.

Both of these sides are missing crucial points.

Those angry at players like van Persie who are looking to “cash in” forget that players are professionals. Everyone who plays amateur football general does so at a club that they love being a part of, playing with their mates and having a good time. Professionals play the game for completely different reasons. This is their job, a job that they train every day for and a job that they can only do for 15 years before they can no longer earn an income from it. Furthermore, their career can be over in a single moment. They have families and have every right to maximise their income while they can.

Many will have years of medical bills ahead of them to deal with injuries that they played through, while most do not have much of a life after football. Who can blame them for trying to earn as much and win as much as they can, while they can?

Of course I’m not saying that they don’t want to win trophies, of course they do, and some footballers have made more money than they could ever spend so the desire to win silverware is higher than most. Ultimately though, most professionals won’t be in that category, and need to maximise their earnings while they can.

Those angry at the club, in this case Arsenal, need to understand that there is a difference between being a fan and being an owner of a club.

Fans have very different expectations for their club. They love their club, they want the club to beat their rivals, win competitions and sign big name players. They want the owner, or owners, to open the chequebook, make the big signings and meet the wage demands of the best players.

Owners meanwhile need to ensure that the club is run well on the business side of things, especially with the FIFA Financial Fairplay Regulations starting to come into effect soon. Clubs that aren’t run well off the field, such as Malaga and Rangers can potentially implode and end up in the bottom tier of football.

Additionally, most club owners, excluding some oligarchs and Middle-Eastern Sheikhs, are businessmen and owning a club is a business venture for them. I’m sure that even for those that can afford it, a cost benefit analysis has indicated that the cost of buying the players necessary to compete for a title is not a smart business decision.

The obvious conclusion is that modern football is a business, not just a game, and should be treated as such. Accordingly, fans should try and keep this in mind when their star player leaves for greener pastures. If anything, teams like Newcastle and Spurs have shown that shrewd dealings in the transfer window can build a side capable of getting close to the top of the table.