Give Thrifty MLS Its Due

Eurosnobs and assorted critics (like this one) often wish MLS would open its wallet a little more to attract better players and improve the quality of play.

Well, a fiscally conservative approach has its benefits as this story below out of Europe today confirms. Put this one in the careful what you wish for department.

BRUSSELS (AP) — Almost a quarter of Europe’s top division soccer clubs reported major financial losses last year, UEFA said Thursday, with a third of the teams in the rich and successful English Premier League losing at least 20 percent of income.

UEFA secretary general David Taylor warned a conference on financial responsibility in sport that more red ink is expected this year as leagues feel the full weight of the sputtering global economy.

Of the top leagues in the world, the Premier League was by far in the worst position when it came to the number of clubs with major losses. Only Romania, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Poland had more clubs losing money among Europe’s 53 federations.

Italy was in 15th position on the 2008 club losses list, with Spain ranked 35th and France and Germany among those in the best financial shape.

Across Europe, barely half of teams break even or make a profit, UEFA reported.

The financial problems come despite income that’s tripled for clubs since 1997, largely
through marketing and media revenue.

The problem is costs are rising, too. For instance, while income rose 5 percent last year, player costs increased 9 percent.

“The huge spending on players produces constantly an inflationary effect with consequences on the whole club football movement,” Taylor said.

On top of that, “the current financial crisis has exacerbated the situation.”

This offseason alone, Real Madrid and Manchester City combined to spend more than $487 million on new talent.

In an attempt to contain such massive spending, UEFA has imposed new rules for clubs to break even on soccer-related businesses by 2012 or be stripped of their licenses. The governing body of European soccer appointed former Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene to lead its campaign to control excessive spending.

On Thursday, the European Union, often at loggerheads with soccer when it comes to imposing sports-specific rules, embraced UEFA’s efforts.

“I welcome and support these,” EU Sports Commissioner Jan Figel said. “I look forward to the implementation.”

Taylor said the system will teach leading clubs to compete for European titles with their
revenues instead of their debt, and to protect the long-term future of the sport. UEFA’s
financial fair play policy has also been endorsed by most club owners.

Early this week, the Premier League also announced a new financial plan to regulate its 20 clubs. The league will take temporary control of clubs that run into financial problems and ban them from buying players or raising salaries. Clubs will have to submit accounts each March to ensure they can begin the next season in August.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email
  • They is not to not spend, but to spend wisely. In other words, don’t blow your money on guys like Luis Hernandez, or Oldfart Matthaeus, or even — yes — David Beckham. Spend your money on guys who want to play here, and work hard for the team, like Schelotto, Ronnie O’Brien, etc. Oh, and even more importantly: Give the the non-superstars a guaranteed living wage. 13k is obscene.

  • Studs Up

    Can’t forget when Everton’s David Moyes displayed his utter stupidity and ignorance when he barked back something to the effect that “you Americans can’t go changing things” when asked about a salary caps potential benefits in European leagues in the presser before this year’s MLS All Star game.

    MLS to it’s credit has fended off continuous why-can’t-we-be-like-the-rest-of-the-world calls by staying true to it’s prudent business plan for the long range survival and success of pro soccer. Europe will eventually come around to the American approach for sports business success.

    Support MLS in the media, stop bashing it and try to urge on the fans to support their local clubs. Urge the ex-pat communities to embrace the American teams and support our national teams. To the guy above who thinks $13K is obscene, I say that’s way more than you should pay to interns. Develop the players with superior skills then talk to me about wages.

  • Starting professional players are hardly “interns” as you so quiantly put it. 13k is less than you can make at McDonalds working a 40-hour week. Literally. The problem is not paying a minimum wage player a decent wage — seriously, will another 20k each break the back’s of billionaires — it is paying *millions* to carpet baggers who give two s**ts less. Like Beckham. Without those 13k a year players, he would be playing with himself. Or Landycakes. Or maybe you.

  • Studs Up

    Why is it that people who reach their wit’s end resort to vulgarity Kingsnake?

    Why is it the duty of billionaires to assume huge losses for the sake of this sport if the supposed “soccer-loving” people in this country won’t support their pro and national teams?

    Ask any of the MLS minimum wage players why they sign up? This world is full of good soccer players who jump at any opportunity to hook up with any team any where. The American player is not at that level to compete for the high salaries so they must get what they can until they improve. Their salaries will go up if the soccer fans stop complaining and fill the stadiums to watch these “starting pros” strut their stuff. Until then, MLS has to keep on the current course in order for you and me to even have a league to argue about.

    Bash Beckham as much as you want, I’m no big fan of his, but his presence has actualy hastened the expansion of the league and opened up more opportunities for more of these “starting pros” to try their luck.

    Now stop fantazing about Beckham playing with Landon or me and buy some tickets to the next game. We need to ruin De Guzman’s debut for Toronto in front of a full house.