Friday, 9 January 2009

Money Talks

As I've mentioned before, I travel a lot with my work. I love The frustration that comes with flitting around the UK is the inevitable delays. However, in the "every cloud and sliver lining" category it means I listen to a lot of either radio or podcasts. Nothing quite helps relieve the tedium of the M6 than a radio show that either a) makes me laugh or b) gets me so involved that I end up, ahem, 'discussing the content with the presenter [translation - I shout at the radio in a manic way alarming anyone else stuck in the traffic jam that can see me]

This week I found myself so engrossed in a discussion on Radio5Live that I arrived home and ended up spending 15 minutes parked outside my house, in the car listening to the end of a panel discussion. Despite enhancing my reputation with my neighbours' as the street eccentric, I was intrigued by a programme "Finance in Football". This was an state-of-the-nation look at the Premiership business models and what was expected to happen as the recession bites. The panel consisted of Robert Preston (BBC correspondent who is bringing a new meaning to 'ubiquitous'), John Madejski (Chairman of Reading) and Keith Harris (an investment banker).

The reason that it was so interesting was that Harris isn't just a grey-suited money man; he's had a long involvement in football. From what I can gather he was instrumental in the early days of seeing ways of making vast sums of money from football as he was involved in the ITV Digital TV contracts that started the split of money between the Premiership and the rest of the football league, right the way through to him brokering the deal for Man City to be sold to Shinawatra. There were several really interesting things discussed; Liverpool being the most 'at risk' club from a financial background because of the way that their debt was structured, West Ham being quite likely to go under by the end of the season as well as Harris' involvement in selling clubs.

However, the bit that had me stuck in the drivers seat was Harris' assessment of saleable clubs at the moment. He has been tasked with selling West Ham, Everton and Newcastle. He thinks that Newcastle is one of the best placed to be sold - large loyal fanbase, one-club city, huge stadium and large robust merchandising sales. Needless to say he was then pushed to say why Ashley hadn't managed to shift the club when it had been touted around the super-rich as the next new shiny toy. Harris' explanation was that the club had come very close to being sold to an American investor, but this deal had collapsed due to the investor loosing 'millions' to Madoff's Ponzi scheme

It was just as well I'd parked by this time... because you really couldn't make it up. Newcastle United - after suffering decades of mis-management off the pitch are bought by Mike Ashley, a multi-millionaire who has so little understanding of the business that he neglects to do the due diligence to uncover that transfer fees are paid in installments, and then the club is almost sold to someone who has been conned out of millions. If it wasn't the club I supported then I'd be laughing.... as it is I'm just increasingly bewildered. The worst of it was that Harris thought this was perfectly reasonable.

I have a feeling that Ashley is now in it for the long haul - he'll need to protect his investment (keep the club in the Premiership) whilst imposing tight financial controls (no new players of note, 17th place will do). The only consolation is that at least Newcastle aren't in as much of a mess off the pitch as West Ham. Today's game will be a good clue as to which club is in a worse state on the pitch... Apparently they've got some bloke called Dyer playing for them.

Finally, welcome to the newest member of the Toonarmy - Erin Baird, born last weekend to a couple of fellow Toon sufferers . Erin, I intend to take my duties as your "Fairy Toon-mother" very seriously indeed and look forward to indoctrinating you, as I have done with the Favourite Nephew. Remember the old adage "nothing in red and white is any good - whatsoever"

BTW - it wasn't the same Keith Harris as the one in the picture... In case you wondered....


Daniel said...

I laugh every time I read these. They are hilarious, and i am surprised that I have not commented yet. See you tomorrow.

TeeTotallyNot said...

unfortunately, the fact that there are always clubs worse off than us is no real consolation (well, it is as long as at least 3 of them stay below us :)
as for which club is in a worse state on the pitch - I guess today's draw gave the answer..
I hope by the time wee Erin is old enough to see her first game we will have exited the tunnel at the end of the light..

Karen Toon said...

I agree that there are clubs worse off than us is absolutely NO consolation - I feel is a measure of how for the clubs ambition has sunk. With regards to the West Ham game - from the highlights that I've seen - I think for both teams the transfer window is going to be really important... Selling or buying will determine the final position in May (BTW I'd love to see Upson in a black and white shirt... classy defender

Michael said...

I can't remember when I expected so little as a Newcastle fan.
Ashley runs the club like an extension of his cheap sportswear for charvers chain.
And now we're stuck with each other.