With effects of the worldwide financial crisis eventually cropping up in the seemingly untouchable bubble English football lives in, clubs have been forced to tighten the purse strings and look into other methods for success. In the latest transfer window, an estimated £84,350,000 changed hands in deals involving Premier League clubs. This figure is dwarfed by the excessive figure of January 2011, £225,000,000, but that total is somewhat inflated, the purchase of six key players was a major factor in the final total. Needless to say the panic buys witnessed last New Year haven’t been successful. Most clubs seem to have learnt a lesson from past windows, with recent deadline day deals peaking at £9 million, as opposed to £50 million in 2011.
This situation has led to an unprecedented increase in season long and short term loan deals. The rise seems to have brought with it some important questions, along with high profile criticisms. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is one, and his quotes from a press conference last month outline what he thinks about the current situation. “ What I would like to see in the Premier League is that you are not allowed to loan players over the age of 21” he stated, “If a big club sends a big player to another club in the Premier League on loan, they only have benefits.”
Wenger’s points pose an interesting question, and one that fans and pundits alike will find hard to agree on. Does the system need a change? Do the current rulings create an unfair advantage? The benefits of the loan system are obvious for the receiving club; they acquire a player without a transfer fee, on a short term basis, and often don’t have to pay the full salary, but a parent club benefits in different ways. As Wenger said, the loanees will not only potentially win games against your rivals, (whilst not being allowed to play against the owning club) but will also get valuable playing time elsewhere, whether young or old. It’s these advantages people often overlook, and for those reasons I agree with Wenger. The loan system has been abused for many years now, and is in need of a reform.
Loans are seen as the affordable way to improve your squad. Although its short term, a season at most, they are becoming more and more popular as managers are tending to look season to season as opposed to long term. This tactic can be dangerous, and could impact the stability of the playing squad, but in the volatile financial environment it’s important to for successful managers to thing on their feet.
Once only common in emergencies, for example the Martin Fulop/Manchester City affair in April 2010, loans have gradually been noticed as a cost effective practice, and the 159 temporary deals done in January 2012 reflect this.
The current loan system also favours the richer, bigger football clubs. Teams such as Manchester City and Chelsea can afford to let talented players to leave on loan. The wages they will have to pay are viewed as a drop in the ocean. Emmanuel Adebayor and Yossi Benayoun are examples of current stars plying their trade at their parent club’s rivals. Deemed unwanted or unneeded, they have been picked up by managers who believe their talents can be of use. Fickle football fans of the clubs gradually warm to the new arrivals, seeming forgetting who they are contracted to, and accept them as their own (Adebayor of Tottenham is an example). Based on this, and often successful experiences with loaned players, managers and fans seem to carry on supporting this ‘unfootball-like’ situation. Our national game prides itself on the fierce rivalry between clubs, and to effectively lend their assets to potential title or relegation rivals seems to be out of place. Taking this into account, Arsene Wenger suddenly seems isolated in his views and opinions. I believe I have the answer to why.
It’s Arsenal Football Club.
A team run on a self-acclaimed ‘sustainable model’ and proud of the fact that they don’t spend astronomical amounts of money on transfer fees and wages for players. The club is becoming a rare breed, a European force without a sugar daddy owner and a manager with traditional, if often criticised, methods and principals. The fact that Arsenal cannot afford, or condone, the loan of a well-paid squad member goes a long way to explaining Wenger’s recent comments. As they can’t benefit from outgoing loans other than to give younger players first team experience, they have become almost envious of other clubs who receive benefits from the system.
That’s not to say Arsenal hasn’t had their fair share of advantages. Every year numerous ‘young gunners’ get their chance to go out on loan to prove their worth and gain valuable first-team experience. They currently have 18 players away from the club, scattered all over the world. The telling statistic though is that 4 out of those 18 are over 21. That’s the point that Arsene Wenger was trying to make. The system is useful, but needs to be more regulated.