The Lessons of Leeds United and Fiorentina

When a powerful club disintegrates, the result is usually conflict, consecutive relegations, or even administration. Top international players are sold, season ticket sales dramatically fall, and transfer funds suddenly disappear.

A case example is Leeds United. Champions of England three times, runners-up five times, European Cup finalists in 1975 and Champions League semi-finalists in 2001. Leeds have more accolades and honors that I haven’t mentioned, but who cares about a club that went into administration in 2007 and were relegated to Division One. No one.

Football is a business and thus holds little sympathy for clubs who are poorly managed.

There are other clubs like Leeds of course. Back to back European Cup winners Nottingham Forest are the only European Cup winners to have been relegated to the third tier of English football. In three seasons, 1984, 1985, and 1986, three times English champions Wolves were relegated from the First to the Fourth Division. Wolves were bankrupt, with very low attendances and three sides of their decaying stadium condemned. This was a result of the club being sucked dry by the infamous owners the Bhatti brothers.

The message is clear. The most important factor for any club is how it is managed off the pitch. In June 2002, Italian club Fiorentina ceased to exist. They had accumulated debts of $50 million, were relegated to Serie B, and went into judicially controlled administration. This resulted in Fiorentina being refused a place in Serie B for the start of the 2002/03 season and they were forced to close.

No fan wants their club to be a Leeds or a Fiorentina. But the reality is that more clubs will follow their path.

Arsenal will not be one of them. That’s because they’re one of the best financially run clubs in the world.

However, The Negatives think otherwise. They claim that Wenger should spend more. Myles Palmer claims that for an extra 200,000 pounds Arsenal could have bought Alonso from Liverpool. These people are like men who can’t be bothered to wear a condom on a one night stand. They want the short-term glory. The FA Cup, another shag to their list, a major signing or a hot dumb bimbo for the night. Their short-term glory is debt, high interest loans, an STD, or baby that they never want to see.

Arsenal fans are in a civil war. You are either with us “The Wenger Knows Brigade” or you are with “The Negatives.”

The Negatives don’t have a long-term plan. They would like an all English Arsenal team, but are incensed when Wenger doesn’t buy the Spanish midfielder Alonso. They hate Wenger for promoting youth, yet they will be proudly watching Arsenal academy players in the FA Youth final tomorrow. They want Wenger out but have no idea about a replacement or the chaos that his departure would bring.

Some people think that hooliganism is dying. Take me to Nevada Smiths on a day when I have lost my house, job, wife and car. Show me a Negative and you will see if hooliganism is dead.

We are after all in a midst of a recession, so that day may not be far off.

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