This is Everton Football Club’s reality. But also, it’s the reality of hundreds of quality football clubs being crushed by a new breed of billionaire football giants, transforming the beautiful game into the game of currency.
This isn’t a challenge to the dollar signs attached to modern day football. This is a question about what happens to those clubs that get left behind.
Everton Football Club is a part of the nucleus that makes up top-flight English football. It is a club that has competed in the top division for a record 108 seasons. For most of those seasons, titles and European football were on the cards, but now the fight for Premier League survival seems more appropriate.
But what makes clubs like Everton so undesirable to billionaires searching through the football club classifieds?
Perspective buyers aren’t willing to recreate an entire club; their goal is to make slight adjustments to an already established model. For many of these clubs, their models were never given the chance to develop with the global spread of the Premier League at the beginning of the 2000’s.
The four English clubs who have the largest worldwide supporter base are the teams that have won titles in the last seventeen years. Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United are the only teams to have won the Premiership since 1995, whilst Liverpool won the Champions League in 2005.
Since no fans outside the United Kingdom were witness to their top division success, the ability for clubs, like Everton, to lure new supporters is nearly impossible.
But what currently faces Everton is an inability to sell. With no billionaire private ownership or multi-million pound sponsorship deals providing leverage, the club can’t acquire a quality squad that can challenge their richer competitors during the season.
It was only in the summer that Everton began to feel the full effects of being one of the poor EPL clubs, seeing Mikel Arteta go off to Arsenal and Yakubu to Blackburn Rovers. As quality players began their exit, limited funds meant quality replacements could not be bought during the transfer window.
The only possible saviour, for struggling Premier League teams, is the loan player arrangement. While these players are only available for a short period of time, the chance to live another day and stay away from the relegation zone is vital.
Everton’s loan players have become the team’s key players. Tigre striker, Denis Stracqualursi and Real Madrid’s Royston Drenthe have been vital players this season, both scoring goals in winning fixtures.
With Arteta leaving, the loaning of former Everton players, L.A Galaxy’s Landon Donovan and Tottenham Hotspurs’ Steven Pienaar, has brought much needed experience to their struggling midfield.
But loan players can only hold the team together for so long and once they are summoned back to their original clubs, the long-standing financial difficulties still remain.
In modern day football, money overrides loyalty. A player can start their career at their boyhood club and by the time they retire, they’ve worn five to ten different coloured shirts.
We’ve seen FC Barcelona develop and prosper with their youth academy. Half of its current squad, including the likes of Messi, Valdes, Puyol, Iniesta and Pique, were groomed to become world-renowned talents by the Barcelona youth program. But unfortunately, Everton is no Barcelona.
Rooney was Everton’s bright young star and due to their financial difficulties back then, they let Manchester United lead him away to glory. This begs the question: If you focus on creating success through your youth program but have no money, how do you convince future football superstars to stay?
Jack Rodwell and Ross Barkley are touted to be England’s future stars. They’ve both prospered through Everton’s youth system and are now taking baby steps into the Premier League. But with Chelsea and Manchester United already making circles, can that youthful loyalty to the club be worth more than a paycheck three to four times higher than anything offered by Everton?
While the implementation of a salary cap may never fully eventuate in the EPL, the only possible solution for struggling clubs could be to accept fate. There aren’t dozens of billionaires roaming the streets desperately searching to buy football clubs.
Accepting fate may not be a desired solution for many fans, but it could be a reasonable reality. Football is nothing more than a new type of politics. The clubs that are on top are those with money. And the more money you have, the more power you have in controlling the league. While Manchester City could be the football equivalent of China, it’s time Everton settled in playing the role of Canada; you’re not powerful and if you went away, they’d probably go on without you.