Fifty million quid for Fernando Torres? Thirty-five million for Andy Carroll? When it costs only £23million to buy my beloved Blackburn Rovers? Hell, I might pay Andy Carroll £35 a day to come over to my house and help around with chores. Vacuum the lounge, clear out the garage, clean up the dog mess - but to play football? Nahhhhhh. But it seems that the era of spend, spend, spend is about to come to an end (Hey, that rhymes)! In the most recent transfer window (January 2012), 'only' around £60million was spent on players (£30million on deadline day). Contrast that with £225million spent in January 2011 (£135million on deadline day). I think you see my point.
Apparently, the tax authorities are going to investigate eight of our top clubs for financial irregularities - and about time too, although I fear my club may be one of them (Hey, I'm northern born and bred. We were breastfed pessimism). The only shock is that it's just eight, rather than the lot (not just Premier League clubs, but the big city clubs in lower leagues). This all follows the somewhat shameful business up in Scotland - where the top club (Glasgow Rangers) has gone into administration with a tax bill it cannot pay (allegedly £42million).
Angry fans have been demanding the resignation of the board over this crap, but these are likely the same fans who moan when the club fails to sign Lionel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, Pele, George Best or Jesus feckin Christ in the close season. The fans must share a portion of the blame, down here in England too (don't worry, I'll balance that out shortly).
For too long, football at the highest level has been a house built upon some broken matchsticks dug into very very wet sand. Financed by debt - like the very worst of the mortgage companies in the credit crunch - and splashing out ever more lavish amounts of money for players who CANNOT hope to repay those sums on the pitch. The amounts are so ludicrous and surreal, nobody could ever hope to repay them.
Here's the balance: The tax bills they run up are a disgrace. When they can't pay them, WE foot the bill. Not just the fans that pay money week in, week out for tickets, petrol, a match-day programme, a pie and a pint at half-time, but those among us who don't love the game. Would you like to pay a complete stranger's tax? Because that's what this is, but on a HUGE scale.
It's about bloody time Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs got interested. I'll give it the full title because the Queen may be useless but she's a dear old biddy. Prince Charles is a Burnley fan and has ears like the handles on the Champions League trophy, but his eldest son's wife is FUCKING GORGEOUS, so they're forgiven. But while HMRC come down hard on the likes of you or me, they've been something of a soft touch when it comes to football clubs (or banks or Abu Qatada or basta- sorry, MP's).
Have a gander at Portsmouth FC (who have just entered administration for the second time in two years, with a £4million tax bill). Everyone seems to think it perfectly fine that they continue to buy average players at inflated rates and go bust every couple years as a consequence! Only the taxpayers and local businesses end up footing the bill for this 'ambition' (AKA: Greed and contempt for the public that pays them a LOT of money in a poor economic climate). That has to stop. NOW!
With any luck, this latest investigation might be the golf-club-strike-to-the-bollocks that our clubs needed all along. Especially the ones run by dubious foreigners as a sort of vanity project, like having a large yacht - or in the case of Venkys (Blackburn Rovers owners), a massive poultry farm.
Football clubs are at the heart of their communities. Certainly, if my club were to find itself in masses of debt, owing tax and going under, the town of Blackburn will suffer massively. An already tiny fanbase, from a catchment area that includes the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool, will be left isolated. The town is in a bad way in economic terms. Only the revenue streams via having a Premier League football club keeps the town on a decent footing. No club could mean no more Blackburn as we know it. From it's cotton mills at the very heart of the Industrial Revolution to a comparative wasteland. All because some Indian cowboys couldn't hack it. The community stance can be hard to understand for many fans of big clubs. Particularly Chelsea, who are owned by a Russian, managed by a Portuguese bloke and with scarcely an Englishman in sight on the pitch (at least a non-racist one, or one that doesn't shoot interns at training sessions).
It's time that football clubs began to live within their means and pay their debts. They also need to take a bit more bloody notice of the fans who turn out to watch them every week, rather than focusing on those who sit glued to their TV screens. And have a bit more bloody respect for the people who must foot the bill for something they've never had a passion for.