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Corporate Blog Review: Chelsea F.C

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For this week’s post I will be reviewing a corporate blog from the soccer world. I’ve picked Chelsea’s blog because it is surprisingly one of the only clubs that has embraced using blogs to promote themselves and create their own content. You can view the blog here.

What impressed me the most when I discovered Chelsea’s blog on their main website was how often that it has posts added and the variety of different posts that are posted. There is no set schedule to the blog posts, but there is almost daily updates, which I think is really important for keeping up with how quickly consumers want information now a days. The blog has 5 different regular series of posts that make up all of the content on the website.

chelsea blog

Alongside having regular contributors it is great to see that Chelsea has a “Guest Fan Blog” series where it takes posts from supports all over the world and features their content on the corporate blog. I’m not the biggest fan of Chelsea, but I think it is really cool for the club to allow its supporters to contribute like this, it builds a sense of community around the club and shows they care about their supporters. The blog also occasionally features the best fan content from social media, especially through it’ running hashtag #allincfc which is the name of another series for all the latest news about the club.
Despite having several different series and almost daily posts the blog has a lot of varied content that would keep readers coming back. It features articles about upcoming matches, player interviews, informative posts, photo galleries, fan input, top 5 lists, and sponsored content.

The only criticism I have of the blog is that it is not organized very well. On the main page you can sort by series, but once you click through to “view more” you are no longer able to do this. It also is just not that appealing to look at with small images and rows of 3 posts. To go along with that the descriptions of the blog are often too long and get cut off, instead of creating a short 5-10 word description that you can read without clicking the article.

Other than the few small issues it is great to see a club doing a corporate blog right.

Interviewing a Fellow Soccer Fan

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For this week’s post I decided to interview a fellow soccer fan, David McGuinness, to get his opinion on the state of money in the sport. Dave is a lifelong fan of the sport and a supporter of Manchester United. I decided to pick Dave to interview because he is familiar with the posts I have previously written and actively follows the same sort of news I do about clubs in Europe. I thought it would interesting to get a second opinion on some of the topics I have written about in the past few weeks. After interviewing Dave I took what I thought were the top 5 questions to share with everyone else.

Question 1: Do you see the acquisition of clubs like Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain as a good thing? Why or why not?

I tend to think that these sorts of acquisitions are bad for soccer leagues as a whole. I always liked the idea of multi-tiered league systems (like those used in the EPL and other European soccer leagues) because it always felt like any team could eventually make it to the top tier if they worked hard enough. For example, look at A.F.C. Bournemouth who will begin play in the English premier league next season; they were all the way down in the fourth tier in 2009 and in 5 short years, they made it to the top. When teams like Man City and PSG are acquired they tend to simply buy their teams and end up winning. Now I’m not saying that these teams weren’t great teams prior to the acquisitions, but the increased financial backing tends to create a bit of an unfair playing field that makes the league as a whole feel less interesting and exciting.

Question 2: Many people believe that clubs acting as businesses and trying to turn a profit is ruining the sport. Would you agree or disagree with that statement?

I think that’s a fair statement to make. I realize that these clubs need to make money, but I think it relates to my previous answer where the rich teams get richer and the lower teams can’t compete. I also think that the increased focus on profit is detrimental to the fans; higher ticket and merchandise prices make it harder for longtime fans to support their clubs.

Question 3: Do you think there is too much emphasis on earning money through European Competitions in the sport today?

I don’t think that the earnings from European competitions are much of an issue. I think teams should definitely be rewarded for their successes outside of their league and it’s only fair that they are compensated for the time and effort they put in to win these competitions.

Question 4: Do you think European clubs should adopt a system like the MLS where there is salary caps, rules for designated players, and the governing organization as more of a say in the clubs activity?

I’m split on this one. On one hand I would agree that yes, the clubs should have salary caps. It’s ridiculous that a team like Man City can spend 50 million pound on a (crap) player like Sterling, while the smaller clubs might never have that much cash to spend. That sort of situation can be problematic. Just look at Barcelona compared to some of the other teams in La Liga. It’s clear that Barcelona is spending way more on new players compared to a team like SD Eibar. A salary cap could help curb that sort of behaviour and potentially make the playing field more even. However, salary caps can also have negative effects on the leagues in my opinion. When you look at a league like the MLS or even the NHL (different sport but same principal) salary caps can erode some of the culture of the teams. I mean when every team is equal in terms of spending it can make them feel like identical teams. In that way I believe the teams lose their identity and their culture. It’s a tough problem to solve and I don’t think I could decide which way to go on this one.

Question 5: Are you in favour for rules such as Financial Fair Play or collective TV right bargaining?

I absolutely agree with Financial Fair Play regulations and collective TV bargaining rights. FFP is crucial in maintaining the long term health of any league. It doesn’t do anyone any good if teams head into administration because they spend more than they earn. Collective TV right bargaining is also important because it helps split the broadcasting profits amongst all teams in the league. This relates back to what I said earlier about the rich teams getting richer and the smaller teams being unable to grow. Collective TV rights bargaining ensures that all teams get a fair cut of the profits instead of simply the biggest, most popular teams. Anything that levels the playing field is a good thing in my book.

Overall it was good to interview Dave because we had varying opinions on a lot of the questions asked. He is very much in favour of putting restrictions on to where money can be spent with rules like FFP. He is also against the buyout of major clubs, where as I see it as a good way to break up the stranglehold that top teams have on a league. Without a cash injection Chelsea, Manchester City, or PSG would never be as successful as they are today and there would be fewer clubs competing for domestic and international titles. Over the past few years the semi-finals of the Champions League have almost always been Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich plus one other club. This would only get worse if clubs couldn’t suddenly spring to the top. However we did agree on the topics of collective bargaining, earning money through European completion, and how profit driven clubs can have a negative effect on fans.

I would like to thank Dave for taking the time out of his day to have an interview with me, and I hope you all enjoyed hearing what he had to say.

Product Review: FIFA 15

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For this week’s post I would like to talk about one of the most frequently bought pieces soccer merchandise that is not equipment needed to play the game and that is the EA’s FIFA video game franchise, specifically FIFA 15.

FIFA 15

FIFA_15_Cover_Art FIFA 15 is one of the most entertaining, fast-paced, and visually appealing sport simulation games that you can buy. It is sure to consume a lot of your time without you realizing it as you play match after match, and it does all of this while condensing a 90 minute game into 12 minutes.

On the other hand if you are looking for a more in-depth, realistic game that replicated what it is like to actually play soccer or manage a club then you should look elsewhere. At times it feels like it is more mimicking a broadcast of a game and not playing the sport itself. The game relies a lot on pace as more action needs to happen in a smaller amount of time, and the programmed commentary can get very repetitive.

I bought FIFA 15 back when it was released on September 23rd 2014, and at the time it cost $70. Over the past 10 months I have put enough hours into the game to have a pretty good understanding of the game mechanics and how it compares to its predecessors in the FIFA franchise. For the most part it is exactly what I was expecting when I went to purchase the game. It is just as fun, frustrating, and addicting as the past versions.fifa15_vidal I definitely think FIFA 15 is an improvement over past games, after several years of re-skinned games being released each time FIFA 15 actually showed some changes. There is better ball-tracking from keepers as they had real keepers come into a studio and have their movement tracked. New technology used for scanning player’s appearances makes them look and move much more realistically. EA also added emotional intelligence into the game to try and make the players respond more like they would in real life and less like a computer. This feature makes the computer play much better at times, but like an amateur at other times which is the kind of unpredictability that makes the game a little bit more fun to play. There is the occasional glitch in the game, such as a keeper running around like he is lost, hand balls not being called, and invisible players. Although this is to be expected with any game when you play it enough.

Overall I would give FIFA 15 an 8/10 rating and that any soccer fan will not feel like they have wasted their money by buying the new instalment of the game. I have had a positive experience with the game and while it may not be the best representation of a soccer game it is definitely close enough to be endlessly entertaining. It is a good looking game that will run smoothly 95% of the time and is the perfect thing to tide a fan over in-between real matches.

Should Juventus Sell Paul Pogba?

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This week’s post is going to take a step back from the business side and have a different spin to it.  I would like to write a blog that I think could be submitted to one of my soccer websites. The website I choose to write this post for is Football-Italia, a news and blog site that focuses on the Italian League and the Italian National Team. While it is mainly a news site, it has a range of opinion blog pieces on the current events in Italy. One of the hottest topics in Italian soccer right now is whether or not Juventus should sell Paul Pogba or not.

Paul Pogba is a 22 year old French midfielder that has spent the last three season playing for Juventus in Italy. He is widely regarded as the biggest up and coming star in world soccer and is thought to be the next player to break the transfer record, which is held by Gareth Bale at €100 million. He won the 2013 Golden Boy award for the best player aged 2 or younger, the FIFA World Cup Best Young Player in 2014, and has was included in the 2013-2014 Serie A team of the season. Juventus has expressed their desire to keep Pogba in Turin, but have put a price tag that starts at €100 million. With the richest clubs in the world looking to buy him (Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain) that price would most likely rise due to competitive bidding. This leaves Juventus with two options: sell Pogba for an insane amount of money, or hold on to possibly one of the greatest midfielders of his generation.

It is always tempting to take the money and run, and very hard to resist the massive sums of money top clubs will offer for players. The last time Juventus sold a player for a record fee, Zidane, they used to buy 4 very talented players that helped the squad to be even better. Many people think that they should take this option again and that €100 million is worth a lot more than a single player. Pogba’s price tag is based off performance, potential, and his young age but if he were to get injured, be held on to for too long, or have a bad season then it is possible his value will plummet.

On the other hand, in order to be constantly challenging for the most prestigious trophies clubs need to hold on to their most talented players. At an incredibly young age of just 20 Pogba has been a big part of Juventus’ success both domestically and internationally. He is capable of changing the course of the game with spectacular skills, dribbles, and long shots that often save Juventus from dropping points. Not only is he a great player, but he is a very marketable star that sells a lot of shirts and brings attention to the club. He is type of player with a flamboyant style of play and whose highlight reel makes fans want to watch his games.

Personally I believe that they should hold on to Pogba as long as he wants to stay at the club. There is no reason to sell one of your best players when there is no viable replacements on the market. Coming off their most successful season ever Juventus is not in need of the money and they should only be looking to strengthening their squad. Pogba is only likely to improve as he improves his skills and gains more experience.

The Transfer Window

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Hey Guys,

This week will be a little bit different as I have a video for everyone to watch. I apologize for having partially lost my voice earlier today.

The Faults of Financial Fair Play Regulations

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In 2009 the UEFA introduced the Financial Fair Play Regulations (FFP) in an attempt to stop clubs from spending too much money and going bankrupt. Ever clubs have had to become more wary of the amount of money they are spending in relation to their profits, and everyone has been asking the question – is FFP a good idea?

The basis of FFP is that UEFA looks at the money spent on transfers, wages, and financing costs and  comparing them to revenue from broadcasting, commercial income, sale of assets & players, and prize money.  If a clubs spending exceeds their income over a set limit then they face penalties ranging from warnings and fines to the withholding of prize money, transfer bans, and disqualification from European competitions.

While this may sound good at first, there are a few problems. First of all it is very possible to slowly fall into debt without facing any FFP regulations as long as you are still relatively close to breaking even. It also does not limit clubs that are already in debt but making a lot of money from spending it, so many large clubs still hold massive debts but as long as they don’t overspend their revenue they are safe from repercussions.

Secondly FFP reinforces the gap between the rich and poor clubs. The top 3-4 clubs in the top European leagues bring in significantly more revenue because they participate in the UEFA Champions, which can bring in revenue up to €100 million for some clubs. These clubs can then spend that money on improving the club, while lesser clubs might only be able to spend €10 million . This means that the big clubs can continue to afford the star players with even less competition making it harder for clubs not already making a lot of money to grow. Manchester United is several hundred million pounds in debt, but last summer still spent £150 million on transfers within FFP.

The only clubs in recent years to break into the top tier of clubs have done so by being bankrolled by investors, but this will never be possible again with FFP. UEFA also restricts investors from giving cash injections to a club to try and combat this because it does not count it under revenue. The system of dealing with breaches of FFP is also counter-intuitive. If a club spends too much money, especially a smaller club, they are hit with a fine which does nothing but make them even more financially unstable.

Clubs are businesses, and this kind of regulation has no place in business. How many start-up companies would fail if they were not backed by investors?  It takes money to improve a business and by restricting spending FFP disproportionally affects clubs who are looking to challenge the status quo of their respective leagues. While promoting financial stability is a good thing most clubs have always, with very few exceptions, been able to regulate themselves and continue operating and should continue to have the freedom to run themselves.

Rich Pitch: The Difference Money Makes in Soccer

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While watching the UEFA 2016 European Championship Qualifiers on Saturday it was interesting to learn the difference between the reigning world champions Germany and the little British overseas territory Gibraltar with it’s amateur team. The German team was filled with world-class players who are some of the best paid athletes, while Gibraltar’s squad was made up by a couple policemen, a lawyer, a fireman, and a few others. The amount of people actually trained to play soccer is small enough that there was a set of three brothers, and then another set of two on the starting XI. The gulf between the two is teams is so large that announcer’s joked Gibraltar was between a rock and a hard place. Everyday regular guys on their days off were facing the world champions as 1/10th of the territories entire population cheered them on from the stands. Gibraltar played their hearts out and did wonderfully for about 45 minutes, and then they inevitably got crushed 7-0 by the time the clock hit 90.

While you can’t buy players for your national team, the amount of money the ruling Football Association has and what FIFA allocates to each country can make raising players a lot easier. Infrastructure built for youth development as early as the age of 5 can make the difference from having an amateur team to a world class team. In order to really produce great talents there needs to be a culture of bringing up kids around the sport and teaching them the important skills early, all of which is hard without proper funding.

Although the underdog usually gets handily beaten, sometimes they can grind out a win. Greece is currently the laughing stock of the soccer world, having lost to the small Faroe Islands not once, but twice in the Euro 2016 qualifiers. The first match broke the record for the largest FIFA ranking difference as Greece (18th) are ranked 169 places above the Faroe Islands (187th). The first 0-1 away win may have been a fluke, but the 2-1 win this time confirms what most of us have known since the last World Cup, the Greek National team is as good at soccer as their country is at managing their finances.

After the recent events corruption scandal with FIFA, we all know that money drives the soccer world more than anything else. Without it athletes wouldn’t be able to devote their life to the sport, Football Association’s wouldn’t be able to hold tournaments, and no one would care to broadcast the games. Of course sometimes this goes poorly and high ranking officials go to jail for corruption.  As the recently fired FIFA Director of Communications put it, “The FIFA president, secretary general and director of communication are all travelling in a car. Who’s driving? The police”.