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The Ugly Game

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Playing devil’s advocate, the formation of the ESL is a perfectly coherent business solution addressing the monetary risks of sporting failure

During the short-lived reign of the European Super League (‘ESL’) which was announced by 12 European football clubs, UEFA’s emotional rhetoric in response to the new competition was understandable, given how much they stood to lose in terms of both power and money over the European game. UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin’s sentiments in labelling the 12 clubs’ plans as “disgraceful, self-serving proposals we have seen, fuelled purely by greed”, were adopted by the rest of the football world. This effectively nipped the breakaway club owners’ dreams firmly in the bud and seemingly hailed victory for the sanctity of the game against the might of the dollar. However, scratching below the surface, the ESL may well be the sagaciously crass conclusion to the path this ‘beautiful game’ has been heading for, when examined in the cold light of day, against the materialism inherent within the wider footballing industry.

Follow the money

Playing devil’s advocate, the formation of the ESL is a perfectly coherent business solution addressing the monetary risks of sporting failure, coupled with the financial stress experienced by professional clubs due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The ESL’s guaranteed minimum income stream would allow private club owners from the EPL to finally realise the business investor’s nirvana and crystallise their investments into an economic ‘cash cow’, furthering their own wealth, at the expense of the rest of the industry. Therein perhaps lies the root of the failure of the ESL, the club owners’ lack of emotional intelligence in underestimating the greed of the remaining stakeholders, rather than misinterpreting the impact of their own.

Wet One’s Beak

The ESL is an old idea going back to the 1990s, when the owner of AC Milan Silvio Berlusconi approached the largest clubs in the European domestic leagues, in order to form a separate pan-European league and capitalise on the increasing value of media rights. UEFA, sensing the threat to their own future, managed to quell the plan by forming their own new competition, the UEFA Champions’ League (‘UCL’), promising the breakaway clubs more entrants, more games and thus a larger share of an even larger revenue pot, from which UEFA were also the beneficiary. The latest iteration of the UCL yet to be ratified compromises even further by allowing clubs a veto right over any future UCL media contracts, permitting private equity investment in domestic competitions and removing its pure meritocratic qualification process by allowing teams to qualify based on historic performances. UEFA’s minimal punishment for some of the breakaway ESL clubs has a whiff of them knowing not to bite the hand that feeds it.

Player Power

The players have been championed by the footballing media for speaking out against the ESL, yet they should share some responsibility for its origins. The majority of a club’s revenue is typically paid out as player’s wages to the extent that a proportionate expense of below 60% of revenue is considered prudent, yet, few clubs demonstrate such self-discipline, for example, for Barcelona it is 83%. Clearly irking the club owners, the ESL committed the clubs to restraining such expenditure to 55%. One can only imagine the continuous urgent phone calls from ‘concerned’ player agents to their clients, insisting the ESL was not in their best interest. Coupled with UEFA’s threat to ban ESL players from the upcoming European Championship this summer, it was perhaps unsurprising when high-profile players, such as Liverpool’s captain Jordan Henderson spoke out against their own clubs.

Media Blame Game

The ESL guaranteed billions to their clubs, via a loan underwritten by JP Morgan. Yet that loan was expected to be indirectly serviced by a broadcaster willing to take on the financial risk of paying a vast sum for an untested competition format that would have the knock-on effect of diluting the value of their existing football media rights deals. ESL’s proposal was in stark contrast to deflationary media right prices for existing European domestic leagues. France’s Ligue 1 broadcasting rights deal collapsed in the first year, Italy’s Serie A rights package fell well short of its asking price and Germany’s Bundesliga rights was discounted by 5%. Not even the ever-popular EPL has remained immune. The Premier League sought the UK government’s approval to cancel its upcoming domestic media rights auction and instead roll over its existing £5bn broadcasting deal with Sky, BT and Amazon. Hence, it was foreseeable that no media entity would currently have the appetite to bid for an ESL broadcasting deal and therefore inescapable to conclude media sentiment would veer towards speaking out against the ESL.

Supporters’ Curse

Images of the supporters of the breakaway English clubs protesting against the ESL served as stark reminders of how deeply unpopular the ESL was amongst football consumers. However, the same level of dissatisfaction from fans is typically discernible when their clubs are unwilling or unable to spend sufficient sums in the hope of winning silverware. It is not unusual for supporters to demand for owners to be replaced by another billionaire, expecting the new owner to somehow have the same reverence for their club. Yet, historical precedence suggests the owners’ motivations are unaligned with the club’s supporters, who view it unambiguously as a business opportunity.

Nail in the CoffinArguably, the greatest misreading of the situation from the ESL antagonists was underestimating the potential actions of the UK government to transform the conversations from being held solely within a sporting bubble, to effectively shutting it down. The EPL has been an overseas success and a crown jewel for the British government, bringing in the ever-increasing millions of tax revenues from the sale of its international media rights. It is of little mystery that the UK was the most vocal European government, when faced with potentially losing billions in tax income from the EPL. It should not escape irony that the government that pushed for Brexit is the same government that effectively united Europe in preventing the formation of the ESL. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was money all along that proved the impetuous in ‘saving’ the beautiful game.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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I work in asset management in the City of London, am a qualified Chartered Accountant and hold an Economics and Accounting BSc from the University of Bristol.
I dream of completing my first triathlon.

Daily Brief

More than 90 Women Sue the FBI for $1Billion For Mishandling the Nassar Case

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Raisman and Biles
  • More than 90 women and girls, including Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, who were sexually assaulted by the disgraced USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar plan to sue the FBI for $1 billion for mishandling the credible sexual assault complaints. 
  • The FBI agency’s own watchdog found that the FBI disregarded allegations about Nassar, and in a long-awaited report from the US Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, it was stated that various missteps and cover-ups by FBI agents allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue for more than a year after the case was opened in 2015.
  • The FBI field office took very limited action against Nassar and did not document any investigation or alert other authorities. Also, just two weeks ago, the US Justice Department decided not to prosecute the two FBI agents accused of mishandling the Nassar case. 
  • The plaintiffs’ claim is being filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows people who have been harmed by negligent actions of the federal government to seek recompense for damages. The plaintiffs are all seeking different amounts for damages, but the total claims amount is expected to surpass $1billion. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Liverpool Fans Tear Gassed by French Police Before Final Match: UK Calls for an Investigation

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  • French police are criticized for firing tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool fans waiting to get into the stadium in Paris.
  • The French sports ministry has called a meeting with Uefa (the French Football Association), stadium officials, and police to “draw lessons” from the event.
  • French interior minister Gérald Darmanin appeared to blame British supporters, tweeting on Saturday that thousands were without valid tickets and had forced entry while also claiming that some fans had assaulted stewards.
  • However, Merseyside Police said its officers who were stationed in Paris and attended the match “reported the vast majority of fans behaved in an exemplary manner, arriving at turnstiles early and queuing as directed.”
  • Liverpool FC also called for an investigation into the event and said they would be asking fans to contact them directly with their experiences.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Sport

The untold stories of Qatar and the FIFA World Cup

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While many acknowledge deep problems within the host country, one expert says the overly negative attention on Qatar overshadows much of the positive change the games are creating. 

Sports often bring people together, but that doesn’t seem to be happening with FIFA this year.

“Having the world cup in Quatar (sic) just makes me sick and not interested,” said one Twitter user, decrying the alleged abuses against workers who built the stadiums for the World Cup. “Those guys could never afford a ticket to these games, even though they loved the game and worked hard.”

“Give me a free final ticket if Germany played in it, I still won‘t go there. Never,” said another.

Qatar is hosting the World Cup in November, the very first Middle Eastern country to do so. Since Qatar was awarded hosting rights for the sporting event, there have been controversies over the way the country was chosen (including allegations of bribing FIFA) as well as scrutiny of the country’s human rights record (over the country’s alleged treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQ+ rights). 

But while many acknowledge deep problems within the country, some say the overly negative attention on Qatar overshadows much of the positive change the games are creating. 

“There’s politics with FIFA and World Cup organizers of Qatar,” said Luv Randhawa, an international singer based in British Columbia, who still hopes to attend his first World Cup this year. “For us as fans, we want to see the best sport.” 

He has conflicting feelings about the “beautiful” stadiums built by migrant workers.

“I look at it in two aspects: I pledge the pride of the people of Qatar for what they’ve done, but I’m also somber about the people who have lost their lives and livelihood because of the building of these buildings that the world is coming to see.”

Umer Hussain, who has a PhD in sports marketing, says while the controversies around Qatar are concerning, they’ve detracted from the positive aspects of the first World Cup since the pandemic.

“One of the goals of FIFA was to grow its own fan base, so that’s why when the FIFA World Cup was awarded to Qatar, it made me very excited,” said the postdoctoral researcher at Texas A&M University. 

He noted this World Cup generated around five million jobs. Qatar also changed some of its laws to support the rights of migrant workers and to prevent wage theft. Muslim women are also being encouraged more to play sports as a result of the Cup, Hussain said.

But he added the media has only been focusing on the negative aspects of the host country. 

As far as allegations of corruption go, Hussain points to the Global Transparency Index, whose Corruption Perceptions Index in 2021 ranked Qatar as less corrupt than the three previous FIFA hostsRussia, Brazil and South Africa. (Russia also faced controversy over alleged bribery and human rights violations.)

Hussain says the negative portrayal of Qatar as a corrupt country reflects historical stereotyping of Arab countries as inhumane. 

“People think … Qatar wanted to take soft power in the Arab world, that’s why they’re holding this World Cup,” Hussain said, noting Qatar has however lost more than it’s gained from this Cup. 

“There has been a lot of damage already done.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Society

Double Olympic Champion: Losing to Trans Women is About Biology – ‘I Feel Let Down’ 

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Nicola, Wikimedia Commons via Wikimedia Commons

Katie Archibald, the double Olympic champion has criticised the International Olympic Committee and other sports bodies for their transgender policies saying they have not only let down female cyclists by underplaying biology but also left trans women like Emily Bridges to face intense scrutiny. 

“It is my opinion that the international governing bodies of several sports have let down transgender athletes, in particular transgender women, with their inclusion policies,” Archibald said in a statement.

According to Archibald, it was wrong for governing bodies to ignore the science that shows trans women who have gone through male puberty have a retained advantage in strength, stamina and physique. She made it clear that she and other females were also being let down by the unwillingness of sports to accept the importance of biology. 

Sadly, this is just an extension of the policies we have chosen to enact in our society without any regard to their consequences. Following the law for some such as trans results in rights being taken from others such as female athletes in sports. 

“These policies have put the athletes, their involvement in sport, and their personal lives under intense scrutiny when all the athletes have done is follow the rules and enter a category they were encouraged to enter.”

“I feel let down by the International Olympic Committee who tell me there should be no assumed advantage for an athlete with a gender identity different to their sex,” she said.

“I read this and hear that my world titles, my Olympic medals, and the champions jerseys I have at home, were all won in a category of people who simply don’t try as hard as the men. That losing to male androgenisation is not about biology, but mindset. They are wrong.

It’s ironic that women had to live under the tyranny of men for so long but now in a so-called liberal society, we are allowing men to become women and oppress women as women. Katie has shown incredible courage to point out something so obvious that our society continues to ignore with no real questions or fair solutions on offer!

She continued: “The retained advantage of people who have gone through male puberty in strength, stamina, and physique, with or without testosterone suppression, has been well documented.

“Cycling’s global governing body, by its president’s own admission, knows this. But they chose to delay action until it became sadly personal for one rider. That wasn’t fair.”

She also expressed deep sympathy for Bridges, who broke the junior men’s 25-mile record before transitioning in 2020, saying she was only following the rules of cycling’s governing body, the UCI, before it decided to block her racing as a woman last month.

In her statement Archibald also called on governing bodies of sports such as cycling, triathlon and rowing to come together to develop policies based on science, while also making their sport more welcoming for trans athletes. “But I’d like us to do all this without sacrificing one of the foundational pillars of sport: fairness.”

This is a key point, but it is not just limited to sport, in all aspects of society fairness should be a key consideration before making policies that allow individuals to act in a way that is legal but harmful to other individuals. We choose to ignore this principle at our own peril and decisions made in the past are slowly starting to unravel before us. 

When little 8-year-old boys start to transition and when a male swimmer who ranked 554th in men’s competition, becomes one of the top ranked swimmers in women’s competition, it tells us that this question of fairness should have been asked a long time ago! Not just from IOC but from governments and societies at large!

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Sport

Utah Governor Vetoes Bill Targeting Transgender Athletes

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Utah governor vetoes bill that targets transgender athletes
Utah Reps, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, a republican-backed bill was vetoed by the state governor of Utah that barred transgenders from competing with girls in sports in schools.

Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement that while “politically, it would be much easier and better for me to simply sign the bill,” he chose to veto it because he “tried to do what I feel is the right thing regardless of the consequences.”

Mr Cox was the second governor in vetoing the bill as on Monday, Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana, a Republican, vetoed a similar bill, saying it would likely have been challenged in court and would not have solved any pressing issue.

The two governors’ actions of vetoing the bill are at odds with steps taken in a number of other Republican-led states where transgender rights have become an imminent issue in a broader U.S. culture war over sexuality and gender identity. Whereas governors in states including Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Iowa have signed into law bills that ban trans girls from competing in girls’ sports.

In a series of tweets Cox made an emotional plea for compassion toward transgender youth Tuesday in explaining his decision to veto the bill. He said “No other state has done this, and we hoped that Utah could be the first. Unfortunately, that compromise fell apart in the 11th hour of the session.” Regarding transgenders he also tweeted “I am not an expert on transgenderism. I struggle to understand so much of it and the science is conflicting. When in doubt however, I always try to err on the side of kindness, mercy and compassion.”

Also in a letter to the state’s Senate president and House speaker, the governor said he was moved by the data that shows that among 75,000 kids playing high school sports in Utah, only four were transgender, with just one involved in girls sports.

“Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about. Four kids who aren’t dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships. Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day,” he wrote. “Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few.”

However Republican legislators plan to override the veto on Friday, as State Senator J. Stuart Adams, a Republican, mentioned in a statement.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Russia-Ukraine

Sanctions Against Russia Leave Chelsea Football Club Up for Grabs

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  • Former Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, was pushed to sell the Club amidst the hard sanctions against Russia.
  • Turkish businessman, Muhsin Bayrak, is set to bid 1 billion pounds for the football club, half of the 2.2 billion pounds he intended to offer Abramovich.
  • The British government will issue a license for the sale, despite not being directly involved in the sale process should they agree with the conditions.

Former Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, was pushed to sell the Club amidst the hard sanctions against Russia. Leaving room for potential buyers to submit bids in hopes of taking the Club at a fraction of the cost now that it was transferred to the government. The British government has set Friday as the deadline for any bids.

Turkish businessman, Muhsin Bayrak, is set to bid 1 billion pounds for the football club, half of the 2.2 billion pounds he intended to offer Abramovich. Strict sanctions connected to Russia’s occupation in Ukraine have hit multiple Russian oligarchs. This has caused an opening in the world market where many top Russian business owners held assets. 

Bayrak also intended on offering Abramovich $400 million of his company’s cryptocurrency and the transfer of certain real estate projects to the Russian billionaire. The Turkish investor is set to meet with Abramovich later this week in Turkey to receive his blessing for any deal. The British government will issue a license for the sale, despite not being directly involved in the sale process should they agree with the conditions.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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