Roger Moore scores: the price of success

Last updated : 23 September 2007 By Roger Moore
Peter Hill-Wood claims Arsenal don't need investment to compete at the highest level. He asserts that ultimately foreign investors will want a return on their massive cash injections, which it would be folly to look upon as donations to a cause.

He is probably right, except that the vast sums of money required to purchase English football clubs and foreign football talent are mere bagatelle to some oligarchs and oil men.

And the possible returns highlighted in a recent Telegraph article suggest that the Glazer's £800m purchase of Manchester United could already yield a £200m profit!

But Hill-Wood's stance is a brave one, and in stark contrast to our seemingly fruitless desire to find just such a sugar daddy; I for one admire his ambition. The idea of more money is hugely appealing when we think about where it could be spent (two fit centre-backs for a start), but is it really the panacea for our ills that we imagine?

Chelsea blues

As someone who lives in London, well within the compass of Capital Radio, I am subject to the constant advertising by Chelsea desperate to fill their ground, despite its relatively modest 42,000 capacity and ambitious oft-mooted plans to move somewhere closer to Heathrow and build a megalith of Wembley-like proportions.

Mind you, if the Rosenborg game is anything to go by, near on 20,000 people failed to hear the campaign as the stadium was half empty (half-full if you are a genuine optimist). Now, Rosenborg are no big draw, let's be honest, but this is Champions' League for pity's sake - the genuine, bona-fide Champions' League!

And, I'll bet that this apathy is a stark contrast to Manchester United who will undoubtedly sell their ground out several times over for the Sporting Lisbon fixture (a team of greater merit and stature, true) in November. In fact, there's every chance there will be significantly more than double the crowd at Old Trafford as bothered to see Chelsea.

Why? It certainly can't be finances when you consider the respective ticket price and relative local incomes - in either case the cost can be described as little short of scandalous.

Easy, easy

It's certainly in contrast to a sold out Emirates Stadium for Arsenal's first home Group game in the Champion's League with equally inflated prices.
Recent events would suggest that the cause might be Chelsea's indifferent form and the win-at-all costs style of the former manager (who was the incumbent manager when yours truly started writing this piece - and they say a week is a long time in politics…)

But I have another theory. Could it be that Chelsea fans' apparent indifference to their sudden rise to super-stardom and trophy room extension is simply because all this success has come just a bit too easily? Whereas Manchester United and Arsenal fans feel their success is harder 'earned' over a considerably longer period, and are therefore somehow more 'committed' to the cause as a result?

This is not to suggest that one team has 'better' supporters than the other, but to look for a reason why they are better supported, which is an indisputable numerical fact.

Work, then success

It reminds me of a discussion I once had with an old colleague over the merits of winning the lottery. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those road-sweepers who would continue to pick up the broom every morning knowing that there was £4million in the bank and having done nothing but treated myself to a new set of chrome wheels for the cart.

Oh no, my money would be invested the minute the cheque from Camelot arrived - in wine, women and fast cars, and the rest I might blow on something frivolous like shares in a football club.

But to me, the prospect of winning a couple of million quid is not half as appealing as the idea of grafting for it, and genuinely earning it. My colleague thought I was nuts.

How could it be preferable to have to work for something that could be acquired for the sake of Aunt Milly's birthday, Granddad's flat, Tom's age, the cat's remaining lives, the number of pints it's possible to consume and remain vertical and the volume of girls who said no but meant yes and eventually relented (isn't that how you choose your numbers?).

I'm not saying that one is preferable or more laudable than the other, but I do know that the thrill is nine-tenths chase and when the chase is too easy, there's no thrill at all.

So it must have seemed for Chelsea fans these past three years and perhaps the falling attendances owe(d) at least as much to the dawning realisation that winning the league isn't as good as sex (well certainly not second time around) as they do to the impotent manner of their recent performances.
And here's the harsh lesson for our legion of fans desperate to see the club sold to a foreign billionaire. Everything comes at a price. And everything that's worth having, in my experience, is also worth working for; as the wee man said 'the only place you find success before work is the dictionary' (just before he was asked for a quick-word and responded 'velocity').

If we are to be taken over, and it looks increasingly unlikely with at least a dozen Premiership Clubs also implicitly and explicitly on the market (ranging from £650m for Arsenal and £250m for Tottenham, to £30m for Derby), then let it at least be someone of modest means who can inject the cash needed to stimulate our success, not purchase it.

Otherwise, we too could be playing in the Champions' League with a half-empty stadium, rather than the Championship with a half-empty st… Oh sod it, what am I talking about? 'Club for Sale, £50m OVNO...'

(And talk of wine, women and booze reminds me of my favourite tale about the late George Best. A male-housekeeper walked into a hotel room where Best had been staying the night before to find him half-asleep on the bed, surrounded by a bevy of beautiful nudes, piles of cash and empty Champagne bottles. Witheringly he looked at the superstar and asked: "Where did it all go wrong, George?")