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Open Thread: August 2, 2021

Our Monday issue of the Daily Merengue!

Real Madrid Pre-Season Training Session Photo by Antonio Villalba/Real Madrid via Getty Images

The Open Thread/Daily Merengue is a place where you can discuss anything and everything related to football. Feel free to discuss the topics presented here, or start your very own discussions! The Open thread will be posted every day by one of the mods: Valyrian Steel, Felipejack, YoSnail, Ezek Ix or NeRObutBlanco.

Madrid court: All 12 ESL signers are legally bound

The 17th court of Madrid ruled that the ESL founding document was created validly in accordance with Spanish law and is still binding. Given the legal consequences of Brexit, this won’t mean a great deal to the nine English clubs who left the agreement after threats of extraordinary retaliation — including claiming that any player involved in the ESL will be permanently banned from joining FIFA-administered, international tournaments. But it does illuminate the pathway forward through higher level courts that the original three have available to them. There are consequences to breaking legal agreements containing the futures of sports organizations. The fine for violating the terms of this legally binding agreement is said to be in the area of 300 million euros.

Florentino Perez has made it known that there are a number of fundamental problems within UEFA that have in recent years grown to intolerable proportions. Principally, Financial Fair Play is a mechanism put in place by European football’s governing bodies to ensure the football clubs do not spend money which is beyond their means to produce as revenue. La Liga president Javier Tebas has spoken against what he considers to be “financial doping”:

One of the major issues in European football is related to [financial] doping. Because when we have clubs being financed by states, then that has an impact on salaries.

That means in other countries with more strict economic controls like Spain and Germany clubs cannot actually ask the state for extra financing to pay those salaries.

Organisations and institutions have a responsibility to redistribute the wealth that we generate. All of us, the Spanish league, the Premier League, UEFA, FIFA. I don’t think we are helping football in any way if we generate wealth and it just goes straight back to the big clubs.

Today, FFP for a number of clubs, including ones on the very executive council that administers FFP, has little deterrent force. State-owned clubs have shown no qualms over paying fines they incur or appealing to themselves as arbiters when questions arise regarding the funding of their own clubs’ astronomical fees and wages .

Most recently, the English newspaper Mail on Sunday gained access to the details of a court battle between Manchester City and the English Premier League over whether the state-owned club can keep hidden the details of its financing which have been subject of ongoing Financial Fair Play investigations. See the following article for a timeline of these court battles and a detailed account of this subject: The day three of England’s most senior judges DISMANTLED Manchester City’s defence and their pleas to hide a Premier League investigation... the Mail on Sunday had the sole reporter in court and only now can his dramatic dispatch be published.

UEFA, moreover, has expressed its intention to flat out do away with Financial Fair Play rules, opening up doors for states and billionaires to spend under the provision that it is ‘necessary without waste’: UEFA ‘set to SCRAP Financial Fair Play rules’ to allow clubs to have more control over their finances... with matter to be discussed with the European Parliament on Friday.

What to make of this thorny subject from an overall perspective?

As fans of Real Madrid, a team that is famously club-owned (other clubs such as Barcelona can say the same), we are aware that the community-involvement aspect of our club has penetrated into our football DNA. We might affirm this as part of who we are, our identity. RMA support is an inclusive membership, crossing whatever cultural backgrounds people may have. In this club the socios, members and even fans on discussion boards rightly feel that however remote, minute or theoretical our influence may be, it can play an actual part in the guidance of the club. Heck, if they so choose and if they get a bit lucky as residents in the capitol, people can become socios and vote on the president.

We are surely also aware that this is not the only form football clubs must take. In our cultures we generally allow for free enterprise. If some individual or wealthy business entity wants to invest in football in Europe, we tend to embrace it and see it as only contributing to the development of the sport. But where do we draw the line, as Javier Tebas seems to do when he talks about how ‘financial doping’ is destroying the competitive aspect of football?

I would say there is no absolute moral, ethical or theoretical law that prevents, say, some state from spending from its sovereign wealth exponentially more money than any member-owned club could dream to spend. But there is something very off in that, not just because it is our club getting steamrolled financially by teams that only now with new sponsors are appearing at UCL finals. We do, it seems to me in order to give back, have an obligation to make some kind of protest against the competitiveness of o jogo bonito being damaged.

Tebas has a legally based argument there: the laws of Spain or France, countries which have seen some of the best and most memorable football originate from its soil, do not permit states to fund teams’ expenses; therefore PSG and Man City are employing a financial model that we deemed illegal, which is an unfair advantage. I would see that as a legitimate case. Other states should respect laws governing the game if they are already in place, not inject money into governing bodies and get officials to look the other way. Man City and PSG, as we saw above, have flagrantly flouted financial laws via circumvention, claiming that funding was for stadium naming rights deals, past image rights deals, and for backdated sponsorship deals. UEFA had in effect no response to that illicit behavior and that is a problem for those who respect the game.

But an argument can also be made for good stewardship. This is that in order to protect the beautiful game and to keep it the way we love it, we must strongly administer principles of fairness that would keep smaller clubs or non-state-owned clubs from being crushed by the practically limitless spending of clubs funded by actual countries. What those are is for another discussion. Sure, one often hears the counter that RMA in the past with its massive spending and Galacticos policies has exhibited an overwhelming force on the market using its stature as a wealthy club, making it impossible for an Eibar or Deportivo to have parity. But Real Madrid earned this success and popularity working in and through the systems of its country’s laws — not around them, through the genius of its leadership and through its remarkably determined players on the pitch. There must always be room for success achieved fairly and for the rewards of success to be reaped. I consider that a case altogether different from the problem football faces now, which is one of illicit payments and state ownership. Other clubs could have built a sterling reputation for playing successful, stylish football over many years and then been rewarded with many fans, ticket sales and kit sales, which would allow them to acquire a Zidane, a Figo, et al. That’s just my take on it anyway.

A selection from Mandis’ The Real Madrid Way

Embracing Rivalries

Real Madrid smartly embraces the rivalries that make the community. Although organizations typically prefer to avoid conflict, Real Madrid’s management team respectfully accepts and embraces the rivalries common in a thriving community. Communities need a way to define themselves that fosters unity and cohesiveness. Conflicts and rivalries provide just that. For example, just as Microsoft or Harley-Davidson enthusiasts may show disdain for certain competing technologies or motorcycles, Real Madrid fans and members express disfavor for Barcelona and/or Atletico Madrid. An “us vs. them” or “insider vs. outsider” mentality serves to hold a community together and helps transmit their values to the next generation. Real Madrid’s management team is extremely sensitive to ensuring that the mentality is respectful, in keeping with the values. For example, although there is a big buildup of the Real Madrid-Barcelona rivalry, both clubs’ executives show good relations and respect. By tradition, the Real Madrid and Barcelona directors eat together before their clubs play against each other in their regular season games.

For all the passionate rivalry between the two clubs, Real Madrid’s community will show respect that rises above the rivalry. In 2005, Ronaldinho, a star player for Barcelona, scored two magnificent goals in a 3-0 defeat of home team Real Madrid at Bernabeu Stadium. Many Real Madrid fans gave the opposing star a standing ovation. The same happened for Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta in 2015 when Barcelona beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu Stadium. The community of Real Madrid respects beautiful, stylish soccer and effort, even if it is from the opposing team.

Interestingly, the socios have a formal process to self-regulate in case any members are not following club rules, including misbehavior during rival games. The club has a Disciplinary Committee in accordance with its bylaws to discipline members who are not following the rules. Usually the issue is related to resale and misuse of season passes and game tickets, but discipline is also handed out for breaking club rules related to respect, violence, racism, xenophobia, and intolerance in sport. The five members of the Disciplinary Committee are elected every four years by the General Assembly at the proposal of the board of directors.

Mandis, Steven G. “The Real Madrid Way: How Values Created the Most Successful Sports Team on the Planet.” Pp. 119-120. Dallas, Texas: BenBella Books Inc., 2016.