If you’re a keen football supporter or even if you deplore the game, it’s likely you’re aware of this inordinate transfer saga which has consumed our televisions and newspapers over these past few months. It’s likely too that you’re glad to see it end; you’ll be pleased for our British boy wonder (Welsh when he couldn’t make the Spurs side, remember) who’s finally completed his dream move and perhaps you’re even wishing Gareth Bale luck now he’s a Real Madrid player. Well, you shouldn’t be. You ought to be sickened, appalled and downright disgusted at this gross show of corporate greed and club vanity, such that perfectly displays just how centred around money the game is fast becoming.
85 million pounds for a human being is disgraceful. Of course the capitalist argument holds through here, but when you consider the poverty, anguish and trials of the world and compare it to something as unimportant as football, something seems seriously wrong. To put the fee into perspective; Children in Need failed to raise even a third of this amount in 2012 and you could add up the total funding Cancer Research receives each year for cancers of the breast; prostate, brain, bladder and lung and still come up short. With this unprecedented fee, it would be possible to fund the building of nearly 10,000 schools in the world’s poorest nations or to provide safe, clean drinking water for over 8 million people. It could even do something to help fund space exploration or considerably improve research into renewable energy sources and make the world something of a better place. Conversely, you could watch Gareth Bale kicking a leather ball around.
To convey just how significant this transfer could be from an economic perspective, let’s rewind to 2009 when Cristiano Ronaldo transferred to Madrid for £80m from Manchester United. To soften the blow of losing their greatest ever player, United demanded an upfront sum, with the rest to be paid in instalments. Now even football clubs don’t have bank accounts full of tens of millions of pounds and to enable the transfer to go through, the defunct Spanish bank Caja Madrid needed to loan Real £65m. At the time, this was considered normal practise and it didn’t even make the headlines. Later that year however, coinciding with the Spanish speculative housing bubble bursting, Caja Madrid nearly collapsed, falling weaker and weaker over the next two years before merging with six other banks into Bankia in June 2011. In the midst of this debacle, the Spanish government attempted to bail out Caja Madrid before falling into dire straits itself. It took a well-publicised Eurozone bailout to finally do something to improve the Spanish economic conditions. This is not to suggest of course that the Eurozone crisis is indirectly the fault of Real Madrid, but the £65m borrowed by the club is not an insignificant amount of money by any means. It certainly compounded the misery for the Spanish economy and its citizens.
As a member of the European Union, Britain (and therefore British taxpayers) was among those funding the Eurozone bailout, action which undoubtedly deepened our own recession of 2009. When you then learn therefore that the Spanish collapse was partly brought about by something as trivial as a football transfer, it starts to put things into perspective. People are starving, losing their jobs and being made homeless as a result of this on-going crisis as has been well publicised since the recession began. Then, to think that the same football club would not only attempt, but complete another world breaking transfer as little as four years later really does make one question the morality and sensibility of football. It’s not as if the problems have simply gone away in Spain either; Spanish GDP has contracted for the past seven quarters, unemployment in the country is nearing 17m and the national debt stands at €631,000,000,000 as of September 2013. A sport which proclaims itself ‘the beautiful game’ and ‘the sport of the working class’ ought to seriously revaluate its priorities.
Of course, it would be ludicrous to pin all the blame for the Spanish and European economic collapse on Real Madrid Football Club – the majority fault is undoubtedly with the bank and not with the club. It should be highlighted however that the club ought to be more responsible with its transfers considering the current state of the world economy. The banks have proven themselves fallible, and to then further borrow an extortionate amount of money so soon after a continental economic crisis is wholly irresponsible of Madrid. This is not to suggest of course that the transfer of Gareth Bale will bring about a second Spanish crash or even another European crisis, but when combined with the signings of Illarramendi, (£34.3m) Isco, (£26.4m) and Carvajal, (£6m) and the fact that the Spanish banking industry is so fragile that it rivals Greece’s, who is to say what effect it could have on the Spanish economy? More importantly, being EU members ourselves, who is to say what effect it could have on Britain and the British taxpayer?