I’ve spent the majority of my life following a different kind of football. When you have a sport ingrained in your life, you subconsciously absorb the intricacies of it. The rules, the players, the stadium names etc. I’ve had to learn this all over again since my Bucs journey began 6 years ago.
In my efforts to understand the game, I’ve been able to see the subtle and often not so subtle differences between football, and football. Today I’m going to talk about what I like about the NFL vs UK football and how they could be included in each sport.
Football – the draft and money
The draft system should allow all teams to be competitive. If you were the worst team last year, you have the first pick of the best up and coming player. In theory, this should prevent the same teams dominating a conference. In practice, we know this isn’t always the case. With the Bucs having skillfully navigated the draft in recent years, we now look well placed to be able to take another step forwards. In England, the richest clubs win.
Most of the big teams are owned by very wealthy, foreign owners. In fact, Manchester United is owned by a family you are all very familiar with, the Glazers. Rams owner Stan Kroenke is a significant shareholder at Arsenal, Jags owner Shahid Kahn owns Fulham and they are just a few.
Teams with less desirable locale don’t draw the budding investor and sink further to the bottom of the pile. In the UK I support a team called Norwich City who currently play in the second tier of English football. The team is owned by a previously famous cook with the reported net worth of $35m, the Glazers are reportedly worth more than $3 BILLION. This leads me on nicely to my next point.
In the UK, there is no salary cap. Players can, in theory, earn as much as they want, assuming someone is willing to pay it. There is a rule called “FFP” or financial fair play which came in a few years back. As easy as a new owner can plough money into a club, they can easily take it away and cripple a team. There have been several instances of this happening. FFP suggests that your outgoings should have a correlation to your income. The issue here is that huge clubs like Manchester United, with global appeal, have a huge income and can pay huge wages.
With no salary cap in place, the best players are drawn to the biggest teams with the most money. It doesn’t quite create a monopoly as there are several clubs with deep pockets, but the divide between them and “the rest” grows larger every year. Wayne Rooney, who until recently played for Manchester United and captains England, earned a reported £300,000 ($385,000) per week or £15.6m per year on a 5-year deal. This money was guaranteed for the duration of the contract. The highest earner at Norwich City likely earns no more than 15% of that.
Trades vs transfers
Trading is one of the most basic means of acquiring something that you want. I would like your player, tell me what you would like for him. In England, players are purchasable assets. As above, those with the most money acquire the best players.
The current headline in world football is about Brazilian player Neymar and possible transfer. He currently plays for Barcelona, his contract has a release clause which would allow a team to purchase him for a quite ludicrous £195 m – more than double the world record. In addition, the buying club (Paris Saint Germain) has apparently agreed to pay Neymar £500,000 per week on what would likely be a 5-year contract (a cool £130,000,000). With no cap in place, the club can buy several high profile players ahead of a new season and suddenly be greatly improved on the year before.
With a trade in American Football, in exchange for a player, a team will often give up a draft pick the next year. In doing so, they restrict their opportunity to improve that year. This way there has to be a serious conversation about the “value” of the asset you wish to acquire vs the value of what you will give up.
Perhaps one of the features of English football that might not work in the NFL, but would certainly keep teams on their toes. It would also remove “tanking” as teams would no longer be competing in the top league. Relegation (and promotion) in English football is largely what provides the smaller teams with something to play with each year. In the past 4 years my football team, Norwich City, have been relegated twice and promoted once. I don’t enjoy the relegations of course, but each relegation provides an opportunity to regroup and get promoted once again.
Whilst not a common occurrence over the years, it does happen in the NFL. In England, this is largely unheard of. There are very few instances of a team relocating, the most notable being the team formally known as Wimbledon. After financial difficulties they nearly folded, the owner made the decision that in order to save them they needed to move. This caused outrage from the hard core fan base, who decided that they wanted nothing to do with “Franchise FC”.
A supporters group formed their own team in 2002, named AFC Wimbledon. They started right at the bottom of the English football. 14 years later they finally found themselves in the same league as Milton Keynes. Relocation in the UK, other than moving your stadium because you have outgrown it, just doesn’t work.
So there we go, similar and yet completely different. Let me know what you think of the article in the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
If you’re not already familiar with my Bucs story, check out my article “A Bucs fan in England“. I’ll see you all again shortly for the next in my “From the outside, looking in” series.