“It's important to the club we look to push forward. We need to be proactive and make sure we can try and attract investment.”
These could be the words of any Premiership chairman, particularly one of those flapping like lungfish in the death marshes of its basement. It could also be from a director of an ambitious club with a large fanbase looking to make that ‘push forward’ into a dominion of radiance. But no, these are utterings of Garry Monk, the manager of Swansea City FC, in response to talks which may result in a third of the club being handed over to millionaire San Diego Padres owner John Moores.
Of all the clubs who have brandished a prudent yardstick at the grubbing, distended excesses which recline at the apex of the game, Swansea’s has been the most admirable. The philosophy hewn from the sepia walls of social club committee rooms, which developed to rescue our Swans from brutal rendering by foreign venture capitalists who had no interest in football, other than to leverage it against franchising and leisure cash cows.
This was our aim, our mantra -armed with the definitive document for the times, David Conn’s essential ‘The Football Business’- when we battled for several years against these interlopers who promised the Earth but threw mud in our face while removing the fixtures & fittings. It’s a familiar story where rich men with chequered histories suddenly arrive to paint a picture of a Golden City which can only be accessed across the foothills of ‘future investment’. How many clubs get suckered into this premise, and what happens to them?
Cardiff City: beguiled by the notion of a billionaire fast food mogul with a high waistband who answered Bluebird imaginings of usurping Swansea by turning them into a laughable debt-laden autocracy, where ruination is only one dissent’s breath away.
Aston Villa: grasping at the need to ‘push forward’ and acceding to a US sports franchising operation, only to see them end up in a pond of mediocrity. The Ed Miliband of the Premiership.
Newcastle United: discredited benefactors opening the doors to an Essex capitalist with a girth as large as the legion of people he employs on zero hours contracts; changing a proud and passionate identity to one of naming rights and an arm to a thrift sports clothing franchise. All the while, seasons come and go, but success is as distant as the echo of a dog’s fart in Whitley Bay. Many Rangers fans will now wish they had voted ‘yes’ when the fat idiot rolls up to open an Ibrox branch of his Empire of Tat.
Manchester United: one can only ponder the horrible fate that awaits the Glazers’ £500m debt-leveraged monster should they continue to flat-line like they did under Moyes. Karma dances little shapes in the heads of those who hated Utd’s once-dominant arrogance propagated from the crumbs cast out of a red-painted Murdoch bowl.
Fulham: another US sports franchise dog’s dinner presided over by a despot who nobody had the cajones to inform that Movember is but a temporary flourish. Again, bringing in American investment for that extra ‘push forward’. And what a push: relegation and a demented manager who replaced a whole sports science unit with a 1lb block of Cathedral City. Both now past their respective sell-by dates, and stinking the place out.
Swansea has survived and become an admirable model for operating because not despite of a lack of external investment. This has forged an enduring philosophy of sensible wage structure and spending, which has tempered the egocentric molecules bubbling in the psyche of today’s cosseted and vulgar millionaires. It has kept rapacious asset-strippers outside the gates and maintained a sense of local identity that sups from a limitless source of goodwill and pride. However, American billionaire capitalists are renowned for draining these sources and diverting to their golf courses and farmsteads; leaving withered shells and scrubland, and only memories for those left with parched mouths.
Swansea directors are taking a huge gamble allowing such people a share in what has been a remarkable home-baked success, based on common sense and sharp governance; housekeeping practices which are clearly delivering a true and sustainable ‘push forward’. We don’t need Moore’s involvement. It will not make us bigger or better, it will make us cower at the behest of a 30% owner who will hoover up our resources, saddle us with debt and threaten to f*** off if we dispute. This is akin to a load of drunken lads gatecrashing a houseparty, raiding the fridge, pissing in the aquarium, shagging the host and beating up her boyfriend, before setting fire to the pet dog who trails a frenzy of burning s*** across the lounge. They then up and depart, leaving a smouldering aftermath of chaos and emotional debris that takes aeons to repair. They then send you an exorbitant quote to clean it all up.
As the person who devised the concept of the Supporters’ Trust at Swansea, and chaired the initial meetings; I believe that the Trust should be vociferous and radical in their opposition to any such move. It will not make us a bigger or better club. Would buying a house in Oxfordshire make it more likely that you’d be invited to kitchen suppers with Cameron & Clarkson? Have we lost our sense of equilibrium and realisation that we have already achieved that ‘push forward’? Have we not learned anything from our previous near-death experiences? I wonder how many of the 69% who polled ‘yes’ on-line for American investment staggered round the Vetch with collection buckets in 1982; used their own paint to help spruce up a decaying North Bank; had slurs about their ‘dubious sexuality’ written in the official match programme by the sort of interlopers they would now like to welcome in? How many times would an abused dog allow different owners to kick it?
We all know what happens to those who make deals with the Devil at the crossroads. Garry Monk, Huw Jenkins and Leigh Dineen should understand this more than anyone.