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Volume 10 No. 25
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Billionaires In Charge Of English Football, EPL Benefits While National Team Lags Behind

Chelsea Owner ROMAN ABRAMOVICH "embarked on his ninth manager, RAFAEL BENITEZ, having just fired No. 8, ROBERTO DI MATTEO, despatched six months after winning the Champions League, the most important of all club trophies," according to Matthew Engel, in an opinion piece in the FINANCIAL TIMES. The ex-managers "are not, like ANNE BOLEYN, actually beheaded, the goings-on at Chelsea having replaced public executions as London’s entertainment of choice." However, Abramovich "really does pursue managers the way HENRY VIII pursued women." Benitez "is only meant to be staying at Chelsea until May, if that long." Abramovich "is now fixated on PEP GUARDIOLA, the former manager of Barcelona, who is enjoying a gap year doing not much in Manhattan." All big U.S. sports teams "are subject to socialistic restrictions that in any other walk of American life would be excoriated" -- salary caps, revenue-sharing and the player-draft "are all designed to equalise opportunities for victory." Yet Britain is content to leave its obsession, football, "to the mercy of a very un-British red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism." Clubs' on-field successes "depend on the owners’ objectives." Clearly, Chelsea’s players, ex-managers and, in a manner of speaking, supporters "have all benefited from Abramovich’s choice of hobby." However, int'l football "tells a different story." The Spanish team "won the last World Cup and the past two European championships." The German team is "invariably contenders." The England team "is an int'l joke." But there is more than sentiment at stake. The long-term sustainability of English football "hinges on the game being ultimately controlled by those who love it most." We are all fascinated by Henry VIII, but "no one wants him back on the throne" (FT, 11/23).