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Money matters: A financial Hammering

The global financial meltdown has now reached Iceland and it spells bad news for West Ham United, whose owner and chairman is a major shareholder of the country's second biggest bank, Landsbanki, which looks set to be declared insolvent.

Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson was chairman of Landsbanki until he was sacked with the rest of the bank's board on Tuesday as the Icelandic government took control to stop it collapsing - though some observers fear the bank will inevitably slip into insolvency.

So what does it mean for West Ham? Well, in the short-term nothing too dramatic should happen; with Gudmundsson's stake in Landsbanki held by a different holding company to the one his stake in West Ham is held by.

However, in the medium-to-long-term things look a lot more worrying, despite bullish comments to the contrary from the club.

With Landsbanki's value going through the floor Gudmundsson will have less capital to invest in the club, which will impact on Gianfranco Zola's ability to strengthen his squad in January; the Sardinian manager will have to sell to buy.

Add in the fact that West Ham will soon be forced to hand Sheffield United around £30million by way of a payout over the Carlos Tevez affair and the owner, and therefore the club itself, will soon find itself short of cash. But this is not the first time the current economic climate has impacted on West Ham or Gudmundsson personally.

The collapse last month of West Ham's shirt sponsor, travel company XL, could leave the club with a shortfall of £5million of budgeted for income. And XL going under was personal blow for Gudmundsson, who acted as one of the guarantors of a £163million bank loan given to XL. The logical long-term step for Gudmundsson would be to put West Ham up for sale, but that could be easier said than done in the current economic climate.

Italian football always seems to be in turmoil of one kind or another and right now is no different with the 20 Serie A clubs threatening to break away from Serie B in a move that will effectively sound the death knell for Italian football's second tier.

The threat of a new 'Super League' emerged after club chairmen from the two divisions failed to reach an agreement as to how much the Serie A clubs should handout to their Serie B counterparts by way of "charitable" contribution.

The Serie B clubs are demanding €90million, which would be divided equally by its 22 teams, but Serie A are only prepared to offer €65 million. With both sides at loggerheads and no sign of a compromise, Serie B could be about to sign their own death warrant.

With a comparatively miniscule TV deal (though better than the one they didn't have at all last season) and just a few hundred supporters attending each home game Serie B rely on the financial handout from Serie A because they are unable to generate enough income on their own.

If the Serie A clubs make good on their threat to break away from the current structure governed by the Lega Nazionale Professionisti they would no longer be beholden to contribute to Serie B, and without that effective subsidy and with no means of sustaining itself financially, Serie B would collapse and thereby destroy the structure of Italian football.

It all boils down to greed, on the part of both Serie A and Serie B, both want as much cash as they can get their hands on. Serie A particularly has long coveted the model adopted in England where the Premier League broke off from the Football League in 1992 and which led to incredible increases in television and sponsorship revenues.

But to seek those riches at the expense of the overall health of the domestic game is plainly wrong and could have damaging repercussions for the health of Italian football for generations to come.

While some might see it as the footballing or economic equivalent of Darwinism it is a damning indictment on World Champions' domestic game.

Stop the presses. Sepp Blatter has said something, and it's not fatuous, morally bankrupt or ridiculous.

The FIFA president has spoken out against the current trend of foreign investors assuming control of football clubs, claiming the situation is "out of control" and has asked the European Union to act to try to protect clubs from unscrupulous takeovers.

How heartening it is to hear the head of football's world governing body making salient points about the future of the game and its current problems, but it is also frustrating as it draws into sharp focus some of his less impressive outbursts.

Just a few short years ago the same wise and sage sports politician, who has likened the trade of football clubs to the ease of buying a football shirt, suggested that women play the game in "tighter shorts" to accentuate their feminine charms. (Why not go the whole hog and throw in topless ice cream wrestling instead of penalties, Sepp?)

And that's the problem with Blatter, for every good idea he voices there seems to be a corresponding faux pas which damages his standing in the game, particularly amongst his critics, of whom there are many.

In an age when even mediocre and journeyman footballers end their careers set for life, Blatter said that players like Cristiano Ronaldo were modern day slaves. Or his other classic, that there should be no more drawn games. And, of course, there are the ever-present allegations of corruption levelled at Blatter himself and the administrators and organisation he presides over.

Love him or loathe him, respect or revile him, Blatter's latest comments hit accurately at the heart of a matter. He seems to share the concerns of observers who fear that investors are profiteering from the game. Football fans, the game's oft-forgotten stakeholder, must hope that Blatter's statements will actually influence and shape the game's future and not prove to be a meaningless diatribe.


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