Football has changed a lot during the last decade and the focus is now on immediate success.
From fans on social media to the short-life span of Premier League managers, everything points to the instant gratification that has engulfed the game in this country. Although it is true across the globe, it is even more accentuated in England due to the large sums of money that are on offer in the top flight. Newcastle United are suffering the effects of failure ourselves after a season without the television revenue split between the Premier League clubs.
However, now could be the right time to abandon the short-termism that has become endemic in the Premier League and plan for what is around the corner. Brexit has become a prominent topic in this country and for good reason. It is going to lead to wholesale changes across all industries. Football may not be one of the primary concerns when Theresa May heads into negotiations with the EU, but it would be ignorant to suggest it won’t feel the effects.
The transfer window is a time when the instant gratification among football fans is most pronounced. Florian Lejeune was announced as our second signing of the summer earlier this week and there was anger on social media that the deal hadn’t been completed sooner. Minutes after the unveiling, local journalists were inundated with questions asking if any other deals were close and who are the players likely to follow the Frenchman to Tyneside.
Another hot topic has been our transfer record. Other clubs in the Premier League are breaking theirs on a regular basis, but ours is the longest standing. It hasn’t been broken since 2005, when the injury-plagued Michael Owen arrived from Real Madrid for £16 million. Although it is poor that it has stood as long as it has, maybe this summer isn’t the time for huge spending.
Additions are needed and some spending will have to take place if we are to avoid a relegation battle, but our squad isn’t as bad as it is being made out to be in the national media. If we spend smartly on the areas that need to be addressed, we can take a step on the road to recovery from our most recent relegation and improve our financial position for the coming years. Rafa Benitez will have understood that relegation would have an effect at some point and a smaller spend this summer could be that.
Anyway, aside from spending on transfers, it could be a much better decision to increase the budget for the academy and youth recruitment, as we approach a potential revolution in English football, caused by Brexit.
What are the possible effects of Brexit?
Despite the potential game-changing effect that it will have on the sport, it has been researched by few people and the possible consequences for football are not clear. There have been calls to make footballers exempt from post-Brexit immigration controls, but FA chairman Greg Clarke has stated that he would lobby the Government to block ‘journeyman’ players from the EU moving to England.
Some of the best research into the possible effects of Brexit has been done by the computer game Football Manager. They included three different scenarios in the game. The first two left the regulations for footballers relatively unchanged, with freedom of movement still being allowed, which means that EU players will still be able to move to England without work permits being an issue.
The third option is interesting, as it involves EU player being judged by the same work permit criteria that non-EU players face at the moment. If this points-based system was to become a reality, each player would be based on their transfer fee, salary, national team and the club that they are coming from. N’Golo Kante and Ander Herrera are two notable players that wouldn’t have failed to earn a work permit based on these guidelines.
It is too soon to state categorically what effect Brexit would have and there could be a completely different result than the three discussed above. However, as it remains unclear, the research done by Football Manager is a good base to speculate from.
How can we plan for Brexit? Is it possible to use it to our advantage?
As I’ve written above, now is the time to invest more money into the academy and youth recruitment. Every Premier League club should be doing that to ensure they aren’t hit hard by Brexit, if the result is one that makes it difficult to sign EU players. This should encompass better facilities, better coaching, better scouts and a better plan for the youth players that come through our academy.
In truth, we haven’t done poorly over the last ten years. We haven’t done as well as we could when it comes to developing our own players, but there have been some success stories. Andy Carroll and Fraser Forster are the most obvious, as both went on to play for England. Regardless of your view of him, Paul Dummett is another success story. If we produced more players of his ability, we would not only have a better squad, but we would have homegrown players with a sell-on value.
Even if Brexit doesn’t end up having a huge effect on football, it is still worth investing big in the youth set-up. Transfer fees will continue to increase and English players will have a premium. It is now priceless to produce a player like Harry Kane or Marcus Rashford and we need to start developing our own first-team players if we truly want to push on as a club. We will not be in the market for a world class player in the immediate future, but if we can produce our own, who knows where we could go as a club?
There will be a few clubs to massively benefit from having a strong academy over the next decade. Newcastle need to make sure that we are one of them.