The Lance Armstong of the Premier League

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Arsenał before the Europa League game against Sporting CP, September 3, 2023. (Shutterstock/Maciej Rogowski Photo)

Today the Premier League is decided. Arsenal are two points behind Manchester City and City must drop points at the Etihad against West Ham for us to claim our first PL title since 2003/04. So, in other words it requires a miracle if we are to be crowned champions.

But as most people know, there are (according to the charges) 115 reasons why City will win the League for a sixth time in seven seasons. These 115 reasons have transformed the club from an also-ran to the world’s richest club through various forms of (alleged 115) breaches of the league’s financial rules. These (alleged) 115 violations have transformed an anonymous and gray club, which throughout most of its history has been a mid-table team at best, into the world’s best club, almost overnight.

In 2008, the club was bought by Sheikh Mansour from Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), a prince from an oil-based dictator state. This acquisition had an immediate positive effect on City’s league positions. It took them three seasons before they lifted the Premier League trophy for the first time since 1968 (when they then won the old First division). They won the Second Division under Kevin Keegan as recently as 2002.

Football in England is vulgar capitalism in free dressage, where clubs are bought and owned by American billionaires and Arab oil dictatorships. All the Russian oligarchs were kicked out when Ukraine was invaded. There are still some rules to ensure fair play (yes, it sounds a bit ridiculous). The so-called Financial Fair Play rules are to ensure that the owners cannot just pump unlimited amounts of money into their club. Perhaps the rules can be compared to the advice given by a shady doping doctor to a bodybuilder that he should not pump unlimited amounts of anabolic steroids into his body. Just enough to get much bigger but doesn’t die of an overdose. That’s how FFP works, it’s allowed to pump artificial money into a club, but not so much that the illusion of Fair Play, that games are decided on the pitch, dies. The question is therefore whether City, Abu Dhabi and their sheikh have broken this fine line 115 times, or if they have managed to keep the financial doping within a very lax regulatory framework.

One should perhaps not try to mix morality and Premier League football, as the Premier League appears immoral in so many ways, but as a supporter one must try to hold on to the illusions that morality exists, or at least can be reintroduced. Otherwise, what is the point? It is morally reprehensible that dictatorships can whitewash their dictatorship activities at the Etihad Stadium and other stadiums in England, and it is morally wrong that a club suddenly gets access to an inexhaustible bag of money that others do not have access to. It is a healthy rule that a club can use more or less what they earn through their footballing business, not use what a rich dictator-son has inherited from blood money.

So that’s why I consider Arsenal to be the real winners of the Premier League for the second year in a row regardless of the results of the final day of the league. Probably, in the same way that Liverpool fans probably consider themselves league winners in the last few seasons before we won last year. Manchester City don’t count, and their merits don’t count. I totally agree with what Norwegian comedian and Gooner Johan Golden’s said in Norwegian paper Dagbladet the other day: “Manchester City – the world’s biggest cheating club”. City is on par with Lance Armstrong and Ben Johnson, and their PL titles has as much merit as Ben Johnson’s Olympic gold medal in 1988 and Armstrong’s multiple Tour de France titles. As a friend of a friend said: Competing with City is like competing with East German sledgehammer throwers in the ‘80s.

With hope for a Premier League Sunday that perhaps can help keep alive the illusion that English football isn’t dead but just temporarily morally sedated (by money).

Epilogue: Yesterday went as expected: City won 3-1 at home to the Hammers and “won” the Premier League. We won at home to Everton and became the real Premier League winners for a second consecutive season 😉

Image from Transfermarkt’s overview of City’s league positions throughout history:

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Helge Chr. Pedersen is Associate Professor in History in the Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education at UiT - The Arctic University of Norway, Campus Alta. Helge has research and teaching interests in the Cultural History of the Multi Ethnic Northern Norway, Norwegain Sports History and Sport, Indigeneity Ethnicity and Identity.

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