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Grexit Stage Fulham: How Eurozone Economics are Impacting The Whites this Summer

“Grexit” is the portmanteau coined in recent times to succinctly describe the potential exit of Greece from the Eurozone. The scenario has come to a head in recent weeks with Greek President Alexis Tsipras leading both his Government and Country to the brink and back several times.

The macroeconomic uncertainty of Greece’s fate has played havoc with the European financial markets and in an ironic twist of fate is now potentially hampering Fulham’s very own Grexit, as Kostas Mitroglou is attempted to be sold.

Kostas-Mitroglou

alexis tsipras red

Indeed, wider economic and financial issues are playing an important role in Fulham’s offseason. Aside from player movement, there was the announcement earlier this week that the delay to our big home kit unveiling is down to the lack of a confirmed sponsorship agreement to go on the front. Attracting a marquee sponsor will have been one of the toughest financial challenges facing Fulham’s senior leadership structure this off-season.

With Marathonbet presumably exercising their right to vacate the front of Fulham’s shirts at the earliest contractual opportunity following relegation, Fulham will have been left with something of a gaping hole in the profit and loss account. Marathonbet’s deal was the largest in the club’s history.  Replacing that deal to any decent level will have proven extremely difficult given the reduced exposure the Championship gives you, especially given our largely dire performances last season hardly mean Sky are in a rush to schedule us at primetime.

Hull City’s recent announcement that they were losing global sports betting brand 12Bet as their lead sponsor and replacing them with local tourist attraction Flamingoland is perhaps the starkest recent example of the drop off in the calibre of sponsor once a team drops out of the Premier League.

In financial terms, it is estimated that a mid-table Premier League club can earn shirt sponsorship well into seven figures per season. Fulham’s deal with Marathonbet was reportedly said to be worth between £2m – £3m per season. The average Championship sponsorship package is believed to be mid six figures. The drop off is significant.

My fellow Fulham Supporters Trust director Mike Gregg has previously done an in-depth look at Fulham’s finances over on a rival website, which is well worth finding if you wish to look at the numbers in greater detail.

Going back to title of this article, the Grexit; what the wider macroeconomic situation in Europe has meant for Fulham this summer is broadly that we have been sellers in a market with very few buyers.

At close of business on today (15th July), the Euro was trading at near its 52 week high against the Pound at €1.42 per £1.  For European clubs, this translates into very expensive prices when buying players from outside of the single currency Eurozone.

In comparison, this time last summer the Euro was worth €1.25 v GBP. This rise of 17 cents in a 12 month period represents a nearly 14% jump in import/export costs for businesses, or in this case football clubs.  This means that those clubs whose daily trade is in Euros are now significantly weaker when they deal with clubs trading in Pound Stirling.  Buying a player in Pounds has never been more expensive.

This brings us back to Kostas Mitroglou, whose cumbersome transfer is now beginning to look like well thought out retribution for the Elgin Marbles. Fulham are reportedly hawking the striker around Europe with demands of a £1m loan fee and a £7.5m buyout clause. Compared to one year ago, £1m is now €170,000 more expensive, with £7.5m now €1,275,000 more expensive.

As a result, there are two potential outcomes, either European clubs will have to pay the increased prices, or Fulham will have to lower their price demands. Neither scenario is ideal and perhaps explains why Fulham’s own Grexit is becoming as protracted as its ideological big brother’s.

With several of Fulham’s international playing staff in the queue for an exit of their own, the enduring financial turmoil in Europe, and resulting impact on currency rates, is likely to be a significant hindrance to the club securing them transfers out of England.  Bryan Ruiz’s departure from south west London is a prime example.  A year overdue, Sporting Lisbon’s eventual acceptance to go against the prevailing economic outlook and pay any sort of transfer fee for the Costa Rican is a result Fulham’s management should be applauded for securing. Should Alastair Mackintosh and co secure a similar deal for Kostas Mitroglou and Fernando Amorebieta’s exits, their achievement should not be without appreciation.

Unfortunately for Fulham, the movement in European currencies has also come at the wrong time for incoming transfers. This summer has seen a shift in the transfer paradigm at Fulham. For the first transfer window in recent memory, we are concentrating our recruitment on transfers from within England. So far, not a single arrival has come from Europe, so we are yet to take advantage of the favourable exchange rate movement that, conversely to the scenario above, makes players cheaper to buy from Europe than they have been before.

This summer is providing a series of financial challenges to Fulham off the field.  As I’ve shown above, many of these are well out of the club’s control. With the kit unveiling and the conclusion of the transfer window, the next month and a half will be a fascinating time, and for now it’s worth reading the business pages as well as the sport.

 

COYW

Thank You Giorgos

When the bell tolled on the August 2012 transfer window, a dark shadow had been cast over Motspur Park. Like something out of a J.K.Rowling novel, Tottenham’s ‘he who shall not be named’ chaiman had left what felt like an indelible mark on the Fulham playing squad with the pillaging of Dempsey and Dembele.

Martin Jol and Alistair McIntosh have a cracker of a petronas charm* though. For the second transfer window in a row, they somehow conjured that rare species, a top line international centre midfielder, out of thin air. Unlike the previous manifestation, Mahammadou Diarra, who was available because of previous injuries, our latest knight in aging armour, was a victim of the financial crisis.

Age and the crumbling domestic economy had somehow led Hundred and 124 cap Greek captain, stalwart and modern day Zeus reincarnate, Giorgos Karagounis, available on a free transfer following his release from Panathanaikos. Well, bravo Mr Manager and Mr CEO.

You know the back-story; Karagounis is a legend in his homeland – veteran domestic stalwart with Athens’ giants Panathanaikos and, more importantly, 2004 European Championship winning talisman for Greece and captain for the important austerity era Euro 2012 campaign, where an unjust booking kept him out of the bail-out quarter final with Germany. Along with spells in Portugal, at Benfica, and Italy, with Inter Milan, there are not many more experienced players in the European game than old George.

 

 

Having released our previous captain and rightful fan favourite, Danny Murphy, at the tender age of 35, the signing of now 36 year old Karagounis was initially met with some scepticism.

Sure, he wasn’t Plan A. He probably wasn’t Plan B or even Plan C. Did that seem to bother him? Not one bit. Here was a player who, despite being one of the greats in the modern canon of European football, was simply delighted to be given his shot in the Premier League, and in our fragile state of hearts and minds, that was damn good enough.

It will be a sad day when Giorgos leaves, following the impending expiration of his one-year contract. For Kara was a tremendous asset to Fulham this season. He said it best himself in a recent thank you to the fans interview with the club, “I’m a player that gives my all to a team and to a game, I think the fans see that and appreciate it. They like their players to give their all to the cause. I gave my all to every single game.”

It is not surprising that this humble servant felt it necessary to thank the fans. I’ve never met Giorgos Karagounis, but I’d bet my every last drachma he’s a class act in person. Not since John Pantsil and his ceremonious lap of honour, have we seen a Fulham player of such exuberance and graciousness on the Craven Cottage pitch. Seeing Giorgos walk the sombre “lap of appreciation” after the Liverpool defeat, he was accompanied by his three children and looked genuinely thankful for his chance to play at Fulham, and those fans who took him to heart over the past 9 months.

Giorgos’ energy and passion were central in any success we had this season. But, to merely sideline his impact as just motivational, would be a crass understatement. For much of the season, Giorgos was the best midfielder we had. His two goals, in back-to-back fixtures against Blackpool and Wigan in January will justifiably be nominated for the FFC goal of the season. His energizer bunny–esque celebrations would certainly win celebration of the year too.

Statistically, Karagounis completed 898 passes at a 90% success rate in his 28 appearances. He won 133 duels at a 63% success rate, and 37 tackles at a 79% success rate. 31 interceptions, 16 clearances and 10 blocked shots are excellent complimentary statistics defensively, but perhaps most importantly, Giorgos was our most fouled player, suffering 64 indiscretions this season**, while committing only 29 for the cost of a total of 3 yellow cards. Steve Sidwell in comparison, suffered only 29 fouls, while committing 62, at a cost of 8 yellows and 2 reds. Ill-discipline can cost your team points, while winning fouls can win you them.***

Finally, in letting Giorgos go, I have a nagging fear that history is repeating itself, and we are letting a player and leader of importance leave for nothing on the basis of age and not a lot else.

Regardless, Giorgos Karagounis, Efkaristo (Thank You).

COYW

*If you don’t get this, read Harry Potter. There’s no football for the next three months, you may as well find something to fill the time.

**Theatricality comes somewhat naturally to a man who could easily become an actor upon retirement, as such, certain “fouls” were perhaps a tad soft.

***Had we been given a free kick for a foul on Karagounis in the build up to Southampton’s equaliser at St Mary’s, we’d have ended the season circa £700,000 better off.