TTT Free Friday: 2nd December 2022
Free Friday will cover our work across The Tomkins Times’ Substack network, with it running via an opt-in or opt-out newsletter on The Main Hub (where almost all of the community commenting takes place), but covering TTT’s four sub-Substacks, or spokes.
First up - and it’s a topic that is highlighted in more detail below - is TTT legend Jeff discussing the merits of the potential European Super League:
I am certain everyone here has heard of ESPN. They have been looking for something akin to the Super League for years and years. The problem is as with Jimmy Hill and George Eastham, and Bosman, no-one in the world of football journalism or punditry was paying attention. Today, no one in that world is paying attention to streaming but the NFL and MLB and the NHL and the NBA are and so are Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and YouTube. The NFL sees streaming fundamentally changes the financial reality of the game in how much money will come from this source. In football there was the put-your-head-in-the-sand attitude to the broadcasting of matches live will never happen and we all know what happened in regard to live broadcasts.
Football faces a problem that it was a badly run business if indeed it was a business before Covid and lost billions and in the world that has emerged in the past couple of years been unable to generate the money needed not only to pay its bills but to service its debts. This means that football has to find a way to be viable. If you are a business and in financial trouble you can find a way to increase revenues without increasing costs, or you can cut costs or do a combination of increasing revenues and cut costs.
To me today the only way clubs at the top end of football - whether in Germany, Italy, Spain or England - can have a future is find a way to massively increase revenues. In the long term that will be streaming and in the short term something akin to the Super League with some sort of revenue sharing will enable clubs to cut out the greedy bastards at UEFA. I want to note that the clubs that are owned by those who are in the football business for good public relations purposes are small and the number owned by venture capitalists - whether American or not - are large and growing.
For football to survive it will change and this is the reality behind the Super League. It would generate roughly 300 million a year for Liverpool and any where from 50 to 100 million indirectly for Liverpool and also provide money to help clubs in the lower divisions and some of the poorer Premier League clubs.
Could there be a better answer? Yes but the question is what is it.
TTT Main Hub
To start the week Daniel Zambartas put together an in-depth look at the media’s reaction to the changes in the Reds’ hierarchy, and in particular the news that Julian Ward will leave at the end of the season; along with Ian Graham who handed his resignation in during the summer.
Liverpool.com on Ian Graham leaving (Josh Williams)
“Once Graham began working for Liverpool — the club he'd supported his whole life — he spent his entire first year building recruitment applications to assess players and their performances. He'd previously generated models to evaluate players strictly in accordance with their impact on points and goal difference, and it was time for him to refine his work within a club environment.
"Any analyst not working on recruitment is literally wasting their time," he told an audience of listeners at the annual StatsBomb football conference in 2021, also claiming that '50 per cent of transfers fail' during his fascinating talk, detailing his findings that certain players deliver points over the course of a season, whereas others cost points.
“As early as 2006, he was judging players based on their influence on their team's points tally, claiming that Danny Gabbidon was worth 8.45 points per season to Alan Pardew's West Ham United side, compared to Paul Konchesky, who actually cost his team 7.64 points per season. "There are players who shine through in the data, but don’t naturally shine through for your typical football fan or even your typical scout," he once said.
[NOTE: Over a decade ago, Paul Tomkins noted that 50% of transfers fail, after analysing what was then 3,000 transfers, and Dan Kennett dubbed it Tomkins’ Law. And in Paul Tomkins’ and Oliver Anderson’s 2006 analytics book, The Red Review (on the 2005/06 season), the points won/lost by players was covered. That said, after that, Ian Graham became an elite analysis and recruitment guru who helped Liverpool procure Jürgen Klopp and many elite players on the way to winning every single trophy imaginable, and no one has heard of Tomkins since. Rumours that Tomkins wrote this paragraph about himself in the third person like a classic narcissist are possibly exaggerated.]
“Recruitment was the reason he was brought in by FSG, he claims. As Liverpool climbed from mid-table mediocrity to the summit of the Premier League under Klopp, it was the insights harvested by Graham's department which guided Edwards as the club's sporting director through the turbulent waters of the transfer market. His appointment wasn't just a box-ticking exercise as is often the case in football, he was actually being listened to by the people who mattered.”
There was also a look at possible reasons for Liverpool being put up for sale, and a comparison with Manchester United who - apparently - are also on the market.
The Athletic compare Man United and Liverpool from a buyer’s perspective (Matt Slater)
“Laurie Pinto, senior partner at Pinto Capital and a football finance veteran who describes himself as “an advisor to presidents and paupers”, said: “If Liverpool and Manchester United are at the same price tag, it’s a total no-brainer. Manchester United are just a much bigger club, bigger stadium, bigger fanbase. It would be closer if Liverpool were still much better than them on the pitch but they’re not.
“This will feel like a once-in-a-universe moment to someone and that is what will make United look like a bargain.
“Pinto believes United are more like a top NFL team, which is why he is valuing them at close to £5.5bn.
“The shift in US/UK interest rates will affect this a little bit — we’re now 10 per cent off (the pound’s) bottom — but United are just a much, much bigger club than Chelsea and Liverpool,” he explains. “Their fanbase is twice the size of Liverpool’s and about four times the size of Chelsea’s.”
“Sam Mabon, head of corporate at Brabners, an independent law firm with offices in both cities, broadly agrees.
“The true value opportunity for both revolves around their ability to extract revenue from their global appeal, and it’s in this area United sets itself apart.
“The success of the Sir Alex Ferguson era, combined with the advent of Premier League broadcasting, allowed United to redefine what football clubs can achieve commercially. The club remains an outlier in terms of global following — with a fanbase of more than 1.1billion and 50 per cent more social media followers than Liverpool — and the ability to leverage this fanbase is where the real value lies.
“On-field accomplishment is a key driver in financial performance, and Liverpool’s success under Jurgen Klopp means it is forecast to overtake United in revenue soon. However, due to the brand heritage and global reach, United represents the better platform to achieve a greater return on investment if they can get back to winning ways.
Another post from this week was a chance to read one of the chapters from Paul’s most recent book This Red Planet.
Chapter 7 from 'This Red Planet: How Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool FC Enthralled and Conquered The World'
To buy the book in paperback or on Kindle, see the links below. Or skip past the links to read the chapter.
Or see the Amazon store local to your country, if there is one (albeit not all will sell the paperback version).
Chapter Seven: Goals Galore – A New Club Record
A record-breaking season of goals – 147, to mirror the maximum break in snooker (which also involves a lot of reds) – started at Norwich, first game, after just 25 minutes: a back-to-front move that saw Virgil van Dijk, after winning possession, lay the ball to James Milner, who pinged the ball out to the far side, and Trent Alexander-Arnold. His low pass-cum-cross into the box was miscontrolled by Mo Salah, but, in the first of his many assists (this one inadvertent), it fell straight to an alert Diogo Jota, who swept the ball under the keeper. Salah then assisted Roberto Firmino for the second, and the game was won when, lurking on the edge of a packed box at a corner – at which Liverpool’s giants were being blocked and man-handled – the Egyptian opened his own account as the ball fell to him, and he curled it towards the top corner.
It was fitting that Jota scored the opening goal. Although his season petered out, Jota was by far the top scorer of the Reds’ vital opening goals in games: ten, to six from Sadio Mané and five from Mo Salah. Next came Ibrahima Konaté of all people, with three; tied with Taki Minamino, albeit the Japanese’s goals were in lesser competitions, bar the vital strike in league game 37 which took the title race to the final day. In terms of scoring the ‘winner’ (the last goal in a one-goal victory), Mané did so four times, with Salah and Divock Origi on two apiece. (Origi got a two-for at Wolves, when his injury time opener was also the winner.)
Finally on The Main Hub there a brief look at the on-going saga of the European Super League, as well as setting up a debate for subscribers to discuss the current context as news broke that it might never get off the ground…
Yesterday on the site, subscriber Mortiman noted:
"Martyn Ziegler writing in The Times said that the Super League is dead. Juventus in disarray after their entire board resign in the midst of a [financial] investigation, leaving only Barca and Real left of the teams initially wanting the ESL. That combined with FSG and the Glazers looking to sell means that most clubs are out. FSG probably sees the writing on the wall."
And Barca are a basket-case of a club, financially - living on borrowed money, and maybe borrowed time – are not the best advert for sustainably run clubs (but might argue that they need to overspend to compete in Europe, albeit they keep dropping out at the group stages).
Are Juventus and Barcelona proving that there needs to be a new financial model to combat the financial dopers, or are they simply proving how badly run they’ve been, and that the ESL would be a way to clear stupidly-accrued debts?
…this small TTT side-Substack is simply about redressing the negatively overload that tends to permeate the internet, to find the genuine positives.
1. In Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool still have the best manager in the world. Pound for pound – literally and in terms of sterling spent – no one has done better in world football over the last 12 years, if you look at those who have also won various league titles and Champions Leagues (and reached finals and come close in other league title-races when never the richest club, nor the favourites).
2. In Pep Lijnders, the Reds have a world-class and innovative coach, who may yet be capable of taking over from the German – but who perhaps wouldn't have been the choice of those who have left or are leaving the club, whose job it should be to evaluate and appoint managers. (But we're not at the management-handover any time soon – Klopp's current contract with Liverpool is set to run until the summer of 2026, and as long as Lijnders can help keep fresh, as other clubs catch up, that should help Klopp.)
3. In the shorter term, the World Cup time, while now suddenly full of distractions, departures, and upheaval, still leaves an ideal opportunity to refresh all the injured and half-fit players, and to assess the issues that dogged the first half of the season. Just having a break will help a lot of the players, while only Virgil van Dijk and Darwin Núñez are the only outfield players likely to start every game their country plays in Qatar, with only seven Reds at the tournament (Alisson has an easy ride in goal for Brazil). This a big chance for Klopp and Lijnders to deeply assess things, albeit you'd ideally want the analytics people involved too, and that may not be as smooth right now; and ideally the January recruitment won't be scuppered by the unrest.
Transfer Hub and Deep Dives
While lighting up the World Cup with a couple of excellent goals for Ghana, the player who Mizgan focused on this week was Mohammed Kudus, who not only has a name in common with Salah but also some playing traits and might be able to come in and replace the Egyptian in the long term.
Some of his stats are certainly impressive, although with the caveat that he’s playing in the Dutch league for Ajax (though that was okay for Suarez!).
Finally, Chris looked at the first stint as manager of Kenny Dalglish.
There is one striking and very relevant similarity between his appointment in 2011 and his first back in 1985. On both occasions he arrived in the manager's chair with the club in disarray, albeit for vastly different reasons and prevailing background circumstances. For his second tenure he appeared in the trailing comet of Hicks and Gillett’s disastrous ownership, of Rafa’s sacking, of court cases and near-insolvency, and then of - Roy Hodgson. Kenny came in as the unification candidate, and who else had the stature to do that at that time?
Kenny’s first reign was more or less book-ended by the terrible twin H-bombs of Liverpool’s history, as Paul Tomkins memorably described them, of Heysel and Hillsborough. although starting straight after the smoking ruins of the Heysel Stadium,Although he continued for a while post-Hillsborough, it would be difficult not to conclude that it was Hillsborough that ended his first managerial career at Liverpool. Perhaps that’s why he still felt he had unfinished business, spurring him on, even beyond the disappointment of not being considered for the job when Roy Hodgson was being appointed.
The Small Print
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Again: separate paid subscriptions are required for the specialist spokes. (Albeit there will be free content on these from time to time, and as with Substack, there is the option to receive free previews via email where applicable.)
The ZenDen is all about me finding positives, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t negatives. I provide a more rounded analysis on The Main Hub, but the ZenDen is for those who feel like they’re drowning in doom-and-gloom reactions and hysterical hot-takes