|Has money ruined the beautiful game, or helped reinvent it?|
Written by fitzochris on Wednesday, 31st Jul 2013 13:42
With the mooted £85 million transfer of Gareth Bale from Tottenham to Real Madrid, the debate about money in the modern game has reared its head once again.
On the one side, the money spent by sheiks, oligarchs and kings has been branded obscene by some quarters, especially as most countries are still tightly in the grip of a global recession. On the other side, however, it is argued that the influx of money into the game has reinvigorated it – especially in Britain, where, just over 20 years ago, football as a popular sport was quite literally on its knees.
By the late 1980s, English football was beginning to unravel. Since the glory of the World Cup win in 1966, the game had become mired by hooliganism. The 'working man's sport' seemed to mirror the plight of the working classes in Thatcher's Britain. Grounds were crumbling and unsafe, facilities were poor, admission prices were rising. The product on the park was a far cry from the days of Moore, Hurst and Charlton. Violence had reached almost military sophistication, with organised gangs seemingly spending more time and effort arranging tactics and battleplans than the managers of the teams they followed.
Football's reinvention came at a critical – in fact literally terminal – time for the game. A series of separate disasters, in Heysel, Bradford and Hillsborough, resulted in the tragic death of hundreds of fans. These off the pitch events forced clubs and authorities to drag the game into the modern world, and turn it from a relic of a bygone age into a world-leading example of a premier entertainment event.
New stadia emerged from the crumbling terraces in towns and cities across the country. Shiny, plastic, all-seated, family-friendly places. They were safe, comfortable, easier to police.
A crackdown on hooliganism put the lid back on something which at one point had threatened football's future.
Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch took a gamble with his newly launched satellite television service and started to invest unprecedented sums of money into the elite end of the game. This, coupled with the advent of a European Champions League, brought the promise of pots of gold at the end of the goal line.
English football was quick to exploit the potential. A new Premier League marketed itself aggressively, attracting affluent new spectators prepared to spend thousands of pounds to become a passive part of an upwardly mobile pastime. International players, once the preserve of the Spanish and Italian leagues, followed the paychecks across the channel. Oligarchs and Arabs ploughed yet more money into the latest fashionable status symbol – their very own football club.
Today, English football's top flight is dominant in Europe, and often claims to be the best league in the world. Attendances, and revenues, are at all-time highs.
But at what price?
Many clubs, let alone the players that pull on their shirts, have lost most of the roots which bound them to their communities. Lifelong fans can no longer afford the ticket prices to go to games.
And while some money slowly trickles through the system, the vast majority goes to the purchase of fake-tudor mansions and super cars – the preserve of players with more ego than talent.
Whether or not football's rise is sustainable is of great debate; many of the highest achievers are bankrolled by sugar daddies and, for all intents and purposes, insolvent.
While it's a dramatic and obvious example of a sport which has reinvented itself, it could be argued that football's experience is one which the mistakes should be learned from – rather than emulated.
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
Blogs by fitzochris
Blogs 30 bloggers
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Swans 3/4/01 by wessex_exile
Good afternoon everyone, North Wilts calling. We’ve all no doubt heard (and used) variations of the expression “[i]strange times we’re going through[/i]” during this crisis. They certainly are, and without a doubt the term crisis is apt, with deaths and positive tests seemingly rising almost exponentially at the moment. But we’ll get through this, and when we do, I firmly believe as a society we’ll be better for it. We’ll be a society better connected to our family, friends and neighbours, and more caring for those that need support. More so, we'll be a society in tune with the concept that we don’t have to burn fossil fuels to conduct business, we do have the technology available to avoid it, we’ll all be pretty adept at using it, and will all be far more comfortable with using it. It's an ill wind...
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Macclesfield 4/4/92 by wessex_exile
Good afternoon everyone, I sincerely hope you are all doing well? Today would have been a vital home match against Mansfield, struggling at the wrong end of the league this time after a couple of seasons flattering to deceive at the sharp end. Since the last blog, we now know that all football below the National League is cancelled, and the season expunged from records. A tough break for the likes of Jersey Bulls in the Combined Counties League Division 1, who had won all of their 27 matches and already promoted, but then these are very strange times indeed. I sincerely hope the EFL season can be completed somehow, but I’m increasingly pessimistic about whether it will be.
Matches of Yesteryear - Wycombe v U's 6/3/99 by wessex_exile
Here we are again, so greetings to all you social distancers and self-isolationists, I sincerely hope you are all well. This would have been our third fixture since the suspension of all football in the UK, and with more and more measures being implemented by the government to minimise social gatherings, including extending the football league break until at least the end of April, one wonders whether we’ll ever finish this season? There have been numerous measures announced, including £50m from the EFL, to minimise the financial burden on us smaller clubs, but Robbie Cowling has gone on record stating that “[i]…to really survive and go forward there is going to be help needed from the Premier League or elsewhere[/i]” – quite right Robbie.
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Bournemouth 27/4/99 by wessex_exile
Tonight would have been our home fixture against table-toppers Crewe, and a chance to avenge the draw at Gresty Rd which really should have been a victory. However, what’s really interesting about it for me is that myself and probably a considerable number of you out there would have been watching it on i-Follow – exactly what our chairman suggested should have been the first option the EFL considered before deciding to postpone league fixtures. Ho hum, wonder how we would have got on…
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Yeovil 15/8/09 by wessex_exile
…and so we enter the start of the coronavirus-enforced football league postponement period for 2019/20. As things stand, we will emerge on 4th April away at Bradford City, with nine fixtures (some teams, including Swindon, Crewe and FGR have ten) still to complete over the following 21 days, though I’m sure the end of the season could be extended if needs be. Whether we do restart on 4th April only time will tell.