|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.
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Matches of Yesteryear - Cardiff v U's 11/4/98 by wessex_exile
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Matches of Yesteryear - Reading v U's 11/11/2000 by wessex_exile
So, after months of uncertainty, here we finally are at the start of a well-deserved play-off campaign. I say well-deserved, though in truth the play-offs ought to have been our minimum aspiration back in August. But sometimes life throws you a curve ball – no one could have predicted back then what the world was going to become, that hundreds of thousands would perish, and that most clubs today are probably fighting for their very existence. In fact, as already mentioned by [b]MFB[/b] and [b]Durham[/b], no one could have predicted that were it not for a stirring 3-0 victory at Carlisle in our last match back in March, we wouldn’t have even been in the play-offs. During lockdown, I have been reassured by the honest and stateman-like announcements from our Chairman keeping us all updated, and never more grateful that we have him looking after the club.
Matches of Yesteryear - Millwall v U's 14/4/99 by wessex_exile
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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Accrington Stanley 13/1/04 by wessex_exile
Happy Saturday everyone…well, less of the happy actually, with rain falling freely since yesterday afternoon. Still, good weather to be in lockdown for, takes away that feeling that you might be missing out on some quality time outside. In an open letter yesterday to all supporters of EFL clubs, chairman Rick Parry stated “[i]…with or without spectators, delivering a successful conclusion to the 2019/20 season remains our goal to ensure the integrity of our competitions[/i]”. If that can be achieved, it appears almost certain these will be matches behind closed doors, streamed live to all supporters – which inevitably will break the long-held Saturday 3pm blackout for televised matches. We all know why that blackout was in place, but this is a difficult time, and it requires an innovative solution.
Matches of Yesteryear - Swansea v U's 7/3/06 by wessex_exile
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