London Socialist Party publication
First Edition August 1992
Second Edition September 1992
Third Edition August 1993
Fourth Edition August 1994
Fifth Edition September 1995
Sixth Edition November 2001
Seventh Edition March 2005
Eighth Edition October 2009
Thanks to NJ Cross for layout, editing, design, tea and lots of typing.
Thanks to Sylviane Martinon for proof reading.
To Big John Viner for inspiration.
To Alison Hill for additional layout and to all at the Socialist Party.
This book is dedicated to my lovely granddaughter Caitlin Rose Martin.
Dedications also, to Sylviane Martinon for putting up with a grumpy old git and to her daughters Nathalie and Stephanie.
To Dennis Buckley for a lifetime friendship.
About the writer
I was born in Paddington General hospital on 17 March 1954 and was brought up in Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington. I was educated at Cardinal Manning’s Secondary Modern School.
I attended my first match at Loftus Road in 1961, a 0-1 defeat at the hands of Portsmouth.
I have watched QPR play at 80 of the current League Grounds and at 10 Conference grounds. Three trips to Wembley, including the League Cup win in 1967.
I am a lifelong Socialist and Trade Unionist and am currently a local RMT representative.
RECLAIM THE GAME
FOOTBALL BOOM OR BUST
Reclaim the Game was first written in 1992 at the outset of the Premier League; or the 'Greed is good League' as it was named by many fans.
The Socialist Party (or Militant as it was then) book predicted that the gap between the top clubs and the rest would further widen. Now 17 years later the Premier League is a four horse race between Manchester United, Chelsea Arsenal and Liverpool. You can safely say that there are no other challengers for the English Championship, although Manchester City are spending millions to attempt to break into this exclusive club.
The billionaire/millionaire owners of the Premier League would argue that the Premier League has been a resounding success. It generates over a £billion per year, games are played in new all-seater stadiums before the biggest crowds since the 1950's and hooliganism is virtually a thing of the past.
Premier League football is beamed into 600 million homes in 202 countries across the World. The three year television deal which runs until 2010 is worth £1.7 billion for domestic television, £625 million for overseas television rights and £400 million for internet and mobile 'phone rights.
One billion people watched the season before last’s Manchester United versus Arsenal game.
But for mass opposition at home led by the Football Supporters’ Association coupled with anger worldwide at the arrogance of those that run the Premier League, we would have seen a ‘game 39’.
This would have meant Premier League teams playing an extra game, for worldwide television in exotic locations such as, Dubai, Kolkata, Beijing, Cape Town, Sydney or some other location. This proposal, shelved for the moment, would have been for one reason only-money!
The games would have taken place in front of crowds of 60,000 plus, paying hundreds of dollars for a ticket. The matches would be for the rich and privileged. The masses in these countries would watch on pay- per- view television as would the loyal supporters back home in England.
The Premier League wants to take greed to a new level. They already take the best players from Europe; they also rob Africa and South America of their rich vein of talent.
The Premier League and the other top European Leagues have for over a decade bought up the best talent from Africa and South America including commercial rights over children. It is a new variation of colonialism and bonded labour.
WHO WANTS TO BE OWNED BY A BILLIONAIRE?
Premier League Football is a high priced spectacle played by millionaires and owned by billionaires. English football reflects English big business and neo liberalism, at the outset of the Premier League, Martin Edwards the then chairman of Manchester United, declared: "The smaller clubs are bleeding the game to death and ought to be put to sleep"
Russian gangster capitalists, such as Roman Abramovich, who looted the ex Soviet Union economy have taken over clubs such as Chelsea. It is in the main a money laundering exercise, switching dodgy money out of Russia and into 'respectable' businesses in Britain.
Big businessmen from the USA have taken over both Manchester United and Liverpool. Manchester United are now £700 million in debt due to the Glazer family transferring company debts into Man Utd plc.
Manchester City is owned by a United Arab Emirates investment group.
Portsmouth has been taken over by UAE businessman Sulaiman Al-Fahim. Although non payment of wages to players, casts doubts over the whole transaction. It now looks likely that Ali Al Faraj, a Saudi tycoon, will take control of Pompey.
These gentlemen join a long list of dodgy owners both British and foreign who have run and ruined English football for generations. Racists in England say it is Jews dominating English football, but those who have taken over English football, whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim or atheist have one thing in common they are parasitic capitalists who are trying to get their snouts in the trough of the multi- billion £ football industry.
Allegiance matters not a jot to these gentlemen, the new billionaire owners of my club, Queens Park Rangers, first looked at two bigger clubs before deciding on QPR. Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Aston Villa and Fulham are all owned by tycoons who picked them off a menu of portfolio opportunities.
The Premier League was investigated by a police operation, Quest and by the City of London police. This involves the alleged illegal payments of substantial amounts of money from transfer deals into the pockets of managers and football agents. Football agents robbed £46 million out of the game in season 2001/02 alone. Manchester United paid agents £13.4 million in 21 deals between January 2001 and January 2004. Football agent Jason Ferguson, son of Manchester United manager Alex, received very substantial payments through his company Elite Sports Agency.
The agent involved in the deal that took Wayne Rooney from Everton to Manchester United received £2 million.
According to the Observer, 17th October 2004, the deal taking Rooney to Manchester United was very shady. "It was a tale of gangsters, blackmailers, a young British player (Rooney) already approaching legendary status….London’s most notorious gangster family and a crooked solicitor."
In the past George Graham manager of Arsenal was banned for taking illegal payments. It is almost certain that a number of high profile managers in English football are making huge sums from illegal payments. All this money is being robbed from the pockets of football fans, who pay hard earned money to watch their favourite team.
Agents need to be driven out of football. The players union, the PFA should negotiate wages and conditions; collective bargaining for all players would be a big step forward.
EVERYTHING IS PERFECT IN THE MOST PERFECT OF ALL WORLDS
To paraphrase Pangloss from Voltaire's Candide, those who run English football would say 'everything is perfect in the most perfect of all worlds' But at what cost? Stadiums have been rebuilt, they are comfortable and safe. Standing areas have been destroyed and replaced by very expensive all seating areas. In Season 1990/91, 20,000 people stood on the Stretford End at Old Trafford, home of Manchester United and paid £4 per game, at Arsenal in the same season, thousands stood on the North Bank, Highbury and paid £6. These prices were around the same price as attending the cinema. Now it costs between £30 and £40 plus to watch a Premier League game, a cinema ticket in London costs £8 to£12. At my favourite French/Breton club, Rennes it costs around £8 to see a top League match. In Germany, safe all standing areas remain and football is relatively cheap.
Due to television money coming into football, even the side finishing bottom of the Premier League is guaranteed £60 million. The television deal means that many clubs could allow supporters into games for free and still make a huge profit. Some clubs have already reduced prices, the early effects of the recession are hitting poorer areas of England, also because of the domination of the Big Four some matches are becoming non matches, also because of the cost less fans are travelling to 'away matches'.
At QPR our new billionaire owners have increased prices by between 30% and 50%. It will now cost around £20 to £30 a match to watch QPR in the second tier of English football, the Championship (which is the third best attended League in European football)
Working class fans are being priced out of the game; especially young fans. Only 7% of season ticket holders in the Premier League are aged 16 to 24. Nearly half are aged 25 to 44 and 24% are aged 45 to 54. The average age of fans attending Premier League football is 44 for season ticket holders and 39 for those buying tickets on the day.
37% of season ticket holders earn over £30,000 per year (the average wage in Britain is £26,000, although it is much lower for young workers). To quote one of the greats from English football, Stanley Matthews, in an autobiography written shortly before his death; "The money that has arrived from television has definitely helped the game, but more at the top than the lower leagues....although those that market football tell us football is once more a 'family game' I think it is one of the biggest fibs currently being told. Football has rid itself of the hooligans, but how many ordinary working people can afford to take their family to football match these days. Too many clubs having worked hard to rid their stadiums of racism and bigotry are now simply practising economic bigotry"
"The low earner, with two children for whom football is an escape from a harsh working life, have to all intents and purposes, been forced out of the game especially at many Premiership clubs.
Football is massively expensive, who is to blame? the greedy players? In the Premier League players 'earn' an average of £700,000 a year and some in excess of £5 million, often paying a percentage of these wages into offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes. But if wages were reduced the fans would not benefit, directors and corporate owners would just pocket more money.
John Hall of Newcastle United sold just 9.8% of his shares and made £16 million. Martin Edwards received £100 million on selling his shares to the Glazer family (his father bought them for £1 million) Ken Bates of Chelsea bought Chelsea and its debts for £1, he sold Chelsea along with its debts for £17 million. Even Peter Ridsdale while he was bankrupting Leeds United still managed to pay himself £645,000 in 2001.
PROCESSION OF WEALTH
So another Premier League Season comes to an end, and yet again the top four is made up of the same four clubs. The four clubs, who generate the highest revenue, have yet again finished in the top four. The Premier League is a procession of wealth rather than a League. Manchester City are now splashing the cash in an attempt to break into the top four.
The latest smart idea, although a rehash of an old idea, comes from Bolton Wanderers Chairman Phil Gartside, who wants a Premier League one and two. This would consist of 18 teams in each division, including Celtic and Rangers from Scotland. This would effectively end promotion through the pyramid of English football and would also seriously damage Scottish football. Also on what basis would the 36 teams be decided? Would it be on average attendances? If so I guess Leeds United would be elevated to Premier League 2. Why stop at top Scottish clubs being invited into the Premier League, why not invite the top Dutch sides in as well?
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY.
The Premier League is the highest revenue generating league in the world. Its clubs generated revenues of 2.4 billion Euros in 2007/08 season. (Up 26% in Sterling measurement). Over 1 billion Euros more than its nearest rivals the Bundesliga and La Liga.
The overall revenues of the top 92 English clubs increased by 21% to £2,458 million. Total Premier League revenues increased by £402 million to £1932 million. The average revenue for a club in the Premier League is £100 million.
Total wage costs in the Premier League increased by 23% in Pounds Sterling to 1.5 billion Euros. Wages as a proportion to revenue in the Premier League was 62% (The ideal ratio is 60%). Chelsea’s wage bill was the highest at £172 million, newly relegated Newcastle’s wage bill was fifth highest at £75 million.
The revenue of the 72 Football League clubs exceeded £500 million for the first time.
Premier League Clubs received £767 million from central broadcasting distribution. Extra revenue primarily from the UEFA Champions League pushed this revenue up to £931 million. Premier League clubs commercial revenue increased by 12% to £447 million. Match day revenue only grew by 3% as a number of clubs froze or decreased match day ticket prices. This decrease took place as the recession loomed and was also an attempt to increase the attendance of young people which has diminished, due to the cost. Blackburn Rovers is offering tickets at £10 per game! At Burnley, the Clarets handed out 7,000 freebies to 2008/09 season ticket holders for season 2009/10 as part of their ‘premier league pledge’. Season tickets for general sale were also frozen in price.
Increased television monies meant that even the bottom club in 2007/08, Derby County, received £29.5 million compared to Watford’s £16.7 million when they finished bottom in 2006/07.
Premier League revenue probably broke through the £2 billion mark in 2008/09.
Operating profits for the Premier League increased to a record £185 million in 2007/08. However operating losses for the Championship clubs increased from £75 million to a record £102 million, this despite increased parachute payments to clubs relegated from the Premier League, and the first solidarity payments to the rest of the Football League from the Premier League.
Championship Clubs wage bills rose by £32 million (12%), the wage revenue ratio is 87% up from 72% in 2005/06 season, as clubs attempt to spend their way into the Premier League.
Transfer spending is up by 35%, £664 million of the £779 spent was spent by Premier League clubs, much of this on players from abroad. Chelsea spent £80 million (the cost of one Ronaldo!) Liverpool £70 million and Manchester City £62 million, although Manchester City look to exceed this, they may even spend £60 million plus on one or more players. (Portsmouth were the only other English club to spend in excess of £50 million)
Since the creation of the Premier League, £2.5 billion has been spent on ground improvements or new stadia, although am I alone in thinking many of the new stadia are soulless. £2 billion of this has been spent on Premier League grounds. Capacity utilisation of Premier League grounds stands at 92%, aggregate attendance continues to be very high, 13.5 million.
For the 72 Football League clubs attendances were above 16 million for the fifth year in a row, with a 1% year on year increase to 16.4 million. The Championship increased attendances by 5% and is now the third best attended league in Europe after the Bundesliga and the Premier League.
Net debt in respect of Premier League clubs at the end of 2007/08 season increased to £3.1 billion (This however includes £1.2 billion of non interest bearing soft debts)
Roman Abramovich injected a further £123 million into Chelsea in 2007/08 season. His overall investment in the club now stands at £760 million.
The economic crisis will push many more of the 72 Football League clubs into insolvency and receivership.
Figures from Deloitte Annual Report on Football finances
THE RICH GET RICHER AND THE REST GO BUST
Due to television, money coming into football; even the side finishing bottom of the Premier League is guaranteed 60 million pounds.
Working Class fans are being priced out of football, especially younger fans. The low earners have to all intents been cleansed from the game, especially at Premier League Clubs.
In the 17 years of the Premier League almost a half of all the 92 League clubs have gone into administration. Notts County, the oldest professional club in the world, almost ceased to exist (They too have since been taken over by Middle Eastern billionaires, the Shafi and Hyatt families). Wrexham, the oldest club in Wales, have now fallen out of the League because of serious mismanagement and debt. Leeds United, who at the start of the Premier League, were a top three side and also one of the top sides in Europe, again due to serious mismanagement, have twice gone into administration and have sunk into the third tier of English football. Luton Town were docked 30 points for going into administration and effectively relegated into the Conference League, fans were made to suffer for the mistakes of the rich owners. Last Season Chester City, Darlington, Southampton and Stockport County entered administration.
This chaos caused by the big business nature of football has led to the rallying of fans to save their beloved clubs. The first independent supporters club, the Queens Park Rangers Loyal Supporters Association, of which I have the honour of being the elected Secretary, was formed in 1987 to fight a merger between QPR and Fulham. Since then there have been many movements of fans to protect and save their clubs. The independent fans' organisations, fanzines, supporters' trusts, the Football Supporters' Federation (which represents over 100,000 fans) and the Professional Footballers’ Association have all intervened to save clubs, which are an integral part of working class communities and culture. Supporters' Trusts have representatives on the board at over 25% of clubs in the third and fourth tier of English football and almost 50% own a proportion of their clubs. Unfortunately it is limited control, even at AFC Wimbledon, which was set up when Wimbledon was moved against the wishes of the fans 50 miles away to Milton Keynes and became MK Dons.
Fans raised money and formed AFC Wimbledon the true inheritor of the history of Wimbledon. AFC now attracts crowds of around 3,000 and has worked its way back up the 'non league' structure to the Conference League. FC United of Manchester was formed by fans angry at the takeover of Manchester United by the Glazer family. The AFC movement represents a massive opposition to franchise and corporate football.
We must fight to reclaim our game, the money coming into football is concentrated into the hands of the Premier League clubs, very little is percolating down to the lower Leagues or grass roots football.
Many would say that the football industry needs to self regulate itself. For example, spending should be curbed; a good idea would be a rule that limits a club to spending only 20% of its yearly income on transfer fees. The total wage bill should also be limited to a maximum of 60% of club income. To curb clubs buying success, total donations from benefactors and sponsors should be limited to £20 million per season. (UEFA rules would also have to be changed to curb the spending of all European clubs). But it is more likely that a camel will pass through the eye of a needle than the owners of the football industry will self regulate.
Under capitalism any self regulation would only enshrine the domination of Europe’s aristocracy. 20% of Manchester United’s income would always be considerably more than 20% of Burnley’s yearly income.
The only way forward is to fight for clubs to be taken out of the control of big business. Clubs should be owned, controlled and run in trust by supporters as non profit making sporting institutions. The controlling bodies of clubs would be democratically elected by the method of one vote per club member, and fans would become members for a nominal annual fee. Supporters would not just turn up to watch, they would be involved in the day to day running of their clubs. It would be a sports club, with fans, if they wished, playing in Leagues based on their ability. People of all ages, men and women, the able bodied and the disabled, would be able to play for their club. Players and club staff would be well paid. Players however would receive wages tied to the average wage of a skilled worker with differentials based on the division they play in, they would not receive the massive wages they now receive.
Many argue that the numbers of foreign players should be limited. Arsenal regularly field a side totally made up of foreign players. However, foreign players have in the main greatly added to the domestic game. There should be no restrictions, footballers like other workers should be free to ply their trade in the country of their choice. There should be investment in sports training at schools and colleges to develop the skills of home grown young people.
WORKING CLASS FANS PRICED OUT
Thousands of tickets are now sold to the rich and to businessmen as part of corporate hospitality deals. Ticket agents sell match tickets way above the printed price.
The real fans are the losers. Thousands of Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United fans have long been priced out of the game. They find themselves cut off from the team they love, unable to take their children, the next generation. A survey a few years ago stated that 30% of Chelsea season ticket holders earned an average of £50,000 plus per year. If you want to take yourself and three children to a Premier League match it will cost between £100 and £200. If you were to attend the cinema it would cost the four of you around £40.Pre Premier League football used to be cheaper than the cinema.
Price rises are beginning to affect crowds. Price rises have meant a fall in ‘away’ travel. Why travel ‘away’, paying £40 plus for a match ticket, plus coach or rail travel, to watch your team at Chelsea when you can watch ‘live’ or extended highlights at home by subscribing to digital television.
Undoubtedly, the predictability of the outcome of the Premier League affects attendances, with only four contenders for the English Championship; games between the other non contenders are becoming more and more non events. To all but the die-hard fans of the clubs.
THE GOOD OLD PRE PREMIERSHIP DAYS
I attended my first match in 1961, to watch Queens Park Rangers in the Third Division, a one nil defeat at home to Portsmouth. I was taken by my brother Alan, his friend Barry and my bother in law Ron, all on relatively low wages. However they could afford to take me as football was a cheap form of entertainment. Me and my friend Dennis, a Chelsea fan used to go and watch Chelsea’s European matches and England games out of our pocket money, which coming from working class Irish families in Ladbroke Grove was only a few bob a week.
Back then there was little or no advertising, no sponsors’ logos defacing the club shirts, very little television money either. But were fans worse off? Is football any better now than it was then? Between the mid 1960’s and mid 1980’s England won the World Cup and Manchester United, Liverpool (four times), Nottingham Forest(twice) and Aston Villa all won the European Cup (now the Champions League).
Between 1954 (the year I was born) and 1981, the year the rule was changed allowing clubs to keep all their ‘home’ gate receipts, fourteen different clubs were Champions of England. Liverpool (7 times), Manchester United (4 times), Wolverhampton Wanderers (3 times), Everton, Leeds United and Derby County (two wins apiece), Chelsea, Burnley, Tottenham Hotspur, Ipswich Town, Manchester City, Arsenal, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa (1 win apiece) Between 1981 and the advent of the Premier League there were four different winners, Liverpool (six times), Everton (twice), Arsenal (twice) and Leeds United.
In the seventeen years of the Premier League there have only been four winners. Manchester United (11 times), Arsenal (three times), Chelsea (twice) and Blackburn Rovers.
During this recession many clubs will go even deeper into debt. Many more clubs will be put into the hands of the receivers or even go bankrupt as they attempt to stay on the spending treadmill to keep their place in the Premier League or attempt to buy their way into the Premier League.
At the moment, football is seen as a trendy fad; large numbers of tickets are bought in large blocks by businesses for corporate entertainment. In a recession many of these new, better off fans will lose their jobs and be unable to attend. The buying of corporate tickets and possibly even corporate sponsorship will be reduced.
The vast increase in football finances was driven by the commercial exploitation of ‘brand loyalty’. This loyalty was built up over generations of working-class fans, passing their club allegiance from generation to generation. The transformation of the game away from working-class support is cutting the new generation off from watching live football. The bubble is starting to burst.
A recession will also see unemployment rise amongst working-class fans, including skilled workers, who make up the largest proportion of those attending football. Grounds that are now oversubscribed could rapidly see an increase in the number of overpriced seats remaining unsold.
TV revenue would also be hit. In a recession, luxuries such as digital subscriptions would be one of the first things to go. Companies such as Sky could see their revenue massively reduced. Digital companies could even go out of business. TV revenue on offer in future deals with the Premier League would be vastly reduced.
It isn’t good for the game that all the money is concentrated into the coffers of just the top few clubs. The boom for the few has led to a widening gap not just between the premier clubs and the lower divisions, but also a widening gap within the Premier League — a league within a league — Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea (maybe Man City) dominate. Spurs and Everton, which used to be part of the big five, have slipped out of the elite.
So this football renaissance has left the rich clubs richer and the poor almost bankrupt. It is a mirror image of society in general. The economic boom (now turned to recession) left Britain as the fifth-largest economy in the world, while the gap between rich and poor is the widest for over a hundred years.
Let us nail a few myths. The big business tycoons have not saved football — for a relatively small investment they have made millions of pounds out of the game — none of them have lost out from football investment. Even loans to clubs are usually loans made at a high interest rate and have to be paid back by us the fans.
We, the fans, have not gained from football becoming a billion pound plus industry. Our pockets have been emptied by the massive price hike. What was a cheap form of entertainment now costs a fortune.
Football has been transformed from the people’s game into a carnival of avarice and greed. The football renaissance has left the majority of clubs in debt; some in massive debt. Many clubs have only achieved a stay of execution because of the massive campaigns by supporters. Thousands of fans took part in mass actions against the boards of their clubs (‘Sack the board!’ has been the refrain at grounds around the country).
Football clubs are not like other businesses, they are part of the community and are dear to the hearts of the many thousands of people who support their teams. The attempt to merge QPR and Wimbledon in 2001 was met with hostility by both sets of supporters. This hybrid team would have meant nothing to the real fans of both these clubs, but the directors of football are cut off from the true feelings of the fans. The autobiography of veteran ex-footballer, Len Shackleton, contained a section called: ‘What the average director knows about football’ — it was a blank page.
The formation of the Premier League has been like year zero; previous football history did not happen. The new owners and media would like to forget football’s working-class roots.
According to the Pictorial History of English Football, "football today is dominated by chairmen who often boast larger personalities than those of their players. And by the constant need to see a return on investment. So when delving into the origins of many of today’s biggest clubs, it is frequently intriguing to find their formations dominated not by financial concerns but by the principles of Socialism, Christianity and togetherness."
Arsenal, Stoke City, Man Utd, West Ham, Crewe Alexandra and Coventry were all originally works teams. Club nicknames show the connection between clubs and the industries that their fans worked in, when we still had a manufacturing industry in this country. Sheffield United are the Blades, Luton Town the Hatters, Northampton Town the Cobblers, West Ham are the Irons.
The great manager of Liverpool in the 1960s and 1970s, Bill Shankly, would have been very angry about the transformation of the game. He once said: "The socialism I believe in is everyone working for each other — everyone having a share of the rewards. It’s the way I see football, it’s the way I see life."
ABRAMOVICH, THE BLUE TSAR
How did Abramovich make his billions? On August 20th 1992, Yeltsin (then Russian President) announced a la Thatcher that Russia was to become a ‘stake holding society’. Every citizen was to be given a voucher worth 10,000 roubles, equivalent to £30 in 1992 (the average month’s wage in Russia at the time). They could exchange them for shares in their company or in any state enterprise. Vouchers could also be invested in saving schemes. Echoing the neo-liberal propaganda of the West, Yeltsin announced there would be "millions of owners rather than a handful of millionaires….everyone will have equal opportunities in this new undertaking….the privatisation voucher is a ticket for each of us to a free economy."
Abramovich moved in. As a 20 year old in 1987 he had taken advantage of the legalization of private business introduced by Gorbachev (then leader of the USSR) to set up an oil trading business. For five years he had bought cheap Russian oil for a few roubles a barrel and sold it abroad, making a large profit.
He then allegedly bought up blocks of vouchers from oil workers and converted them into shares in Western Siberian energy companies. The collapse of the USSR and introduction of capitalism through large scale privatization from 1992 onwards consolidated Abramovich’s position.
There was a massive fall in living standards. The rouble plummeted from 230 to the dollar in January 1992, to 3,500 to the dollar by December 1994. This wiped out most people’s savings. Life expectancy for men fell from 65 years in 1987 to 59 years by 1993. Suicides rose by 53% as more than one third of the population fell below the poverty line. Stalls appeared in Siberian towns offering a handful of kopeks (literally pennies) for vouchers. Abramovich has never denied being involved.
By 1995 the majority of Russians were worse off than under Stalinism, and the ‘Communist’ Party began to gain support. To keep power in the 1996 Presidential election, Yeltsin leant on the new breed of Capitalists such as Abramovich, whom he invited to participate in the so called ‘loans for shares’ scheme in return for financial and political backing. In effect, the government auctioned off its share of the state owned economy for financial backing. Abramovich and Berezovsky won a ‘loans for shares’ auction winning a 51% share in Sibneft. They won the auction despite the fact that other bids were higher. They allegedly had links with the company that managed the sale.
Yeltsin won the election financed by a war chest of £140 million in donations from the Oligarchs, or as they are more commonly known in Russia, gangster capitalists. In August 1997, Sibneft issued 45 million new shares in one of its most profitable subsidiary companies. Abramovich and his partners were able to increase their stake in the subsidiary from 61% to 78% in this closed share issue.
In 1998 Abramovich and Berezovsky were allowed to keep their share of Sibneft as the Government announced it wouldn’t be repaying its loans. For £117 million, the pair had control of a multi-billion dollar oil company.
When the Russian economy collapsed again in 1998, Sibneft said it couldn’t pay wages but would buy up remaining vouchers. Company shops sprung up which exchanged food, fridges and other goods for vouchers. Workers were literally robbed by the company. By 1999 Abramovich had ‘bought’ out Berezovsky and won control of Sibneft. From then on he paid himself record dividends in 2000 £28 million was paid out in dividends, £552 million in 2001,£612 million in 2002 and £696 million in 2003, of which Abramovich received the lions share.
A TALE OF TWO WEST LONDON OWNERS
On 5 July 2008, The Times reported that Abramovich admitted he paid billions of dollars for political favours and protection fees to obtain a big share of Russia’s oil and aluminium assets.
Again from The Times, Abramovich "famously emerged triumphant after the "aluminium wars", in which more than 100 people are believed to have been killed in gangland feuds over control of the lucrative smelters. He avoided the fate of a rival oligarch who annoyed the Kremlin and ended up being transported to Siberia for ten years"
Briatore was banned indefinitely from Formula 1 racing, for his part in race fixing.
One of these gentlemen is deemed a fit and proper owner, the other may be deemed to be unfit- Personally I would drive both of these gentlemen out of the game.
TAPPING UP AND DIVING
Chelsea is appealing the FIFA transfer ban imposed after their alleged illegal inducement of Gael Kakuta from Lens, of France.
If Chelsea is guilty then so are a lot of other top European clubs. ‘Tapping up’ has been going on in football both in England and abroad for years.
And so has diving for penalties. This is not a foreign introduction, Rodney Marsh at QPR and Francis Lee at Manchester City gained many a dubious penalty in the 60’s and 70’s
29th May 1985 saw the death of 38 Juventus fans at the Heysel Stadium in Belgium. The deaths occurred before the European Cup Final between Juventus and Liverpool.
The Liverpool fans were penned into a dangerously overcrowded section of terracing and, in an attempt to gain more space, they broke down a flimsy barrier. Unfortunately they clashed with Juventus fans who were in the next section. During this clash an unsafe wall collapsed, with fatal consequences.
Evidence at the time suggests that fascist groups and active fascists incited trouble amongst both Liverpool and Juventus fans before and during the game. If the game had taken place in a stadium where adequate safety checks had taken place nobody would have died.
As a result of this avoidable tragedy Belgian sports and Government officials were forced to resign. In Britain, hysteria was whipped up, putting all the blame on the Liverpool fans and leading to the rounding-up and imprisonment of many innocent people and a ridiculous and lengthy ban for all English clubs from European competitions.
The press used the tragedy to portray the people of Liverpool as murdering scum (which the Sun resurrected after the Hillsborough tragedy). This was not unconnected to the Militant-led struggle of Liverpool City Council against the Tory Government being at its height.
In May 1985, three weeks before the Heysel tragedy, 55 fans were burnt or crushed to death in a wooden stand (seated area) at Bradford’s Valley Parade. The view of many fans at the time was that the fire was due to criminal negligence by the club, who had failed to upgrade or even maintain an old, unsafe wooden stand properly. The official enquiry found that the fire was an accident-no action was taken against the owners of the club.
In April 1989, 96 people died at Hillsborough-another avoidable tragedy. Firstly, it occurred because Liverpool was allocated the smaller Leppings Lane end of the ground. Secondly, because a gate was opened, which then allowed fans to unwittingly rush through into the already overcrowded centre ‘pens’.
Disgracefully, the FA allowed major games to take place at Hillsborough while Sheffield Wednesday whose ground it was, had failed to comply with the Green Guide- The Home Office Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds, introduced in 1973 to prevent a recurrence of the Ibrox Disaster (When 66 Rangers’ fans died in a crush on the dangerous stairway 13 in 1971).
The Guide forced clubs for the first time to have safety certificates, itemising the layout of their grounds, their capacities, crush barriers, entrances and exits, and methods of counting fans in via turnstiles to monitor when the various parts of the ground were full.
In 1981, at the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough between Wolves and Spurs , there had been a near fatal crush, caused by fans arriving late onto the Leppings Lane terrace, 38 people were treated for various injuries including broken limbs and ribs.
As a result of Hillsborough, the Taylor report was commissioned and put forward many useful recommendations, including the overdue rebuilding of grounds. Unfortunately it was also used as an excuse to get rid of terraces.
As early as 1991 a report by the Institute of Structural Engineers published a detailed report, which concluded that terracing could be made safe. Indeed, safe, cheap terraces exist in Germany.
Foul magazine, the grand-dad of fanzines, writing almost 40 years ago, seems to have had a crystal ball, in their humorous but serious warning about the purging of the terraces. "The more we try and make the middle class frightened of coming to games, the more they are excluding us, fencing us in and restricting our movement on the terrace. So bad is this getting that they have put up barriers on the Kop to stop that famous, glorious surge. What next? A ban on singing? No scarves allowed? No standing room? It’s coming unless we do something about it. What the hell is this we keep hearing about family football, more seated accommodation, and restrict movement on the terraces? Is this the fate of football in the future? The game seems to be turning its back on the real supporters in favour of the season-ticket family and their money.
"But will Mum, Dad, Auntie Doris and the children go to a game in the middle of winter at the other end of the country when there’s a rail strike? Will they hell! Gordon Jago and Jimmy Hill will destroy football if allowed any sort of administrative power. Their utopia is a spotless, concrete bowl lined with thousands of little plastic seats, lots of clean toilets, a restaurant, a sports complex, piped muzak and 22 clean-cut, goal-hungry young zombies playing the game in a spirit of friendship and sportsmanship on a plasti-grass pitch.
They want matches which end in 7-7 draws watched by packed crowds of middle-class parents who have each brought their 2.4 children, who cheer enthusiastically every goal, applaud every exhibition of skill from the opposition and who go home afterwards in their family saloons, all agreeing that they’ve been thoroughly entertained. Bollocks to their visions. It’s on those cold forbidding terraces that you find the central nervous system of football from which the adrenaline rises and the lifeblood flows"
Football totally embraced the ideology of Thatcherism. Since the early 1980s the big clubs have attempted to secure most of the game’s income for themselves. In 1981 they threatened to form a ‘super league’ but were bought off by an agreement that they could keep all their home gate receipts. A further attempt at a breakaway in 1985 was quelled by the ‘Heathrow Agreement’. This allowed the First Division clubs to keep 50% of all TV and sponsorship revenue.
The final breakaway came in 1991 with the Premier League. The motivation, according to A Game of Two Halves by Hamil, Mitchie and Oughton was the desire of the leading English clubs to control a larger share of the rapidly growing revenue from television contracts, shown by the signing of the five-year £304 million deal between the Premier League and BSkyB.
The state of football has mirrored the state of British society. To quote A Game of Two Halves: "Although average incomes grew in Britain by around 40% between 1979 and 1994-95, the richest tenth of the population saw their income grow by 68%, while the poorest tenth saw their income fall by 8%."
The gap between rich and poor in football is even wider. The August 1998 Deloitte and Touche Annual Review of Football Finance states: "The gap between the Premier League and Football League is turning from gap, to chasm to abyss."
A Game of Two Halves superbly sums this up: "There appears to be a ‘trickle down’ effect but mirroring the wider development of British society, it is one of percolation of poverty, rather than the distribution of wealth."
RACISM AND FOOTBALL: A RETURN TO THE BAD OLD DAYS
The monkey chants that greeted Black English players at the November 2004,Spain v England game were sickening. A significant number of Spanish fans were involved in this odious behaviour. It followed Spanish Coach Luis Aragones earlier racist remark that Thierry Henry was a "black shit".
There was outrage in England as scenes reminiscent of English football 20 years earlier were played out on our screens. The players should have been called off the pitch by the England management team. This would have been a clear statement to the racist fans in English and European football that racism and racist abuse of Black players will not be tolerated.
A week later Birmingham City player Dwight Yorke was racially abused by a small section of Blackburn Rovers fans. Yorke's Chairman David Sullivan accused him of over reacting; this shows ignorance of the problem. Yorke should not have to put up with racist abuse on or off the field of play.
John Barnes ex England International and Black, commented that the response of the English media was hypocritical. When Barnes played for Watford and Liverpool he suffered monkey chants and had bananas thrown at him by opposing fans, as did all black players at that time in the 1980's. At an Everton versus Liverpool derby match in 1987, Everton fans greeted Barnes and Liverpool with chants of ‘niggerpool, n*********, n*********’ every time he touched the ball. At this time Everton and a whole number of other clubs did not sign or pick Black players.
In the mid 1970's, football manager Ron Atkinson received abuse when he picked 3 Black players, Laurie Cunningham, Brendan Batson and Cyrille Regis in the same West Bromwich Albion team. Later in that decade, Viv Anderson was a key member of Nottingham Forest's great side, and was the first Black player to play for England.
Yet all of these players received vile abuse, including being booed by a section of England fans when they played for their Country. At many grounds at this time fascist groups openly sold their papers and leafleted fans. My best friend Dennis Buckley stopped going to Chelsea in the 1980's because matches were like Nazi rallies, with vile racist abuse being hurled at their own Black players.
Ron Atkinson is an enigma; he was instrumental in promoting Black players, but never shook off racist language or racial stereotyping. He said of Brendan Batson, his player at both Cambridge United and W.B.A. " He had typically a chip on his shoulder" Commenting on an England versus Cameroon match he criticised a Cameroonian player then said "I hope his mother is not listening up in a tree back in Africa" He was sacked from television when he described Marcel Desailly of Chelsea as a "Fucking lazy nigger".
There were exceptions, the late Bobby Robson, stated, when he was England manager, that if the best 11 players in the country were black, that would be his England team.
Very few Black players are appointed as club managers or coaches, there are currently only 4 Black managers amongst the 92. Keith Alexander, Lincoln City, Paul Ince, Milton Keynes Dons, John Barnes, Tranmere Rovers and Chris Hughton, Newcastle United.
Only a handful of British born Asian players are playing in the four divisions. Zesh Rehman then of Fulham was the first English born Pakistani to play in the Premier League. Hopefully, in the future Asian players will add to the rich skills of their fellow Black and white players.
The average Black and Asian make up of a crowd is still very low. 83% of potential Asian fans and 77% of potential Black fans still do not see themselves attending a match because of fear of racism; this is a legacy of the 1970's and 80's. This, despite the excellent campaigns by fans and players, through ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out’, ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ and the ‘Stand Up, Speak Up’ Campaigns.
During the 1970’s and 80’s Managers were often quoted as saying Black players lacked the moral and physical toughness, the ‘bottle’. Or that they couldn’t play in the cold or the mud. Black players themselves have hammered these racist myths and racism by their brilliance on the pitch; many of the best players in football are black. Cyrille Regis, Viv Anderson, John Barnes and many other Black players in the 70's and 80's, deserve credit for the stick they endured and for coming through it with dignity, brilliance and pride. Ian Wright became an icon to Black fans: he refused to take any racist nonsense from players, managers or fans, and that is probably why Arsenal has the biggest percentage of Black supporters.
A campaign is required to stamp out racism: this includes all racist chants, and the xenophobic stereotyping of Spanish, German and other 'foreigners'. The disgraceful anti-Jewish chant against Spurs ' Spurs are on their way to Auschwitz, Hitler's gonna gas them again' is not funny, unless you think gassing millions of Jews is a bit of a laugh (QPR fans held up the disgraceful banner: " Gas a Jew in '82" at the Cup Final versus Spurs). Chants such as "I'd rather be a Paki than a Turk/Taff", when playing Turkey or a team from Wales or "Town full of Pakis", when travelling to Luton, Bradford or Leicester are all unacceptable.
Many of the country’s best players are Black, and around 25% of professionals are Black or mixed race — yet only about one per cent of those attending matches are Black, Asian or Turkish (Turkish people are fanatical about football, but virtually none of them go to Arsenal or Spurs, who play in an area with a large Turkish population.)
The reason for this is that football support is perceived as mainly white, male and aggressive. Fresh in the memory of many Black fans is the ‘monkey’ chants of the 1970s, accompanied by the throwing of bananas at Black players
Blacks, Asians and Turks are usually lower-paid workers and the massive hike in ticket prices has affected them disproportionately. Many of them can’t afford to go.
Arsenal have thousands of Black fans, but this is not translated into them going to the match. In 1997 QPR played a friendly against Jamaica. More than 15,000 Black fans turned up. At a normal QPR match you would be lucky to find a few hundred Black fans — this in an area with a large Black population.
There has been no significant tradition of Black people taking their children to matches. Older Black workers were put off attending long ago because of racism. Most people attend live matches because they were taken along by their parents or older brothers and uncles. This rarely happened with Black people, for the reasons given above.
The FA, players and clubs should look at ways of encouraging mums, dads and their children to attend. This would have to mean cheaper tickets at all levels.
Black players have featured in English football since the end of the nineteenth century. Goalkeeper Arthur Wharton was the world’s first Black professional footballer, playing for Preston North End in the 1880s. But they didn’t make a breakthrough until the 1980s — many clubs refused to sign Black players, claiming that they lacked the moral and physical toughness to survive.
How many great Black players have been lost to football as a result of this blatant racism? Ian Wright and Les Ferdinand had to play non-league football before they were given a chance at Crystal Palace and QPR respectively. Even though QPR could have signed Ferdinand earlier: he only lived around the corner from the ground. Black players rarely move on into management or coaching in England.
Generations of talented British born Black players were lost to the game because of racist attitudes. It would be a crime if the same were to happen to young British-born Asian players. Frank Soo was the first British born Asian to play for England, he was born of a Chinese father and an English mother. He played for Luton, Stoke and managed Scunthorpe. He was capped nine times for England in the 1940’s (but these wartime caps did not count at the time as full international caps).
Racism in football, like violence in football, is not divorced from the racism and violence in society in general. Racists and fascists are still present in the game, especially at England internationals. Why are there still problems in English football, particularly at these internationals? Football, since its inception in the English North and Midlands and Glasgow in Scotland, has always acted as a safety valve to allow mainly working-class males to let off steam- but it is also a distraction, where workers have given each other a good kicking, rather than turn on their common enemy, -the bosses at work, or the club directors who have hijacked the game for the sake of prestige and profit. The division between working-class fans at matches plays into the hands of the bosses.
In season 2000/01 Wolves fans taunted Birmingham fans with ‘where’s your Rover gone?’ on the day 100,000 people marched through Birmingham against the closure of the Rover car factory by BMW. In the same season QPR fans taunted Luton fans with ‘you’re going down with the Vauxhall!’ As if thousands of fellow workers losing their jobs in the car industry is something to laugh about.
During the Thatcher years, London fans used to bait Northern fans with taunts of ‘loads of money’. It is the bosses who have the biggest laugh at this division. The BNP also play on this division, at a time of recession when thousands of skilled white working-class people are losing their jobs, they blame the Black, Asian and East European Workers, when it is the failure of the Capitalist system itself that is to blame for mass unemployment. The only way to fight back in a recession is for Black, White, Chinese, Pakistani, Polish and every other nationality to unite, organise and fight back together in their trade unions against job losses, wage cuts and other attacks.
The psyche of a minority of politically backward fans stems from a ‘racial superiority syndrome’ built up when Britain had a vast Empire. Derogatory images of Black and Asian people were prevalent in British schoolbooks, films and literature up until the 1970’s and beyond. This ‘syndrome’ was encouraged to justify Britain’s subjugation of two fifths of the globe, and also to justify the slave trade when 30 million black people were shipped from Africa. Around six million died en route.
The myth was encouraged that Blacks, Asians and Irish were inferior, stupid, lazy, or even all three! Continentals were portrayed as ‘shifty’, ‘cowardly’, ‘filthy’ etc. No wonder that some people see it as fair game to hurl abuse at Blacks, Pakistanis or Arabs (Muslims). Post Empire Britain is still obsessed with military imagery and television programmes of how we won the war. No wonder fans inspired by the BNP say ‘our colours don’t run’. Events are also portrayed to show that white people won the war- ‘There ain’t no black in the Union Jack!’ – when in fact, thousands of Black soldiers and troops from the Indian sub-continent fought in the war. Thousands of Irishmen also fought in the war, hundreds of airmen in the Battle of Britain were from Poland.
My Dad, from an Irish family and born in Shepherd’s Bush in West London, left my Mum and new- born daughter, my sister Josie, in the then Irish Free State (now the Republic) and returned to fight for the British Eighth Army for five years in the Middle East.
The ironic thing is the morons in the BNP; the so called ‘super patriots’, would have been supporters of Hitler and Mussolini during the war, and would have been seen as quislings and traitors.
Racism at matches is also tied to the utterances of ‘respectable’ politicians, who try to blame the fact that we are unemployed, in lousy low paid jobs or poor housing on the presence of foreigners and asylum seekers. Simply, this is ‘divide and rule’- get the working class fighting amongst themselves- and the fat cats can hold onto their wealth made from our toil and sweat. The main spongers in society are the politicians who have stolen millions of pounds in fraudulent expenses and the Bankers who have given themselves millions in bonuses, paid for by us the tax payer.
Racism in football and society divides black and white workers. The only way to obtain decent housing, education and full, well-paid employment, is for all workers, black and white, to struggle against their common enemy the big business system which exploits all workers regardless of their colour, nationality or creed, and which forces us to live in lousy housing, put up with poor education and health and throws us out of work.
The retro violence between Millwall and West Ham United fans this season was blown out of all proportion by football commentators.
As far back as 1885, Preston North End’s players were trapped on the field of play by 2,000 "howling roughs". After beating Aston Villa 5-1 they were attacked with stones, sticks, umbrellas and spittle.
Between 1894 and 1914, 4,000 incidents of hooliganism occurred at football matches.
Any incident is exaggerated, whereas the hundreds and thousands of matches that take place without any trouble do not get any mention. It would be naïve to think there’s no problem with hooliganism anymore, but it is a relatively small one. It is not just a football problem, it is society’s.
The miserable social conditions which exist for many young people in Britain, including unemployment or low pay for long shifts, sadly means that, for a small minority, one of their only ways of getting excitement is to organise attacks on visiting supporters.
If football didn’t exist, the same people would probably concentrate on organising rucks in their town centres. Luton Town once banned away fans for a number of years, yet violent crime in the centre of Luton still rose by 14%.
Football historian James Walvin wrote "It was in brief, a game which at times came perilously close to testing the limits of social control of local and national governments…Football, with its wild teams and violence, like many other apparently non political and innocent phenomena could easily become the spark for a whole disturbance"
The London apprentices, Walvin explains, were traditionally radical and their games of football often posed a threat of unruliness and often radical agitation. In 1764 in Northamptonshire, 2,000 acres of land were enclosed. Local people who objected were ignored. To flout the law they organised a game of football on the enclosed land. Shortly after kick-off the participants tore up and burned the enclosure fences. The Army was called in, but could not quell the ‘political’ game of football. In 1768 the enclosure of Holland fen in Lincolnshire triggered off three political football games in just one month. 200 men and women in the fen played for two hours- the match was broken up and four ‘rioters’ were seized and committed to Spalding gaol.
The development of large scale industry from the middle to late 18th Century onwards saw the migration of peasants from the countryside into the new booming towns and cities. Workers often had to work 16 hours a day. The only break they received was on Sundays and Church holidays. The State and Church banned Sunday recreation. Their aim was to regulate and discipline workers around the needs of industry and profit. Workers were literally tied to the machinery. In order to control workers there were campaigns against sport, particularly ‘folk football’. In the early 19th Century employers joined forces with other propertied groups to ban football matches.
Football continued to be played by the children of the rich in the public schools and universities. It was in these institutions that the modern rules of the game were drawn up.
It was only with the growth of trade unionism and the successful fight for and introduction of a shorter working week, including a free Saturday afternoon, that workers were able to indulge in leisure activity (The Factory Act of 1850 ordered mills to close at 2pm on a Saturday- hence the 3pm kick-off ).
That is why many of the original football clubs were formed in the industrial and unionised areas Sheffield, Lancashire, the English Midlands and Glasgow between 1850 and 1870.
Notts County is the oldest surviving league club in the world, formed in 1862. Sheffield FC, formed in 1857, is the oldest team in the world, and is still playing in non-league football.
The early rules of football were drafted in the public schools and universities (Cambridge Rules 1848, the year of revolution), but the driving force behind the development of football in an organised league form came from the industrial working classes of England and Scotland.
Scottish workers transformed the Southern-based, individualistic dribbling game into the superior passing game, which reflected the co-operation and the discipline needed and developed by workers in the factory transferred to the playing fields. ‘The beautiful game’ was primarily developed by working men; Northern teams adopted the team passing game and soon began to beat the ‘gentlemen’ of the South. The turning point was Blackburn Olympic’s FA Cup final victory over Old Etonians in 1883.
Manchester United, West Ham United, Arsenal and many other teams were originally works teams. In The Football grounds of Great Britain, by Simon Inglis, in reference to Arsenal’s history: "Until the turn of the (20th) Century it had been run essentially by exiled northern working men….but the outbreak of the Boer war in 1899 meant more overtime for the men and less time spent on the football club, which soon ran into debt. The organisers had never wanted it to become a proprietary or capitalist club".
Within a short time, football became hugely popular and local businessman took clubs over, mainly for prestige, but also for monetary gain. Stadia were developed and people were packed in, paying for admission for the first time. Profit became an issue and the game became an ‘industry’. Interestingly, this new form of enclosed, sanitised and organised football was encouraged as a cheap mass entertainment by the authorities. The idea was to congregate thousands of fans in one place, allowing them to let off a bit of steam, have a good swear, maybe have a fight and take their minds off the exploitation they suffered from their bosses.
The advent of the ‘greed is good’ Premiership marked the final transformation of the people’s game into just another branch of the big business corporate entertainment industry. Clubs are projects or global brand names these days.
Women played folk football for centuries, this was later suppressed, along with the men`s game. Women`s football re-emerged in the 1890s, when Nettie Honeyball pioneered the game with her touring team. In Scotland in the same decade, a travelling team under the management of Lady Florence Dixie,was formed.
At the height of the Suffragette movement to win women the vote during the early 1900s, crowds of up to 10,000 used to attend women`s matches. From the start the authorities did not like the idea of women playing football. This tied in with the political campaign against women`s rights, including blocking their right to vote. On 23 August 1902, the FA Council banned `Ladies` matches.
It wasn`t until World War One that women`s football boomed again. With many men away in the war, women were `drafted` into the factories, and many formed works’ teams. Dick Kerr`s Ladies (Preston) was formed in 1917 to raise money for a military hospital.
After the war they toured the country, playing to large crowds, including one of 53,000 (with 10,000 locked out) at Goodison Park. But in 1921 the FA again banned women`s football being played at any of their grounds.
Against all these odds and obstacles from the authorities local women`s football continued but did not flourish again until the 1960s. This was at a time of the growing Women`s Liberation movement, and also the success of England in the 1966 World Cup. Women`s football began to blossom.
In 1969 the FA finally recognised women`s football. The women`s FA was formed and recognised by the FA in 1971. That year England had 44 women`s clubs. By 1980 this had increased fivefold.
TV coverage in the late 1980s gave the women’s game an added boost. The women`s World Cup, held in the USA in 1999, drew record crowds, larger than for most of the men’s games in the 1994 World Cup, also held in the US.
As a result, millions of women now play football in the USA, as do millions worldwide. Unfortunately, big business wants to control and market the women`s game to earn millions of dollars in exploiting the interest in and love of the game. Big business sees women players and fans as potential consumers with major spending power.
The advent of the Premier League spawned a whole host of books from the literati. Arsenal fan Nick Hornby’s highly amusing book, Fever Pitch, published in 1992, when the premiership began, contains some disturbing conclusions from the Hillsborough disaster. He sneers at the fears of working class fans that they would in the future be priced out of the game: "What if I want to take my children to a game? I won’t be able to afford it" he says. "But neither can we afford to take our children to Barbados or to Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons or to the Opera. Come the Revolution, of course we will be able to do all those things as often as we like, but until then this seems a particularly poor argument…."
He shows total disregard for the future of smaller clubs. "What about the little clubs who might go to the wall? It would be very sad for Chester’s couple of thousand fans if their team goes under- I would be devastated if I were one of them …If clubs have to close down because they do not have the money for the changes deemed necessary to avoid another Hillsborough, then so be it. Tough".
Hornby is unsympathetic to fans complaining about price increases: "…using these price increases to swap one set of fans and bring in a new, more affluent group is a mistake. Even so, it is a mistake that clubs are perfectly at liberty to make. Football clubs are not hospitals or schools, with a duty to admit us regardless of our financial wherewithal." He agrees with the Economist magazine article, written just after the events at Hillsborough, which states: "Having fewer clubs, operating out of smarter stadiums, ought to revive the interest of those who have been driven away from football during the past ten years"
Nick Hornby, who can afford to go and watch any Arsenal match he fancies, unlike thousands of ‘gooners’ who have been priced out, puts forward the yuppies programme for football. The only clubs that matter are the big ones. Sod the rest! Fortunately, Nick, the bulk of fans do care about the smaller clubs.
To quote Ed Horton’s Moving the Goalposts: "A teenage Plymouth fan suggested that the only way to mobilise outside support (to protest at the proposed selling off of Brighton’s ground) was to hold a demonstration at the Goldstone. And on a Saturday in February (1996) that is what happened. Thousands of supporters, from dozens of different clubs, descended on Brighton to protest. Fans from different clubs stood shoulder to shoulder on the terraces that day to show their solidarity with Brighton fans.
We, the fans, can force change. The work of the Campaign against ID Cards, which organised thousands of fans against Thatcher’s proposed ID card scheme, with demonstrations at matches, meetings of fans at different clubs and a lobby of Parliament, helped force her Tory government to abandon the scheme. Tragically, it took the deaths, or `corporate manslaughter`, of 96 Liverpool fans to finally force Thatcher to back down.
Unfortunately, as well as abandoning the ID scheme, the government accepted the recommendation in the Taylor Report, post-Hillsborough for all-seater stadiums. Two years earlier, in the FA Cup semi-final between Spurs and Wolves at Hillsborough, a similar tragedy nearly occurred. The authorities had learnt nothing. We saw a glimpse of the solidarity between fans as a result of the Hillsborough tragedy when collections were held at every ground; more than £1m was raised for the dead fans’ dependants.
This is the real face of football — not the isolated hooligan problem, which is blown out of all proportion, to fill the pages of the Mirror and the Sun and even the `serious` press.
The Premier League and all-seater stadiums have brought much higher prices. Fans, who see football as a social occasion, where they would meet up on the terraces as a group to enjoy the chants and rivalry with the other club`s fans, have suffered. This is as much part of the occasion as the match itself. Supporters have been forced to sit down (although more and more of us are resisting) and unless a block of seats can be reserved together, they get dispersed around the ground.
In many cases, this has helped to kill the atmosphere. Many former regulars have stopped going since the enforced transition to all-seaters, regardless of ticket prices, which have rocketed into the stratosphere. We demand that a certain percentage of each ground in all divisions should be set aside for fans who want to stand. Terracing can be just as safe as seating if the clubs spend the money to make it safe.
The game needs to be run by a democratically elected governing body. This should be on the basis of each club balloting their members to elect their representative and the PFA and staff electing one delegate per club. This would create a truly democratic governing body, which would have the interests of football, not the profit motive, at heart.
At the moment, unelected boards run the different clubs. If we are to reclaim the game then a democratic structure is needed. Fans, players, club staff and the local community should all be represented on a club`s board.
We would recommend that the fans, who are the game’s biggest sponsors, should, through their official and unofficial supporters` clubs — where they represent a significant number — initiate a democratic club membership.
This would elect a third of the board. The players and staff should elect the second third of the board, with the final third being elected by the local, elected authority, because the local community should be represented to ensure club facilities are used for their benefit. Most clubs were originally formed by working-class people. We must regain control of our clubs before they are destroyed by the ruthless quest for profit.
Bring Back The Terraces
Cheap and safe terracing should be brought back to our grounds. In Germany fans were consulted about what sort of stadia they wanted. In England they just went ahead and got rid of the cheap terracing and replaced them with expensive seats.
Scrap The Premier League
The ‘greed is good league’ should be scrapped. Football revenue including the monies from TV should be shared out more evenly between all the teams in the four divisions.
Revenue should also go to non-league clubs and grass roots football. There should be a return to the pre-1981 arrangement where ‘away’ teams kept a share of the gate receipts.
Prices should be limited to a reasonable amount — £15 maximum for a game. Prices for children under eleven should be nominal, otherwise a whole generation will be lost to the game. School students between eleven and 18, Senior Citizens, the unemployed and those on benefits should only pay half price for both terracing and seats. The supporters` clubs should be involved in discussions on price rises and away fans should be charged the same as home supporters, with half price for children.
Policing And Stewarding
The policing at our grounds also needs to be monitored and controlled by the fans. Many ejections from the ground occur for very trivial things and the police attitude to supporters can be very confrontational both inside and outside the ground.
Stewards, under the control of the supporters` clubs, should be used inside the ground with the visiting club’s fans being in charge of their own stewarding.
Priority has to be given to people with disabilities. The current Green Guide should be implemented. This would guarantee that fans in disabled areas would have a clear view of the pitch, even when people in front are standing. All grounds should provide match commentaries for blind and partially sighted people who want to attend.
Clubs are always claiming that they want football to be a family game, but the facilities that exist for women at many grounds are completely inadequate.
Decent food, not just soggy hamburgers, should be available at an affordable price. All fans, men and women, should be involved in deciding what facilities are provided.
Crèches should be freely available (mind you, kids should be inside the ground at as early an age as possible).
We must organise in the Football Supporters’ Federation, which has over 100,000 members, and through independent supporters’ clubs and fanzines for the policies outlined above. We must Reclaim Our Game!
Football came from the masses and the working class. The only way it can survive is if we fight to reclaim it as a working-class sport, owned, controlled and run by the fans, players and the local community. Fans united will never be defeated!
The tens of millions of pounds taken out of the game in tax by the government have to be ploughed back into football at grass roots level. The pools companies should be nationalised, with the millions of pounds generated by them put back into the sport at every level.
Directors are always pleading poverty, yet they are never short of a few bob or the odd yacht or two. Football`s financial books must be opened for all fans to see where their money goes.
Anti- Racism And Fascism
We the fans must demand:
The stopping of distribution of racist and fascist literature at grounds.
Ejection and banning of known fascists and persistent racist chanters from grounds — if the clubs do not take action fans must be organised to physically confront racists and fascists. Players, clubs and fanzines should be used to educate fans on the nature of fascism, how it exists to physically destroy the rights and organisations of all workers.
Players should visit schools and youth clubs to issue anti-racist statements and encourage all children, including Black and Asian children, to attend matches.
We must also combat hooliganism; a bit of a ruck with another set of fans might seem a bit of a laugh, but it’s divisive. Better to organise fans from around the country to fight racism and fascism, linking this with the campaign for a reduction in prices and for democratic control of our clubs.
Sky TV, and all cable, digital and commercial TV should be nationalised under democratic workers’ control and management. Enable facilities and technology to be available for all for a minimal cost. For need, not profit.
Anti-gay chants, such as ‘Town full of faggots’ chanted by ‘away’ fans at Brighton and Hove Albion, and anti-gay sledging by players must be campaigned against. This is divisive. The tragic suicide of former Norwich striker Justin Fashanu was a result of the torrent of abuse he received from fans, players and managers after he came out.
The Government And Football
The Criminal Justice Act could be used against fans demonstrating against ‘our’ chairmen, boards or managers.
Banning orders, which are used to prevent football fans from travelling abroad, could be used in the future against the Left and anti-capitalist protestors.
Kick Big Business Out Of Football
For fans everywhere the match is the highlight of the week. When your team loses you are depressed, when they win you are on top of the world.
Football has been transformed from the people’s game into a multi-million pound arm of the leisure industry. The founders of organized football, the Football Association attempted to safeguard football from being used as a means to make vast profits and to stop individuals’ asset stripping clubs (including selling grounds) by drafting rule 34. This rule limited a director’s income, safeguarded club grounds and preserved clubs as sporting institutions. This all changed when the then Spurs Chairman flouted rule 34 by creating a PLC holding company in the 1980’s, which could be floated on the Stock Exchange.
The Taylor Report in 1990 was used as an excuse to destroy terracing and to transform our grounds into yuppie palaces. Most of these grounds are soulless and have no atmosphere. Clubs also used the report as an excuse to massively hike up prices.
Grounds should be owned jointly by the supporters and the local community. This would allow facilities to be used for the benefit of all.
Players should not be bought and sold in the market place, there should be compensation paid to clubs for developing players, but the transfer system should be scrapped.
At grassroots level in the 1980s, the Thatcher government’s policy of selling off school playing fields (continued by Labour) has had a terrible effect on boys and girls developing their sporting skills. Schools often do not have anywhere available for children to play sports. Since 1981, at least 5,000 playing fields have been sold off nationally, gone over to property developers, out-of-town supermarkets or fast food outlets.
The majority of clubs are in a near terminal state. The rule of docking clubs points for going into administration does not really help. What is needed is a conference involving delegates from every club and from the FSF and PFA (the players’ trade union) to discuss the finances and future of football governance, including the fitness and suitability of the long list of dubious club owners.
The players and fans must fight back to save our beautiful game. The fans are the biggest ‘sponsors’ of football. We should through a ballot of season ticket holders and club members elect the boards of our club. In Spain, Barcelona are owned and governed by their hundred thousand plus membership, who elect their board and President.
The Future Reclaim The Game
We may see reduced domestic Premier Leagues in England, a Premiership 1 and 2, including Scottish giants Celtic and Rangers. We have already seen the beginnings of a European Super League with the extended Champions League, which was set up by UEFA to appease the biggest clubs and to suck in even greater amounts of television cash.
Football has evolved from a game, which used to be a scrap between two villages, and was frowned upon by ‘the powers to be’, into a beautiful game which was developed by working men. It was they who instigated the rules and formed teams to compete against each other. Football became hugely popular, and spread from these shores to become the World game, the Peoples game. But gradually small businessmen took the game over, mainly for prestige.
Today, big business has hijacked the big clubs in world football. This process reflected Thatcherite society in the 1980’s and the plague of neo-liberalism, in other words’ let the strong survive and prosper and the rest go to the wall’ Unless the game is transformed many clubs could go out of business. The only way football can be saved is by working class fans reclaiming the game.
The development of football was and is linked with the development of capitalism and the profit system. The fight to democratise football is linked with getting rid of big business domination within it. The same people and corporations who now own and control our teams and threaten their future existence also control many of our workplaces and decide whether or not these stay open. Fans must link the battle to sack the boards at our clubs with the struggles against our bosses in our workplaces.
If big business did not control and run football, how would football be run? A Socialist society would guarantee and protect the existence of all clubs, League and non League. Football clubs are an integral part of working class communities.
Clubs would be community run and non profit making (as the majority already make a loss this would be a step forward). Supporters would not just be involved in turning up to watch. There would be a proper club structure where people would enrol to the club of their choice for a nominal fee. It would be a sports club, with fans, if they wished, playing in Leagues based on ability. People of all ages, men, women, able bodied and disabled would be enabled to play for their club. Club members through elected committees would also be involved in the day to day running of their clubs.
In a Socialist society players and club staff would receive good wages, but not the over inflated wages they receive now. In the Premiership many players receive millionaire wages. But these players have witnessed vast profits being made by the directors of the game and have tried to secure a share for themselves. Under Socialism players would receive wages tied to the average wage of a skilled worker, with differentials based on the level of League they play in.
SOCIALISM IS THE FUTURE
We must link our fight to Reclaim the Game with a fight to transform the rotten corrupt system we live under.
The Capitalist system decides what is produced in society on the basis of profit not need. Indeed they would rather destroy crops and goods than sell them for a low price, in order to maximise their profits.
Society is controlled worldwide by a few thousand multi billionaires, who are unaccountable and unelected. They profit while one third of the world’s population either starve or have inadequate food provisions.
The pharmaceutical industry makes huge profits while at the same time hundreds of thousands of people die from curable diseases because they cannot afford to buy medicine.
For the mass of the world’s population capitalism represents horror without end, hell on earth.
Even at present there is sufficient food produced to feed the entire population of the world quite adequately, but crops and fishing catches are consciously destroyed in order to maximise profits. It is the equivalent of having a fridge full of food in your house and an abundance of clean water and medicine and deciding that one of your children will be allowed to slowly starve.
We must put an end to the barbaric system of capitalism and fight for a democratic, planned socialist economy organised across international borders and based on human solidarity and cooperation.
Working class people produce all the wealth in society and we should own and control the means of production. A socialist society would guarantee a job with decent pay for all, decent housing for all, free education and health care for all, adequate provisions for the elderly and those unable to work. The working week could be reduced, with the introduction of technology, very quickly to a 4 day 20 hour week, which would allow the mass of people to develop their skills and enjoy their leisure time, and also have time to be involved in the administration and running of society.
For the first time in history, working people, the majority in society would have democratic control of society. The world would be rid of the horrors of war, most diseases, hunger and the ecological mess created by big business in their quest for profit.
Join the fightback, join the Socialist Party.
A Unique Solution, The First Year Of Afc Wimbledon Paul Jeater- Juma
The Beautiful Game,Searching For The Soul Of Football, David Conn –Yellow Jersey Press.
Stanley Matthews My Autobiography, The Way It Was-Headline
Out Of Time, Alex Fynn And Lynton Guest-Headline
Broken Dreams, Tom Bower-Pocket Books
The Football Grounds Of Great Britain, Simon Inglis
Pictorial History Of English Football- Jeffery/Gonella, Dempsey-Parr
The Football Business, David Conn, Mainstream
Sing When Your Winning, Steve Redhead,Pluto
The People’s Game, James Walvin,Mainstream
A Game Of Two Halves, Hamil,Mitchie,Oughton,Mainstream
Moving The Goalposts, Ed Horton,Mainstream
Daily Mirror, Evening Standard, Independent, Guardian, Observer, The Financial Times, Do Or Die Magazine-A Radical History Of Football, Foul Magazine, A Kick Up The R’s, The Big Issue, Searchlight,Deloitte & Touche Annual Review Of Football Finance, The Socialist, Socialism Today And The Football Supporters’ Federation.
Also thanks to Gary Martin, Russ Green, Del Flowers, John, Paul, George and Ringo, QPR, John Hird, Sean Hurl, Mick Suter, John B, Chris Newby, Paula Mitchell, Natalie Jade Cross, Sue Tickner, Anne Hollifield, Steve Nally, Bob Labi, Alison Hill, Peter Taaffe, Jared W Wood, Linda Clarke, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Pamela Morris, AFC Wimbledon, Stade Rennes, Ian Smith, Mick Cotter, Dennis Rudd, John Sharpe, John Quinlan, the RMT, Rita Zammit, Steve Poole, Bob Sulatycki, John Furness, Judy Beishon, Jess Beishon, Barry Jessup, Ron Boyle, Alan Reid, Josie Boyle, Ann O’Connor, Tim O’Connor, The Earl of Rochester, the Spellman family, my nieces Jackie, Susan, Angela, Natalie, Kathryn and Caroline, and my three Godsons Patrick, Paul and Billy, not bad for an atheist, although when you get to my age you have to hedge your bets.
Certainty, fidelity on the stroke of midnight pass.
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