The Death Of The People's Game
The Great Premier League swindle
By John Reid
Football Boom or Bust?
The Premier League is the richest league in the
world, generating £1.25 billion, ahead of Italy's Serie 'A' with £800
In the last two seasons, the gates in the top
division have been the highest since the early 1950's (the entire league
attendances are the highest since 1964). In the 13 years of the
Premiership league, billions of pounds of T.V money and money from
commercial deals has flooded into football.
To paraphrase the French philosopher Voltaire
"It would seem all is perfect in the most perfect of all worlds". But in
the last six seasons a quarter of all top professional clubs have gone
into administration procedures.
We have witnessed Brighton and Hove Albion
almost fold, and lose their Goldstone ground to a property shark. Notts
County, the oldest professional club in the world, nearly disappeared.
At Wrexham their owner Alex Hamilton who is threatening to sell their
Racecourse ground for re-development took the oldest club in Wales
formed in 1872 to the brink.
Leeds United have gone from 'Top Three' club to
almost rock bottom, and have mortgaged off their Elland Road stadium.
Derby County to get out of receivership
mortgaged their ground Pride Park to the mysterious ABC Company in
Panama, for £15 Million.
QPR borrowed £10 Million from this company and
are paying a huge £1 Million interest per year on this loan. It is
unclear who is behind these loans, which are costing an arm and a leg to
finance. Fans at Derby and QPR would dearly love to know who ultimately
owns a large part of their clubs. Rumours suggest Michael (Mike to his
friends) Hunt was behind the loans.
Hunt, former director of Nissan UK, was jailed
in 1993 for eight years for his part in siphoning off £149.2 Million
from Nissan UK and cheating the Inland Revenue out of £56.3 Million -
Britain's largest ever tax fraud. But the F.A did not object to QPR or
Derby County borrowing money from ABC.
Many other clubs are seriously in debt,
Manchester City currently £62 Million in debt could well go the same way
as Leeds. Leeds borrowed £60 Million on future ticket sales at 7.695%
interest - £4.6 Million a year.
They even sold and leased back players - what a
way to run a fooball club. They ended up £90 Million plus in debt. Until
Abramovich took over, Chelsea had £90 Million worth of debts and were
seemingly one week from liquidation. Their pre-tax losses in the first
year under Abramovich, were an all time football high of £88 Million
(fortunately for them these debts are underwritten by Abramovich). But
what would happen to Chelsea if Abramovich pulled out?
Manchester United as the biggest football
Revenue earners in the world, are a big target for businessmen looking
for a fast buck. Malcolm Glazer, American billionaire, is trying to buy
United and may finance his purchase by increasing ticket prices by 20%,
plunging the club £300 million in debt through loans and even by selling
the stadium name to a corporation for £100 million plus - United fans
organised in the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association,
who have already organised huge demos, will hopefully see off Glazers
In the past Martin Edwards made millions out of
buying up shares on the cheap at Manchester United. Indeed Edwards at
United, Scholar at Tottenham Hotspur, Eric Hall at Newcastle and Ken
Bates at Chelsea made millions of pounds out of very small investments.
For this new breed of club owners the beautiful game became money -
making machine rather than a cheap form of entertainment for working
The Dark Side of Football
companies buy into football for a quick profit. There are exceptions,
but they are few and far between.
Abramovich bought into Chelsea as a prestige high profile company. He
looked first at Spanish football; but the teams are still 'controlled'
by the fans. The fans elect the board of Barcelona.
over of Chelsea is as significant as the formation of the Premier
League, it has re-ignited the transfer market, with Abramovich spending
well over £200 million in two seasons (indeed his total spending on
transfer wages etc has been £350 million). Chelsea spent £24.5 million
just to get out of their sponsorship deal with Umbro. This sum is more
than twice the average turnover of a Championship club.
apparently have lined up a new sponsorship deal with another giant
leisure company for between £300 and 500 million. The game is rife with
lurid tales of sex and drugs scandals. But nothing is new here.
Footballers have featured at both ends of the News of the World since I
was a lad. (As far as I am concerned the England manager can have sex
with as many consenting adults as he wishes).
Drug and drink abuse have
also featured in the game for years. In Stanley Matthews’ autobiography,
he talks about how he was given some pills by a member of the club’s
staff to get him through a game. So effective were those pills, he not
only got through the game but was up all night doing the housework and
the gardening. Sir Stanley Matthews, who was totally against drugs, had
been slipped a pep pill to get him through a game. Allegations abound
that betting syndicates fix matches.
In England, Bruce Grobbelaar was
accused of taking bribes to fix games, and in Germany recently, referee
Robert Hoyzer admitted fixing matches, which has caused uproar amongst
Surviving By the Skin of their Teeth
During 2002/03, a record 17 football league
clubs entered insolvency proceedings, many surviving by the skin of
their teeth due to the loyalty, organisation and love of their fans.
Supporters’ trusts have played a significant role in saving clubs from
going out of existence.
Since Aldershot and Maidstone United went out
of business, and out of the League in 1992, there have been 40 cases of
insolvency proceedings involving clubs. 5 clubs have entered insolvency
But for the intervention of fans in Supporters'
Trusts and other fans action groups, many clubs would have gone under.
Over 25% of clubs in Leagues 1 and 2 have a Supporters' Trust
representative on the board, and at almost 50% they own a proportion of
Trusts have raised over £2 million in seasons
2001/02 and 2002/03, significant amounts for small clubs facing
liquidation. Many clubs would have folded without this fund raising. At
two clubs Exeter and York City the Supporters' Trusts hold a majority
share holding. At Brentford and Lincoln City they have a significant
share in the ownership.
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 play Black
In the mid 1970's, football pundit 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" Last year he described Marcel Desailly of Chelsea
as a "Fucking lazy nigger".
In a recent DVD the F.A. picking the best of
England players did not choose one Black player. 20% of all Professional
players are Black. Amongst the star players in the current England side
are Black players Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell. Black players are still
racially taunted on the field but the F.A. turn a blind eye and a deaf
ear to it. The F.A. and the PFA should discipline guilty players.
Very few Black players are appointed as club
managers or coaches, there are currently only 3 Black managers amongst
Only a handful of British born Asian players
are playing in the four divisions. Zesh Rehman of Fulham is 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 between 0-2%. 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.
At a recent England-versus-Holland international players wore anti
racist shirts. Gary Neville, England and Man. Utd., was quoted in the
Daily Mirror as saying "We've got to make sure it's done in the right
manner, and not just as a public relations exercise as sports companies
seem to be doing at the moment. We've got to be aware that it's not
cheapened by companies like Nike who are making a lot of PR by doing
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
either players, managers or fans, and that is probably why Arsenal have
the biggest percentage of Black supporters.
Many clubs do fine anti racist work, as do
fanzines. Leyton Orient, Charlton Athletic, Derby County, Sheffield
United, Everton, Leicester City, Leeds United and Millwall have all done
very good anti-racist activity and have worked hard to build links with
the local Black and Asian communities.
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 million 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.
Let us make our grounds welcoming to fans of
all colours, races and creeds.
clubs who played in last season’s UEFA Champions League shared $600m
between them in broadcasters and sponsors’ money. Winners, Bayern
Munich walked off with almost $40m after playing just 17 games.
of 2000 winners Real Madrid, Lorenzo Sanz, was reported as claiming that
his club is ‘a factory to make money’, yet Real ended the season
with debts of £120m.
Utd., which accounts for half the operating profit of the entire Premier
League, is busy extending its corporate market, with tours to the Far
East and a deal which is being labelled a multi-billion dollar joint
marketing venture with the New York Yankees baseball team. But behind
this `market dominance’ are worrying figures. In 2000 its profits were
down 25%, largely because of wage inflation, although figures for the
year ending July 31 2001 show an increased turnover of £130m, a rise of
29%, with profits of £21.8m.
to the annual survey of football finance carried out by Deloitte and
Touche, between 1993/94 and 1998/9, Premier club’s wages rose by 266%,
compared with revenue growth of 177%. Another recent survey claims that
the average Premiership player is now on £400,000 a year. Any Premier
club has to be seen by its supporters as spending every available penny
to keep up with or outstrip its rivals. Yet even the pool of good
players is limited. The whole of football is on a spending treadmill.
The superbucks go to the winners, but in an effort to win, every club’s
costs rise to and often go beyond the winner’s levels.
to the Economist, another recent convert to football journalism:
"soon, something is going to have to change, for it looks as though
football’s income from TV may be reaching its peak. The broadcasters
believe that football coverage is approaching saturation point. New
contracts will not provide the game with the huge increases every few
years it has recently grown used to, and sponsorship too, may
pay-per-view (ppv) experiment may backfire; there is no guarantee that
fans will subscribe. Ppv channels for Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool,
Celtic and Rangers will have the effect of further redistributing money
from the clubs with a smaller fan base to the clubs who are already
rolling in it.
are the world’s richest club. Underpinning their finances is the world’s
largest fan base. A 2001 survey, published by Hamburg-based UEFA Sports,
found that 26% of European football fans thought that Man Utd was the
best club in the world. Utd have 14m `fans` across Europe. In Britain it
has two and a half times as many fans as the club with the next largest
fan base, Chelsea.
satellite coverage Utd have a worldwide fan base. In Asia, they have
shops in Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. When Utd
visited Maine Road, home of Manchester City in the ‘derby’ match
last season, City fans held up a huge banner which read `Welcome to
Manchester` (funny, but not true; despite the jokes, Utd have more fans
in Manchester than anyone else).
and sponsorship bring in 26% of the club’s revenues. Both look set to
rocket. Sportswear giant Nike has taken over worldwide merchandising,
splitting the revenues with the club, and promoting the United brand
name, particularly in Asia and North America. The deal is forecast to
earn the club at least £300m. Their four year Vodaphone sponsorship is
worth over £30m, and Utd can expect to earn over £25m TV money on just
their Premiership games.
despite going out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals to Real,
Utd made £16.9m from the tournament; almost twice as much as when they
won the trophy in 1999. MUTV will also bring millions of pounds more
into their coffers.
all is well in the Utd kingdom. Their share price has almost halved
since the end of the 1999/2000 season although last season’s TV income
went up by £8m. Wages are cutting into profits. In future, to keep
Beckham, Giggs and Keane, they will have to pay out a minimum of
£100,000 a week x3 (they may already be doing so!).
Premier League has been dominated by Man Utd. This domination will lead
other club’s fans to just switch off if Utd are on the telly. There
isn’t much to maintain fans’ interest if the Premier is already
`won` by Utd by Christmas. Fans will not tune into matches which are
rendered almost meaningless by Utd domination.
Happens when the bubble bursts?
flotation of clubs on the stock market conned many fans into thinking
their clubs would become a shareholders’ democracy, that owning shares
in `their’ club would give them an element of control and a say in the
running of their club. They soon found out at shareholders’ meetings
that their few hundred, or thousand shares were outvoted by large
shareholders or companies holding large blocks of shares. The club’s
new owners were even more faceless than in the past.
increase in football finances was driven by the comercial 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.
floated on the stock exchange as a result of the billion pound- plus put
into the football industry by deals with Sky and other TV companies.
These deals plus the massive increases in ticket prices and the sale of
merchandise, including replica shirts, initially saw the value of
football clubs soar on the Stock Exchange. Now, as The Observer business
section (8 April 2001) says, ‘The City’s love affair with football
is well and truly over’. All clubs, including Manchester Utd, have
seen the value of their shares fall. City analysts and institutional
shareholders complain that the football plcs spend a much higher
proportion of their revenues on salaries than any other type of
flotations have put the future of many clubs in jeopardy. The initial
football industry boom on the Stock Exchange has turned into a slump in
share values for most clubs.
recession, it could lead to many clubs going even deeper into debt as
the value of the clubs sink. The City will have little sympathy with
clubs falling into debt. Many clubs will be put into the hands of the
receivers or even go bankrupt, including some of the larger clubs. At
the moment, football is seen as a trendy fad; large numbers of
middle-class fans now attend matches, and 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 will be unable to
afford to attend. The buying of corporate tickets and possibly even
corporate sponsorship will be reduced.
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.
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. Audiences for Sky Sports live
coverage fell by more than 10% over the course of the 1999/2000 season.
signs of boredom with over-saturated TV coverage. It is no longer the
sure-fire audience driver that it once was. Television ratings for the
designed-for-television UEFA Champions League are disappointing. As The
Observer says: "The danger is that the new commercial version of
the game -- made for television and performed by individual stars paid
millions -- will fail to recruit the next generation of addicted
Premiership is becoming a one-horse race, which belies the claim that it
is the top league in the world. The French, Spanish, Italian and German
leagues are more competitive. At least in Scotland it’s a two-horse
not a Man Utd hater; whichever way football was organised, they would be
the largest club in England. A lot of their recent success has been down
to possessing one of the great managers of all time and developing an
excellent youth system. Their ‘real’ fans have been in the forefront
of the battles against commercialisation, organised in the Independent
Man Utd Supporters’ Association. They successfully opposed the take
over by Sky TV and have fought against price increases and all-seater
stadiums. IMUSA have called for the reintroduction of standing areas, or
Utd the club, has become the symbol of corporate football. According to
a review by researchers BMRB in 1996, 27% of seven- to 19 -year- olds
who called themselves football fans, `support` United. More likely that
they support the corporate, winning image; the vast majority have
probably never even been to Manchester.
were even allowed to opt out of the 2000 FA Cup to enter a meaningless
but money-spinning tournament in Brazil — with the blessing of the
football authorities and the Labour government, on the spurious
assertion that it would seal England’s bid for the 2006 World Cup —
it didn’t do that — it just devalued the oldest football tournament
in the world, which had already been devalued by sponsorship.
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, Leeds, Arsenal and Chelsea dominate. Spurs and
Everton, which used to be part of the big five, have slipped out of the
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 fourth-largest economy in
the world, while the gap between rich and poor is the widest for over a
Business -- Saviours Or Sinners?
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.
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. It costs £13
-£18 to watch QPR in the Second Division. It’s £28-£40 to watch
Chelsea in the Premier League. If prices had kept pace with inflation,
it would cost us between £5 and £8 to watch a match, dependent on what
division you were watching. Up until 1991 there was room for 20,000 to
stand at Old Trafford, at a cost of £4 and 90p for kids. The cheapest
tickets this season at Old Trafford are £18 for a member and £20 for a
has been transformed from the people’s game into a carnival of avarice
and greed. The football renaissance has left 74 clubs out of 92 in debt;
some in massive debt. Many clubs have only achieved a stay of execution
because of the massive campaigns by the supporters at Brighton, QPR,
Fulham, Bournemouth, Wimbledon, Lincoln City, Northampton, Hull and many
other clubs. 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).
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.
during Amstrad supremo Alan Sugar’s reign at Spurs, it was revealed in
The Great Divide (Alex Fynn and Olivia Blair) that in the early days,
Sugar had to `ask what this ‘Double’ was that everyone was on about!
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.
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
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
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."
warrant for the majority of clubs was signed in 1991 when the FA
announced that the Premier League would be set up for season 1992/93.
The 22 founding clubs signed away the future of the 70 left behind.
at the outset of the first Premier League season I wrote Reclaim the
Game for Militant, now the Socialist Party, outlining how this new
league would drive working- class fans away from the game and possibly
lead to the death of many clubs. Since the advent of this `greed is
good` league we have had TV programmes, articles and books all praising
the rebirth of English football.
So, was my
analysis right or wrong?
football now generates over £1bn per year, (the projected figures by
accounting firm Deloitte and Touche for season 2001/02 are £1.7bn)
making it the richest league in the world. Deloitte and Touche’s
annual survey found the game’s income rose by £128 million in the
according to the Financial Times: "English football still needs to
get its financial house in order." The review, based on clubs’
results for the financial year ending May-August 2000, show that in
spite of combined turnover breaking through the £1bn barrier, the 92
English professional clubs made pre-tax losses of £144.6m. In addition,
clubs incurred an overall operating loss of £59m for the first time
since the review was first carried out in the 1990-91 season.
profits of £53.4m for Premiership clubs were more than offset by the
football league clubs’ losses of £112.2m. The review states:
"whilst English football has generated massive increases in income
over the past decade, the clubs’ revenue generating ability has been
more than matched by their ability to spend that money."
worry is that, in many cases, football’s performance in terms of wage
control and profitability is worsening, despite its sterling efforts in
terms of revenue growth. Clubs’ total wage bills absorbed all but £1m
of the £128m increase in incomes.
compound annual growth rate of wages and salaries has outstripped
turnover growth in every division by a significant margin."
1999-2000 total wages costs increased to £747m (69% of turnover) from
£620m (65% of turnover) the previous year. The review says the Premier
League’s first £100,000 a week player is `probably already a
between the Premiership and the Football League is widening. The 20
Premier clubs generated a total income of £772m, more than twice the
amount of the 72 league clubs combined. Average income for a Premier
club was £38.6m (£117m for Man Utd) compared to £7.7m in Division
One, £3.3m in Div Two and £1.7m in Div Three. So the average
Premiership club has an income of £742,000 per week (Man Utd £2.25m)
whilst an average Third Division outfit has a weekly income of just
estimates that by the 2002/3 season, Premiership clubs would share
around £1.5bn a year, while the other 72 would share `just’ £500m.
An average Premier League club would be five times bigger than its
Division One counterpart. According to the review: "The importance
of promotion and relegation is more financially significant than ever.
The biggest financial prize is winning the First Division play-off
final, worth a staggering £23m for one match (in projected increase in
revenue the following season)."
There is a
mad scramble to go up, and a mad scramble to stay in the Premiership. As
a result, 16 clubs had wage bills that exceeded their entire turnover.
danger that football will fail to control costs is high. There is a
cachet to winning that is not captured by the financial benefits, so
clubs always have an incentive to over invest in players. Ultimately,
they risk going out of business. Investors should beware."
have it from the mouthpiece of British finance capital, the Financial
Times. According to Deloitte and Touche, football business has been a
`fantastic success story’. The sport’s income has grown by 313%
since 1992. Only the top clubs are benefiting from this football `boom`.
Just 18 clubs in the English game were profitable last year. The rest
are in varying degrees of debt, some are in a terminal state.
Rangers want to join this gravy train, regardless of what this will mean
to the surviving Scottish clubs and the Scottish game as a whole.
Scottish football and footballers historically played a major role in
first developing the British game and then the world game. Now, Celtic
and Rangers seem prepared to severely damage Scottish football for the
sake of a crock of gold (at least it’s a bit more than 30 pieces of
silver, but the moral is the same).
Kenyon the chief executive of Man Utd wants Rangers and Celtic to Join
the Premier League in 2004. He also proposes a reduction of the League
from 20 teams to 16. This would effectively throw six teams out of the
have been the driving force in the increased turnover. But according to
the Financial Times (15/8/01) 'There are signs that this is reaching a
limit, especially in the UK`. Consumers must spend at least £420 per
year (including the TV licence fee) to watch Premier League football at
home. The growth of digital subscription TV is slowing, indicating that
demand for Pay TV is lower than was thought. And the viewing of football
is hardly rising. In homes with digital TV, the audience share of Sky
Sports has hovered around 3% for the past year.
terrestrial TV, viewing figures for ITV1’s `The Premiership`, its
Saturday night peak-viewing highlights show, have been poor, with an
average of just 4.5 million viewers. It has now been replaced by Cilla’s
Blind Date. This season, costs of watching the game at home will spiral.
We literally have wall-to-wall saturation of TV football. A record 400
games involving British teams will be shown. There is football every day
of the week.
fans would have to fork out for four separate subscriptions, plus their
licence fee, to follow their team, and will also have to pay £8 for
every match show on pay-per-view. A dedicated Man Utd fan would have to
shell out £1,000 subscription and licence fees to watch all their club’s
televised matches and on top of this pay for their season ticket.
could rise even further. Broadcasters, including Sky, which announced
losses of £515m earlier this year, may increase charges during the
course of the season.
faced with high TV prices on top of costs of up to £50 to see a game
live, may be priced out of football in ever greater numbers. Malcolm
Clarke, Chair of the Football Supporters Association told the Observer
(5/8/01): "without affordable mass access, future generations may
find that football — the people’s game — has become a minority
will it be before TV interferes with the structure and laws of the game?
Italian Prime Minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi has the vision
of a TV-led World League. At the World Cup in the USA in 1994 the TV
companies wanted four quarters of half an hour each so that they could
cram in more adverts. It may sound far fetched, but money talks.
billion or so from the new TV deal should be shared amongst all 92
clubs. The PFA are right to argue for a greater share because they often
have to step in and pay wages and compensation to players at clubs in
financial difficulty or pay out money to their members forced into early
retirement through injury. By the age of 21, 75% of professionals end up
giving the game up, one way or another. For every millionaire footballer
like Fowler, Owen or Campbell, there are dozens of journeymen players in
the lower divisions who rely on the PFA to negotiate for them. In 1982,
the `Bristol City eight’, in one famous case, were awarded
compensation for breach of their contracts after the PFA fought their
case after Bristol City almost folded.
all Premiership players support the strike, including ‘old goldenballs’
himself, David Beckham. The Professional Footballers’ Association
offers career advice and financial support to the hundreds of young
players taken on the YTS scheme at 16, who fail to be offered
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.
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.
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
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."
Premier League, 20 teams, now controls around 70% of total football
income. The other 72 league clubs share the remaining 30% of income.
According to Deloitte and Touche, the top five in season 1996/7,
Manchester United, Newcastle United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Aston Villa
had a greater combined turnover than the 72 league clubs.
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 distrubution of
And Asians Excluded
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.)
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
City’s Muzzy Izzett suffered racist abuse last season when he decided
to play for the Turkish national side. Within the last five years, Ian
Wright, whose image did a lot to attract Black youth to Arsenal, turned
down a move to another club because he received threatening letters from
racists and fascists.
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.
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 150 Black fans — this in an area with a large Black population.
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.
players and clubs should look at ways of encouraging mum, dads and their
children to attend. This would have to mean cheaper tickets at all
levels. At Second Division Brentford, for example, there have long been
discounts for unemployed fans and lone-parent families. This season,
Brentford are allowing fans in free for one home game.
Gifted And 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.
great Black players have been lost to football as a result of this
blatant racism? Ian Wright and Tottenham’s 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.
argument is now used against Bengali players. Football is the national
sport of Bangladesh, and a higher percentage of Bengali men and boys
play football than any other racial group.
In a TV
documentary football manager Dave Bassett said Bengalis didn’t have
the physique or correct diet to become professionals. You could argue
that neither did George Best or Diego Maradona — but they were two of
the greatest players of all time.
are still rife with racism, with tales of Black apprentices on the
receiving end of racial abuse from senior professionals.
been little or no campaigning by the majority of clubs or the FA. This
was highlighted in the 1994/5 season, when Paul Ince was allegedly
called an `arrogant Black c***’ by fellow England international Stuart
Pearce. No action was taken against him by the PFA, the FA or Pearce’s
club for bringing the game into disrepute.
that to the lengthy ban Manchester United`s Eric Cantona received for
kicking out at a racist Crystal Palace fan who was foully abusing him.
take action against players who are racist. They must be dealt with. The
alleged events surrounding certain Leeds United professionals are very
disturbing and give a negative impression of the game, which is trying
to clean up its image.
season could see the first home-grown player from an Asian background
playing in the Premiership. Michael Chopra is banging in the goals for
Newcastle Utd and England’s youth sides. At West Ham, centre half
Anwar Uddin is doing well. And disproving the racist myth that Asian
players are too slightly built to make the grade.
United`s under-19s top scorer last season was Pudsey-born left-winger
Harpul Singh. In the Observer (9 September 2001) he said `Asian kids
love football, yet there`s no Asian star they can idolise, watch on TV
or have as the name on the back of their shirt...Whoever is the first
home grown Asian to make it will be massive`.
70 British Asians aged 14 and above attached to clubs` academies. Two of
them, Zesh Rehman of Fulham and Kalam Mooniaruik of Man Utd, have
already played alongside Chopra for the England under-18s. But the worry
is, how will these players be greeted by the crowds, which are 99%
white? We must campaign to ensure that they aren`t greeted with the same
racist filth that was meted out, by a minority of fans, to the pioneers
of British born Black players Cyrille Regis and Viv Anderson a
generation ago. Clubs must also actively encourage, through the issue of
tickets to schools, for more youngsters from Asian, Black and Turkish
backgrounds, as well as white schoolchildren, to attend football.
Excellent anti-racist work has been done at clubs and schools by Show
Racism the Red Card.
old stereotyped attitudes towards Asians remain. Piara Power, from Kick
Racism out of Football , told the Observer (9 September 2001:) `It’s
encouraging that there are 70 (Asians) at Academies, but the fact that
there are very few that get a contract when they turn 16 is a concern...That`s
partly because football is competitive, but also because some
hard-bitten, old-style coaches still have stereotyped attitudes’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
coverage in the late 1980s gave the women`s game an added boost. The
women`s World Cup, held in USA in 1999, drew record crowds, larger than
for most of the mens games in the 1994 World Cup, also held in the US.
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.
one of the leading women players and a cult figure in the USA, earns
£10 million per year in wages and sponsorship. Women`s professional
football in the US attracts crowds of up to 35,000. English clubs
Arsenal and Fulham are looking to cash in in the boom in the women`s
game and are investing heavily.
Football Should be Run
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
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’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 understand the Supporters Direct Fans Trust’s demands for
seats on the board, and the setting up at Chesterfield of a fans`
co-operative. However, these demands do not go far enough.
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
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
Bring back the terraces
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
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.
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 reciepts.
should be two up two down between the fourth division and the Conference
should be limited to a reasonable amount — £5 to £8. £13 to £40 or
more is a rip-off. 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
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.
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
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. The entire disabled section at the Millenium Stadium missed
every single penalty at the 2001 ‘Worthless’ Cup final between
Liverpool and Birmingham City.
facilities, including toilets and bars should be accessible to all. All
grounds should provide match commentaries for blind and partially
sighted people who want to attend.
always claiming that they want football to be a family game, but the
facilities that exist for women at many grounds are completely
food, not just soggy hamburgers, should be available at an affordable
price. All fans, men and women, should be be involved in deciding what
facilities are provided.
should be freely available (mind you, kids should be inside the ground
at as early an age as possible).
organise in the National Federation of Football Supporters, which has
over 80,000 members, and through independent supporters’ clubs and
fanzines for the policies outlined above. We must Reclaim Our Game!
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!
of millions of pounds taken out of the game in tax by the government
have to be ploughed back into football. The pools companies should be
nationalised, with the millions of pounds generated by them put back
into the sport at every level.
are always pleading poverty, yet they are never short of a few bob or
the odd Rolls-Royce or two. Football`s financial books must be opened
for all fans to see where their money goes.
Anti-racism and fascism
fans must demand:
stopping of distribution of racist and fascist literature at grounds.
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.
should visit schools and youth clubs to issue anti-racist statements and
encourage all children, including Black and Asian children, to attend
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
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
chants, 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
Criminal Justice Act could be used against fans demonstrating against
‘our’ chairmen, boards or managers.
fast-track judicial procedure in Belgium has only been used once, to
(wrongly) convict an England fan at Euro 2000. It is to be revitalised
for the protests at the EU Summit in Brussels in December 2001.
orders, which are used to prevent football fans from travelling abroad
could be used in the future against the Left and anti-capitalist
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.
would be community run and non profit making (as 74 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, abled 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
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.