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Contents


 

Published March 2005

 

Introduction: Football boom or bust

Renaissance Or Ruin

What Happens When The Bubble Bursts?

Big Business -- Saviours Or Sinners?

Football's Death Warrant

The Armchair Fan

Big Business Dressed In Shorts

Prawn Sandwiches In The Highbury Library

Crystal Balls

International Game Of The Masses

Folk Football

Money, Money, Money

Directors, Players And Agents

PFA Strike

Who Owns The Grounds Anyway?

Supporters Direct

Super Swans Fight Back

Greed is Good

Corporate Hospitality

Disasters

Past Reclaim The Games

Campaigns Around The Grounds

Review Of Reclaim The Game

Campaigns Against ID Cards

Campaigns Against Racism And Fascism

Fans Against Big Business

Images Of Football

QPR

Wembley

Nick Hornby And Stanley Matthews

The Rich Get Richer

Racism And Football

Blacks And Asians Excluded

Young Gifted And Black

Hooliganism

British Isolation

It's A Man's World

Women's football

The Future

How Football Should Be Run

Football Under Socialism

About The Socialist Party

Bibliography

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 million.

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 bid.

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 people.

The Dark Side of Football

Directors and companies buy into football for a quick profit. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between.

Billionaire Roman 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.

Abramovich's take 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.

Chelsea 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 German fans.

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 proceedings twice.

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 the club.

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 players.

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 the 92.

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 nothing really"

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.

Renaissance or Ruin?

The 32 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.

President 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.

Manchester 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.

According 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.

According 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 wane."

The 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.

 

Man Utd 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.

Thanks to 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).

Merchandising 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.

In 2000, 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.

But not 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!).

The 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.

 

What Happens when the bubble bursts?

The 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.

The vast 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.

Clubs 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 business.

These 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.

In a 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.

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. Audiences for Sky Sports live coverage fell by more than 10% over the course of the 1999/2000 season.

There are 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 consumers."

The 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 race.

Now I’m 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 ‘singing areas’.

But Man 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.

Man Utd 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.

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, Leeds, Arsenal and Chelsea 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 fourth-largest economy in the world, while the gap between rich and poor is the widest for over a hundred years.

 

Big Business -- Saviours Or Sinners?

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. 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 non-member.

Football 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).

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.

And, 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!

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."

 

Football's Death Warrant

The death 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.

In 1992, 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?

English 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 1999-2000 season.

But, 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.

Operating 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."

"The 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.

"The compound annual growth rate of wages and salaries has outstripped turnover growth in every division by a significant margin."

In 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 reality`.

The gulf 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 £33,000.

The report 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.

"The 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."

There you 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.

Celtic and 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).

Peter 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 Premiership.

 

The Armchair Fan

TV rights 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.

Even on 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.

Man Utd 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.

Prices could rise even further. Broadcasters, including Sky, which announced losses of £515m earlier this year, may increase charges during the course of the season.

The fans, 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 sport."

How long 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.


 

PFA Strike

The £1 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.

Virtually 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 professional terms.

 


 

Greed is Good

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."

The 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 wealth."

 


 

Blacks And Asians Excluded

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

Leicester 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.

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 150 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 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.

 

Young Gifted And Black

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 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.

The same 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.

Many clubs are still rife with racism, with tales of Black apprentices on the receiving end of racial abuse from senior professionals.

There has 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.

Compare 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.

Clubs must 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.

This 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.

Leeds 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`.

There are 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.

Unfortunately, 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’.

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.

 


 

Women's Football

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 USA in 1999, drew record crowds, larger than for most of the mens 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.

Mia Hamm, 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.

 


 

How Football Should be Run

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.

Governing body

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.

Democratic control

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 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.

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 reciepts.

There should be two up two down between the fourth division and the Conference league.

Admission prices

Prices 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 for children.

Policing/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.

Facilities

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. The entire disabled section at the Millenium Stadium missed every single penalty at the 2001 ‘Worthless’ Cup final between Liverpool and Birmingham City.

All 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.

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 be involved in deciding what facilities are provided.

Creches should be freely available (mind you, kids should be inside the ground at as early an age as possible).

Campaign

We must 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!

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!

Revenue

The tens 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.

Directors 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

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.

Hooliganism

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.

Pay Television

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.

Gay rights

Anti-gay 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

The Criminal Justice Act could be used against fans demonstrating against ‘our’ chairmen, boards or managers.

The 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.

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.

 

Football Under Socialism

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 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 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.

 

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