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Viewpoint 7/11/07

fans viewsHenry's column this week looks at the amount of money in football and whether it is justified.

There is a lot of money in football. I think we can all agree on that, but the question is that is there too much money in football?

I touched on this issue a while ago when I was talking about the atmosphere in grounds, and I remember saying that one of the reasons it’s quieter, is due to the increasing prices for tickets. And it’s true. The regular hardcore fans are simply getting priced out.

As I am only a teenager, I was born, and have grown up in an environment where millions of pounds are being splashed about between clubs. It’s normal nowadays, to be expected to pay over £300 for a season ticket, and clubs putting in bids of £20-30mil for a player. It’s just how football is. Football is turning itself to more of a business than a sport. Expectations are rapidly rising each season, and there’s suddenly more to lose if a club fails to reach it’s standards.

There is competition in the transfer market, and in the general business market. Some players seem to get more attracted to the high salaries on offer, rather than the chance to play regular and decent football (Shaun Wright-Phillips and John Obi Mikel spring to mind). And what’s more, rich and exotic tycoons are providing for managers to provide for their transfer window spending sprees.
This week, Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe came out and complained about the salaries for some players, and he targeted John Terry’s ‘obscene‘ £130k a week wage. At first glance, fans, including me, would have fully agreed with these comments and that £130k a week is a joke. But as the week grew older, a few points came into my head that balanced my opinion.

First of all, if I, or any other normal person was offered this sort of money, they would leap unto the chance like a salmon. And this is happening to footballers these days. You can’t expect Wayne Rooney to turn down a new £100k a week contract for £250 a week. Footballers are human beings like all of us, and if those sort of sums are put on the table for you, you would gratefully help yourself.
However, one thing that really annoys me is if they are earning this money, but give in lazy and careless performances on the pitch. But that’s a different matter.

Managers then started to hit back at Sutcliffe’s comments. I couldn’t understand a thing Avram Grant was saying, and even Fergie’s comments about tennis players went through one ear and out the other. What hit me though, was the point Alan Curbishley brought up, which is that this sort of money is flying around football, so fans first of all have to live with it. Secondly, as this money is around in football, each person has to get their share of it, and that’s what footballers are doing.

And this is true. If you work for Microsoft for example, you’re expected to be earning millions, as it’s a multi-billion pound company, so everyone get’s their share of the money. Football is also a multi-billion market, so the players are expected to be earning vast amounts of money.
But I was swayed to another very good point, and this is probably why so many fans are complaining. First the obvious. We, as fans, are the ones responsible for dipping into our pockets and giving in so much of our money to the club. You get even more annoyed when at clubs like United, a lot of your money is going to a tycoon like Malcolm Glazer.

This leads me unto Sutcliffe’s next point. As he’s a United fan himself, he had the consideration of mentioning about the highly controversial Automatic Cup Ticket scheme, which was inflicted by a fat lazy American sitting on a computer somewhere in Florida while he was bored. Malcolm Glazer is sinking into lower depths that I thought was possible.

The Scheme only applies to the most contributing fans, these are the season ticket holders. It means that if they wished to renew at the end of the season, they had to agree to pay for ALL cup games, whether they were going to them or not. This mounted up to an extra £200, adding to the already ridiculous price for the season ticket itself.
It’s obvious that the Glazer family did this to fund for the huge amount of debt, but what really annoyed me about this is the way the club is suddenly treating people as customers, instead of supporters. They welcome the hardcore season tickets holders as a way of making money and adding to their huge wages.
There are other reasons why there is more money in football nowadays than back in the 70s were you would pay £60 for a season ticket in the Stretford End. It’s more of a global thing now. In the old days, if you went to a United game, you’re most likely to hear a Manc accent wherever you were, and probably the occasional cockney. These days though, you walk down Warwick Road and see all sorts of people from different ethnic backgrounds. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it shows the great popularity United has, but it highlights the fact that it’s a lot more global than how it used to be.

You can also see this on the pitch. When was the last time you heard a full English side being read out at Old Trafford? (Obviously excluding In-Ger-Land games) A normal starting eleven would consist of players with completely different cultures and languages. Again, I am not saying it’s a bad thing, because if you think about it, the foreign players are sometimes far better that some of the English.

Globalisation means interest, and interest means money. Clubs want to be as high in the stakes as possible in this massively expanding business. This means they have to make more money to challenge with the likes of Chelski and Barcelona in the transfer window. Players realise this, so start to demand for higher wages. If Kaka was offered £30k a week at Real Madrid, he would instantly turn this down as he knows he would be offered more than triple that amount at Chelski.

So as I have said earlier, the problem is that the fans have to sacrifice a lot of their hard earned cash, and I think the whole of the footballing world has to act together to stop this, because it’s just not on.

More and more clubs will keep raising the stakes higher and higher, and less and less fans would be able to afford to go. But the bubble surely has to burst at some stage. There has to be a bottom to the seemingly bottomless pit. Surely.

So before it comes to the time when you have to save up for a decade to watch a pre-season friendly against Grays Athletic, and expect to only see the likes of Prince Phillip and Bill Gates in the K Stand, we as fans and the core of the game should stop this as early as possible.
So what can we do? Well…nothing. Because we are not fans anymore, we are just mere customers, and are expected to keep paying up.
By Henry Kibirige

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