Football – The Peoples Game – Yeah Right

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April 27, 2021

I can genuinely say I have loved football all of my life. Like the vast majority of kids I dreamt of playing for my favourite club, being the next Denis Law and becoming famous; but just like the other 99.9% of young boys, I just wasn’t good enough. Once I got over that disappointment, just being able to go and watch my home town club quickly became more than enough for me and my love of the game just grew.

However, over the following forty six years I began to realise that football was gradually being stolen away from the people, bit by bit. By the time the Premiership arrived back in 1992, it was very clear that the game was losing its human connection and local roots, folk in London supported Manchester United whilst Geordies supported Arsenal; this would have been almost unthinkable just a decade earlier. The sheer volume of foreign players in the game had increased to the point that English youngsters could hardly get an opportunity to break into the first team’s at their clubs. Inevitably, this led to a huge drop in the quality of English players being produced, the national side suffered and it seemed like the game mI gut never recover. Luckily, the ever increasing money flooding the game did allow some very good investment, where the clubs and particularly the ones at the top, built some of the best academies and training facilities in the world. Slowly but surely young English talent was starting to come through and the benefit of playing alongside world class players and train under the best coaches undoubtedly helped them develop and achieve their true potential. The list of such youngsters is endless, Phil Fodden, Mason Mount, Declan Rice….
The downside of course, is that the lower leagues had also taken on hundreds of foreign players, but many of these were simply cheaper and of a significantly lower quality than the English players trying to ply their trade at these levels. As a consequence of this situation, many of the lower league clubs have failed to progress and the likes of Jamie Vardy and Ollie Watkins have become very rare indeed. The essence of the people’s game continued to be undermined whilst the focus on money simply continued to grow. In more recent years it has become so expensive to attend a match that many working class fans can only dream of seeing their team live and have to depend on TV to get a glimpse of their heroes.
I actually left this blog for a few days as the European Super League row blew up, but as it was blown out so quickly (and correctly), I have come back to finish my piece. I found the aforementioned “Super League” nonsense too much to take and if it had gone ahead, I am sure that would have been the final nail in the coffin of football for me. It was just confirmation, if any was needed, that the key players in the running of our bigger clubs do not have a clue about the fans, their connection to their clubs or how costly football has become for them to watch; nor do they give a monkeys. They never will either, they are largely foreign billionaires who simply see the creation of such a league and their presence within it as an even greater gravy train. Their concept of being a “supporter” and what that means will never fit the working man’s reality, so I would be absolutely delighted to see all of them sell up, take their money and go home.
The saddest thing in all of this is that the issue hasn’t gone away and it is only a matter of time before it is revisited; it’s a stay of execution at best. No amount of protesting or fan outrage can change the fact that inevitably greed will. Fans generate a lot of money at the turnstiles, but it pales into insignificance when compared to the TV rights and revenues, which are actually obscene, The fight-back should have started a long, long time ago, before bang average players could demand £50-60,000 a week, nearly twice the UK average salary. It didn’t and it has actually got worse in recent years. I, for one, would like to strip football back to where it was pre-Premier League, control pay structures for the players and limit TV revenues; I know we wouldn’t have the amazing stadiums or the world’s greatest players in our leagues, but we might just get our sport back, be able to afford to go to a game every week with our kids and get rid of the stench that is seeping ever deeper into our national game (oh and decent pie and Bovril).


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