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FA from the FA
By Chris Lawton
Something, somewhere, somewhen in football has to change. Our national game is in a state of complete financial disarray. I lay the blame for this situation at the door of the FA and 90% of the club chairman up and down the country.

The problem of wealth within football was bound to come around again sooner or later. Unfortunately for Brighton, Bournemouth and Millwall it has come all too soon. These are the small clubs that have been hit but let us not delude ourselves into thinking that all the Premiership clubs are in rich city.

Under FA, SKY and the united efforts of Liverpool, Man Utd, Arsenal, Everton etc we saw the creation of the Premiership. Massive financial investment in stadia (compulsory) and the teams was seen everywhere. If you didn't buy, like Swindon, you got mauled to death; if your star signings failed to work, you slid away like Man City. The dogfight for financial heaven that the Premiership dream has inspired has led to desperate measures. Many clubs can now not afford to be relegated from the Premiership - the loss in revenue would be crippling. More so than ever it is who you buy that matters. Big name signings bringing in fans, money through sponsorship and those all important replica strips.

In the Premiership you can take the chance and buy your foreign star to keep you up. More often than not chairman and the banks will lend you sufficient funds, to start with at least, to invest in some heavyweight foreign investments. As a Premiership team the financial influx from SKY et al means the money will be covered.

Fine. Now let us look at some of the knock effects of such a system. Firstly, transfer prices are being pushed up and kept artificially high and, like coffee, the price of players always increases over time. This means that your average lower league side like Watford has to pay relatively more to purchase a slightly better than average player than say 10 years ago.

Secondly, all the investment is in the Premiership. Consequently clubs like Watford need to keep gates high and operating costs at a minimum. This means the casual supporter is less likely to go down the Vic - the Premiership and SKY represent far better value for money. So your average club has a relatively lower income.

Put these two points together - your average club has to spend more, from a smaller surplus, for an average player than 10 years ago.

So, on this one what has the FA done - nothing. They have done nothing to protect the highly successful iternal transfer market that existed pre-Bosman. Remember we didn't have such problems in this country. But the Bosman ruling has opened up the world wide transfer market at a detriment to low league clubs everywhere. Hang about you cry. Why not sell our talented players if you want to make money? Surely they will be worth relatively more now. Well, yes, you could do that but then you are destined to be a feeder club forever and a day. If we sell our stars it might give us money but you can't replace the quality. The financial divide is so great now that it may be necessary to also sell off more than one star player. Such an option may, ultimately, be inevitable but is highly undesirable.

So, why do I have such a grudge with the FA ? Well, the transfer system is just one of a number of approaches to the game that they have adopted that benefits the big and not the small. The creation of the Premiership by the FA was only ever going to benefit the big clubs. The whole set up of the system was to bring in more money than the old football league did. Why, after all, did all the top clubs jump ship to the Premiership - it had to be for money. So the FA has sold out to the demands for more financial investment for a few clubs.

The FA has also allowed a number of chairman to take over clubs and run them in a manner that is a disgrace. The FA have failed to set up a sysytem that allows them to have a control over the chairman. By this I mean you almost need a franchise system with the FA having the right to take control of a club if the chairman is messing around - like at Brighton. The FA have failed to protect the interests of the smaller clubs who are often desparte for a chairman that will take anybody. The FA don't care who is in charge, as long as they get their money. Then they impose ridiculous fines on clubs whose fans are protesting about the future of the clubs. Following the Hillsborough disaster the FA have gone overboard. Forcing clubs to go all seater was only a recommendation - not a requirement from the subsequent inquiry. And, even if I am mistaken and it was a requirement, the FA should have said no and looked at other approaches as well. The financial burden on small clubs to redevelop their grounds should have been considered. Yes, you can get a grant to help but it doesn't pay all the costs. Anyway, the grant system is flawed when clubs like Liverpool get 3 million to develop Anfield when they already have the money. Because of this a peaceful demonstration is clamped down upon in a most childlike manner.

The chairman. I don't know why some people decide to get involved with football. They clearly have no interest in the sport and yet enter into it. Clearly it is seen as a sign of prestige to own a football club. No. To own a football club is to run a business. Half the chairman couldn't organise the proverbial piss up, let alone a football club. Enough said on them.

Back to the FA. The top clubs moan about playing to many fixtures etc. Is this really a problem ? I'd like to put another perspective on this supposed problem. It the size of the Premiership is reduced then each club gets more money as the invested amount is the same. The FA should not reduce the size of the Premiership any more than it has already done. This put more clubs into the lower leagues spreading those funds more thinly and making it virtually impossible for clubs to escape out of the lower leagues. Excuses about fitness and motivation don't wash with me. If I was paid as much as a Premiership player I wouldn't have a problem playing or training.

So what is the solution. Unfortunately I don't have one. I think between now and the end of the end of the decade we will see many more clubs, including some big names, get into severe financial difficulties. I think the FA has to take a stand a protect the interests of fans everywhere. The have to stand up to the likes of Man Utd and say NO from time to time because it is not in the interests of football. The FA have to decide what they want. They also need to watch Europe very closely. Bosman is the tip of the iceberg. A European Super League will cripple many clubs across the continent.

This may have seemed like a rant on my part and perhaps it was. However just remember it could one day be Watford who are out on a financial limb and there is no point in complain once you get there. The FA and chairmen are to blame and they need to sort it out sooner rather than later.