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A gloomy future?
By Chris Lawton
The events of the past 48 hours in the football world have re-affirmed the way football is managed and run in this country. Firstly, we have the application of the Bosman ruling into the English game - any player aged 24 or over can now move on a free transfer in this country as well as abroad. Secondly, the selling of Ferdinand by Newcastle to Spurs for financial reasons. Thirdly, those lucrative pre-season tournaments and friendlies. In all these stories there is one common factor - money. The game in this country is increasingly being run by financiers and businessmen rather than by managers and players. There is only place to lay the blame for this - the FA.

The full effect of the Bosman ruling will now be felt by many clubs. It was always going to bad for small clubs but now it is disastrous. The Bosman ruling need not have been applied in this country. There was an honest system of transfer that worked well and allowed unsettled players to move. Clubs will always need to buy players to cover weaknesses in their own team. Now any player over 24 and is no longer under contract can go for nothing. Again I blame the FA.

Football is now big business. When the Premiership was created a money making environment was created. Sadly for the Football League clubs, the FA Premiership has not made sufficient provision for lower league sides. There is lots of talk about doing things to help the small clubs but has any of it been put into practice? Guess what - I blame the FA.

Pre-season friendlies are a necessity for football clubs. But the amount of games played in a short time frame is interesting. You can guarentee that come the middle of August managers and players will be bemoaning the fixture overload. To play twice in a weekend is deemed fine in pre-season but twice a week in August is not. Again money talks. Lucrative pre-season tournaments again keep the bank balance happy in the warm summer sunshine. The grinding out of a result on a cold winter afternoon is obviously not as attractive even if you do get paid more than most people earn in a year. I blame the greed of the clubs and players.

We have, therefore, a gloomy future in prospect. If the current state of affairs continues then we will see several clubs going bankrupt in the coming season. The FA has to act now to preserve the future of the game. I think there are a number of measures and attitudes that should be adopted to improve the all round concept of the sport. There is enough money in the system it is just in the wrong places. There is enough wisdom around it is just ignored. The FA has to make changes before it is too late and we are left with just a handful clubs. I suggest the following as possible improvements that could be made to the game in this country.

1) The Premiership clubs should pay for professional, full time referees in all the divisions. A pool of 50 at around £15,000 a year would only cost each club around £40,000 a year. This would hopefully improve standards in all the divisions.

2) Greater division of money. At the moment the people at the FA are paying themselves and the top clubs too much. Provision needs to be made for the smaller clubs, especially as transfer income is reduced under the Bosman ruling. The FA has to look at necessities as well as at success.

3) The FA has to stand up to the likes of Man Utd and Liverpool and not be bullied into submission. These clubs pressure the FA under the threat of setting up an exclusive five or six club league. The FA should tell them where to go and refuse to sanction the creation of such a league - after all, they run the sport.

4) The FA should stop thinking about short-term profit and instead think how can we best serve ALL levels of football in this country. In effect they should not always look for the best financial deal but the most supportive deal.

5) Make the proposed feeder club system an illegal part of the game. Such a move would prevent clubs monopolising the market for up-and-coming young talent.

6) Listen to the fans. Most people don't support Man Utd or Liverpool. Rather, with amazing loyalty, they support clubs like Watford, Grimsby and Hartlepool. The FA would do well to hear what these FANS have to say. Not what the chairman of some big club suggests.

I am sure such plans are not without fault but I think they would be a start. Football has undergone a remarkable revolution in the past few years and some of it has been for the good. However the FA is failing to secure the long term future of the sport in this country. It is on the edge of being, if it hasn't already become, an elitist establishment for a lucky few. The FA and the FA alone can control the future of the game in this country. It is time to stop being greedy and think about the future.