Main Menu
What's New
The state of our game
By Chris Lawton
Before I launch into my views on this subject I would like to say that is exactly what they are. They are there to be challenged and discussed but on the whole I think most people would probably agree with them.

I. Money

Money is the biggest driving force in our game right now. Clubs either haven't got enough of it, like Brighton, or have too much that they don't know what to do with it. The whole ethos behind the game in the '90s is to get as much money for whatever you can. Clubs have exploited the fans' desire to see success and as fans we have often fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

The biggest scam is shirts. They cost three quid from the manufacturers and the clubs, even Watford, sell them on for around ten times that (plus more if you want a name on the back). Clubs expect fans to buy shirts. Twenty years ago every fan had his scarf - now it is the replica shirt. The difference is shirts make a lot more money and the clubs know this.

The other scam has come out of the tradgedy of Hillsborough. For right or wrong, the Taylor report has been implemented to its fullest extent with little mercy shown. Firstly, clubs can now charge an arm and a leg because you have to sit on a piece of plastic often bolted down to the terrace (go to Swindon and you'll see what I mean). Secondly, the money for these refurbishments has been badly distributed. The likes of Liverpool have been able to receive significant grant aid, limiting the amount to the smaller clubs, just so that they can keep on buying good players.

The next scam is transfer fees and wages. Players are paid too much money. Basically, in other sports if you were in the top two hundred you would not receive anything like as much money. That says a lot about those sports, I agree, but it also points to how much money is in football. Maybe if clubs cut their wages bills and didn't fall to players demands then fewer clubs would be struggling financially.

Because 92 percent of the money is owned by 8 percent of the clubs, the game is out of control. Why do little clubs rearrange Cup ties? They sacrifice glory for a big day out and a relative pay day. The FA won't mind either as they get a cut of the gate receipts. More people = more money. The financial state of our game is going to drive it somewhere nasty sooner or later.

Enough on money. Most other things wrong with our game are related to this anyway...

II. Youth

On the whole a youth system is not encouraged. The best exponents of it in recent years, Man Utd, have now ditched it in favour of experience. A clever ploy on their part. Get all your talented youngsters to sign long term contracts and then sign foreigners. When the youngsters finally get fed up and leave you can get lots of dosh for them.

No one will risk youth anymore. Such are financial demands on success that to gamble on youth is a very risky gamble indeed. If it all goes wrong you are in trouble.

The other problem is that clubs like Watford are forced to sell out their young talent for the money that it brings to the club to keep them solvent. The kid may not do much for a big club but is probably made for life with a transfer of only a few million. So big clubs poach. Yes, the money filters down, in drips not a flow, but bang goes our chance of glory. So we have a closed system. The big clubs will stay big because they can afford to gamble and poach our talent for money that we need to survive. In return we stay afloat with an average team missing that cutting edge of raw, unhindered talent.

III Foreigners

There are too many, being paid too much money. It is forcing up transfer prices and wages in general. It is almost certainly depriving some English talent of getting as much action as is possible. The Italian system of three foreigners worked well for them - look at their recent World Cup history, we should stick to the same.

IV Who is in Charge?

Who actually runs our game? Is it the FA, Sky, the top clubs or the Football League? In reality, it is a devilish combination of the first three. Football has sold itself lock, stock and barrel to the financial glories of the Premiership and Sky. However, here we have a fundamental flaw in the system. Sky is controlling the game and shaping the way it is going - not the FA and not the players. Players moan about fixture congestion. Partly understandable in the light of Sky throwing matches around all over the place.

Sky should be told where to go. All matches should be played on the same day apart from one match played on that day but in the evening (again see Italy). Midweek fixtures should be played on Tuesday or Wednesday. This would represent a serious loss of revenue for Sky etc but I don't give a damn. At the moment this crazy system of matches whenever Sky want is confusing and ruining the system.

The FA need to take charge of the whole set up. They should stop trying to make vast personal profit (the FA Cup does not need sponsoring) and support the game. There are more fans and players than just in the cities of London, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle. It is the "grass roots" that needs support. Sponsoring the FA Cup ain't going to do this.

Someone needs to take charge of the system and sort it out quick. Our game is in need of decisive, non-financial based decision making from the authorities that supposedly run the game.

V Players

The players in this country are paid too much, complain too much and are not fit enough! Too many players are paid the sort of money you and I can only dream of to play football. Yes, they are talented and yes, it is all they are good at etc but they should also be responsible. Too much is given and not the same seen in return. Go down to your local park one weekend and look at the passion and committment teams put in - for nothing. Then watch Sky and see how much some of our top pros put in. It is a joke. (I'll stop rating here because some of this argument is personally based. As an athlete - in the top one hundred for my event - I get nothing to help me).

Most players are always complaining. We are too tired, play too many matches etc !! It is their job - they know what they are letting themselves in for. Can you imagine going up to your boss and saying you had a bad day at work because you had worked too many recently? This kind of ties in with fitness and responsibility. Too many players waste their financial gains on beer and nights out rather than remembering that they are athletes at the peak of their playing powers. If they drank less etc then perhaps each game would seem less of a physical challenge.

There is an overall poor standard of fitness in English players. They lack stamina and speed over ninety minutes. If I can train and race six days a week then footballers can certainly train more and not feel the effects of it. It comes down to responsibility. It also comes down to attitude. Some players want to play, other want to get paid. It is a simple choice.

Well, if you are still with me, I wonder what you think of it all. Is our game really in such a mess or is it just me? What is the solution? DO all clubs need a Jack Walker or does the structure of football in this country need a massive revolution?