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Has money ruined the beautiful game, or helped reinvent it?
Written by fitzochris on Wednesday, 31st Jul 2013 13:42

With the mooted £85 million transfer of Gareth Bale from Tottenham to Real Madrid, the debate about money in the modern game has reared its head once again.

On the one side, the money spent by sheiks, oligarchs and kings has been branded obscene by some quarters, especially as most countries are still tightly in the grip of a global recession. On the other side, however, it is argued that the influx of money into the game has reinvigorated it – especially in Britain, where, just over 20 years ago, football as a popular sport was quite literally on its knees.

By the late 1980s, English football was beginning to unravel. Since the glory of the World Cup win in 1966, the game had become mired by hooliganism. The 'working man's sport' seemed to mirror the plight of the working classes in Thatcher's Britain. Grounds were crumbling and unsafe, facilities were poor, admission prices were rising. The product on the park was a far cry from the days of Moore, Hurst and Charlton. Violence had reached almost military sophistication, with organised gangs seemingly spending more time and effort arranging tactics and battleplans than the managers of the teams they followed.

Football's reinvention came at a critical – in fact literally terminal – time for the game. A series of separate disasters, in Heysel, Bradford and Hillsborough, resulted in the tragic death of hundreds of fans. These off the pitch events forced clubs and authorities to drag the game into the modern world, and turn it from a relic of a bygone age into a world-leading example of a premier entertainment event.

New stadia emerged from the crumbling terraces in towns and cities across the country. Shiny, plastic, all-seated, family-friendly places. They were safe, comfortable, easier to police.

A crackdown on hooliganism put the lid back on something which at one point had threatened football's future.

Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch took a gamble with his newly launched satellite television service and started to invest unprecedented sums of money into the elite end of the game. This, coupled with the advent of a European Champions League, brought the promise of pots of gold at the end of the goal line.

English football was quick to exploit the potential. A new Premier League marketed itself aggressively, attracting affluent new spectators prepared to spend thousands of pounds to become a passive part of an upwardly mobile pastime. International players, once the preserve of the Spanish and Italian leagues, followed the paychecks across the channel. Oligarchs and Arabs ploughed yet more money into the latest fashionable status symbol – their very own football club.

Today, English football's top flight is dominant in Europe, and often claims to be the best league in the world. Attendances, and revenues, are at all-time highs.

But at what price?

Many clubs, let alone the players that pull on their shirts, have lost most of the roots which bound them to their communities. Lifelong fans can no longer afford the ticket prices to go to games.

And while some money slowly trickles through the system, the vast majority goes to the purchase of fake-tudor mansions and super cars – the preserve of players with more ego than talent.

Whether or not football's rise is sustainable is of great debate; many of the highest achievers are bankrolled by sugar daddies and, for all intents and purposes, insolvent.

While it's a dramatic and obvious example of a sport which has reinvented itself, it could be argued that football's experience is one which the mistakes should be learned from – rather than emulated.

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slynch added 14:55 - Jul 31
Fifa should invest some of the revenue to aid some of the poorly developed footballing nations like like Chad, Congo, Bhutan and England.

jokerthief added 15:13 - Jul 31
The beating heart of Manchester is now run by Arabs and Yanks..A once proud city has sold its soul to foreign investment..The rest of the country has to follow..Its a sad situation, for the ordinary fan.


REEDYREEDOREEDZ added 16:09 - Jul 31
The best thing that could happen for football is an international wage cap so no club is allowed to pay a player more than say £50k a week in total, including bonuses and taxable benfits.
This would mean that top players would not play for a club just for money. They would choose a club based purely on footballing reasons. It would help re-adjust players motives and get them playing football for the love of playing football rather than just for more and more cash. I think fans would appreciate seeing thier players playing for pride and success rather than just money.
Clubs would then have more money to spend on developing thier youth academies, expanding thier stadiums, re-investing into the local community etc etc. This can only be good for the future of the game. They could also afford to drop ticket prices so more people can afford to go to the games. Most importantly it would mean that the big clubs would be able to operate without having huge debts or relying on millions being pumped in by foreign ownership. If Abramovich or the Man City owners pulled out then thier clubs would go bust very quickly because of the massive player contracts they are tied to.

It would take a massive effort from FIFA to make this happen and every country would have to sign up to it but its probably not impossible. Some players might go on strike but they would literally be singling themselves out as being money driven. With the millions they make in sponsorship deals, would thier quality of life suffer that much? Would £50k a week really be that bad to live on? I think not. They might have to sell thier £10m yacht and buy a £2m one. Poor them! But knowing what FIFA are like, and how money driven they are! this is probably never going to happen.

Billybonker added 16:53 - Jul 31
It's not just football that has been sold off to foreign investors; more important issues such as the Utilities are now mainly in the hands of foreign shareholders, thanks to Thatcher and the greedy Conservatives.
Football is not important and the sooner more "big" clubs go to the wall the better. We might then stand a chance of getting our national game back to grass roots that the working man can afford to watch it. In the meantime, I just go fishing.


dilligas added 10:06 - Aug 1
But the clubs when remaining in the prem don't care, they are rolling in money and if managed correctly can bounce along successfully without really needing fans. The question more is Coventry, Portsmouth etc the clubs who fall from the golden table and then are financially screwed, what happens to them.

off2div1 added 22:09 - Aug 1
Premier league players can be paid as much as the wage of a league 2 team whats that all about
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