These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the Southern Premier - just seven leagues below the Premier League. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton. After nearly 14 nomadic years we finally have a brand spanking new home in Slough.

Friday, September 29, 2006

ALL BUNGED UP

Published in the league match v Carshalton Athletic Tuesday 26th September. We lost 2-0


Shock, horror I nearly fell out of my armchair. Last week a TV programme informed us that dodgy people are involved in football, making money out of the game illegally, while managers are taking bungs and players are being approached when they shouldn’t. I just couldn’t believe. Just what, as I watch on the terraces with my rattle and Bovril, has happened to the beautiful game?

Of course Sports minister Richard Caborn talked tough "Everyone was saying we would not root out cheats in sport on anti-doping but we are doing that systematically. What has been discussed is a new licensing which every club will have to sign up to and if they break the rules there will be consequences."

Of course those tough-taking hard decision making men at the FA would be the ones dishing out consequences and they are going to launch - an investigation! But as one agent put it they couldn’t organise a…– well just look at the England manager fiasco to get your answer; Sven on £13,000 a day until May unless he finds another job, which I doubt is high on his list of priorities (and just who would employ him as their manager?). So these muppets that negotiate a pay deal that continues after someone leaves their job are going to sort out corruption? Yeah right.

The top levels of football are a business and that’s why, just as I wouldn’t cheer on my local Tesco’s store, I won’t support Man United/Chelsea etc PLC. Unfortunately with football being so high profile, non league isn’t immune either to dodgy dealers.

No, the real scandal is the lack of money trickling down to the lower reaches of the football world. It’s the dodgy chairman who get involved in football clubs and bankrupt them. The parasitic agents who make money by creating player unrest (they make more money the more their players are transferred) inflating players wages, and ultimately increasing prices at the turnstiles.

And the cost of being a football fan just keeps rising – and fast. A fan that just goes to home games can expect to spend £1,130 a season, if you include a pint of lager, some food, a programme, replica shirt, transport and pay-per-view costs. Infact 'football fans inflation' is up 8.7 per cent in the last three months. And for what? While the media pundits talk up the excitement of the Premiership everyone knows it’s a sham. Statistics show that 89% of supporters believe only the wealthiest clubs will win the title now and in the future. Even the majority of fans of the 'big five' - Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and er, Newcastle - would prefer the league to be more competitive. But currently nearly half of the £1.5bn generated by the Premiership is shared between just the top five clubs. OK no one expected Portsmouth to be top, but we pretty much know how it will pan out at the top come the end of the season. Which can’t be said for the Ryman Premiership. I had Ramsgate as dead certs to be relegated, yet their team of local players, largely unchanged since their back to back promotions from the Kent League have made a flyer start. Money bags Chelmsford are mid-table while Wimbledon can’t stop drawing while Harrow are flying high. It’s a much more level playing field and that makes it interesting.

So what could the FA do about making the Premiership more equal? Well, we have to look across the pond to those commie hating Yankies for the answer. If you ignore the Franchise bit, the National Football League’s most famous feature is the salary cap introduced in 1994; a limit set yearly on how much each team can spend on the wages of playing and coaching staff. The cap is based not on a percentage of a club's turnover, but a figure calculated by the governing body which may be exceeded by no team. Breaking the cap can, as San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers fans will tell you, incur financial and points penalties. And the cap works: the Superbowl has seen only two repeat winners since it was introduced, and the championship games have had eight different winners in 10 years, compared with only 10 different winners in the 28 years previous.

Of course the cap would have to be rolled out across Europe otherwise players will move abroad, but if something is not done, then the Premiership will become even more predictable, boring, and expensive, and its bubble will burst. If don’t think that could happen then just look over to Italy and Serie A. Once the most powerful European league, it now finds itself with falling gates and an exodus of players. Being bunged up, I reckon is the least of the FA’s worries. Time they launched an investigation!

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