Printed in the programme for the Slough Town v Taunton Town 18th August 2007 British Gas Business South and West Division. We lost 2-1 in front of 253 people.
It’s as if the demise of Leeds United never happened. Champions League semi finalists to Leyton Orient in just six seasons is pretty impressive. But owners and fans alike ignore the plight of Leeds as every crook in the world heads for the Premiership with big promises and dirty cash.
This deluge of money continues to make the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nothings’ in football ever wider. Just look at some of some of last seasons decisions. West Ham are saved from relegation despite admitting to breaking league rules while AFC Wimbledon initially get an 18 point deduction for a secretarial error. Bury get thrown out of the FA Cup for playing someone on loan without written permission while AC Milan win the Champions league, despite originally being thrown out of the competition for bribing refs and match fixing! So the cheats of Milan beat Liverpool, where the new owners of the Reds described buying the club as just the same as buying another ‘brand’ he owns – Weetabix!
While most clubs have frozen price rises (well they’ve only gone up 600% in the last 18 years!) as £2.7 billion is about to pour into the Premier League from TV. Manchester United however have raised ticket prices by 14% to help pay off the £660 million debt the Glazier’s have saddled them with. Whatever you think of Man United at least some of their fans, after years of protest, walked out and set up a new club. After back to back promotions FC United of Manchester are preparing for their first season in the Unibond and have so far flogged a thousand season tickets with the fans meaning the cost of a match £6! But where are the protests or break away supporter run clubs at Liverpool, Manchester City or Leeds? As the money pours in and the Premiership boasts that its wage bill for this season will be a billion pounds, it’s the see no evil, hear no evil strategy of fans hoping that the wads of extra cash will lead them to a season of glory and who gives a monkey where that money was made.
The Premiership is effectively being used as a vehicle to buy respectability by some highly suspect individuals. Manchester City had enough of Joey Barton’s behaviour but apparently the ex Thai Prime Minister’s CV is ok. Human Rights Watch describe Thaksin as "a human rights abuser of the worst kind" and have written to the Premiership to ask how he passed the fit and proper person test. As one ex Man City recounted “I lived under Thaksin's rule and saw first hand the kind of person he is and how he has made his money. I'm not sure what my favourite 'Thaksin moment' is, perhaps the death squads roaming the streets during his infamous 'war on drugs'? (2,500 people killed in a couple of weeks) Perhaps it was when he gave government aid to the Burmese military junta in order for them to buy satellitte acess from his personal company? Or was it him using the country as his own personal piggy bank in order to further the wealth of him and his family? Selling government land to his wife at a massively reduced price, subsidising his private television station with government money, buying a 50% stake in AirAsia in order to grant them a license to fly within the country. There are plenty more......”
Then there’s Gaydamak, the owner of Portsmouth. It is well known that Gaydamak's father, Arkady, a man wanted for drug smuggling and gun running and holed up in Israel, is the real money and power behind Portsmouth. Or Abromvitch, who raised the financial stakes of the Premiership. Abromvitch was one of the oligarchs who raided Russia's natural resources in the wild west capitalism that followed the collapse of communism.
Having spent millions to buy the clubs and many more millions on foreign players, these new owners are impatient about inadequate profits. They only care about the ‘brand’ or franchise they have bought and not English football – the England team, academies, youth set-ups, the fans, or the other 37,500 clubs affilitated to the FA. The problem is that with so many money men picking off clubs, they can’t all be winners and it will seriously end in tears for some. Just ask Leeds United. Of course dodgy characters have always been involved in football but the stakes are now so high will it take Man United or Chelsea or Liverpool to go to the wall for anyone to really start to take any notice?
Thankfully there is another football side to all this. Where the ‘have-nothings’ are not just business propositions or a bowl of Weetabix but community assets who have to rely on the goodwill of their supporters to function. During pre season Slough supporters gave up our weekends to help clean up our new ‘home’ at Beaconsfield. New people have been elected to our Trust board. Others keep the website ticking over, help with secretarial jobs and try to get the club run more professionally. Sort out booklets to attract new sponsorship. Produce programmes, sell raffle tickets and work the turnstiles on matchdays. (Oh and run the clubshop). All this for no monetary gain, just to help get our club run more smoothly. This is the sort of football community I want to be associated with. Where you won’t be mugged at the turnstile, treated like cattle, told to sit down and shut up by stewards; where you can enjoy a pint, a banter with opposition supporters and most importantly get involved with the running of YOUR club. It’s high time football fans took their heads out of the sand, ditched the Premiership and all it stands for and went and supported their local non league team.