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.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

THE PANTOMIME SEASON HAS BEGUN

Printed in the Southern League South and West Division match v
Cirenester Town Saturday 20th September 2008. We won 3-2 in front of
263 people and are now 10th in the league.



Manchester City have always been a club that likes a bit of panto, so
it’s a match made in heaven to have been sold by ex Thai Prime
Minister Thaksin with a frozen bank account to a bloke who makes Roman
Abromivich look like a street beggar.

City's new owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahya is set to use
Manchester City as a battering ram to improve football in the Gulf and
enhance the international reputation of the United Arab Emirates. His
big mouth spokesman Dr Al Fahim's said that he hoped "the purchase of
City will help raise the profile of Abu Dhabi” and just to make sure
that we knew they meant business he offered £135m for Ronaldo. Fahim
is behind TV show Hydra Executives, loosely modelled on The
Apprentice, but with a prize of a million dollars dwarfing the
unenviable chance to Alan Sugar being your boss. There are big plans
for it be shown in America and the UK.

The Sheikh was apparently swayed by Man City thanks to an 83-page
blueprint, ‘A New Model for Partnership in Football.’ Behind the
document is former Nike executive Garry Cook, who was recruited by
Thaksin earlier in the summer. Cook was appalled at the poor marketing
of City and has big plans to change that. How about a partnership with
Red Bull to bring out drinks like City Powered and some designer
clothing stores. Tapping into the Indian market bringing out a range
of cars and branded motorcycle helmets. Or the Chinese market with
China Mobile and City-branded phone cards. Cook also said City should
be signing superstars for their commercial properties alone,
regardless of footballing considerations and criticized manager Mark
Hughes for being in his comfort zone.

Cook also reckons the Premier League should be reduced to ten elite
clubs with no relegation – even if that would leave the club he
supposedly supports Birmingham City, in the cold. As for working for
Thaksin, a man who has been described by Human Rights Watch as a
"human rights abuser of the worst kind", Cook said " Is he a nice guy?
Yes. Is he a great guy to play golf with? Yes. Does he have plenty of
money to run a football club? Yes. I really care only about those
three things.’’

Somewhere amongst all this is the game of football. With managers
already walking because of interfering chairman, the Sheikh will no
doubt expect nothing less than success – especially when the bloody
marketing man is already having a pop! Meanwhile Premier League boss
Richard Scudamore talks of the leagues 'virtuous circle' describing
last seasons as “arguably, our most compelling competition yet.” Yeah
right, none of us saw Man United and Chelsea in the top two and
Liverpool and Arsenal occupying the other Champions League spot.

We all love a bit of panto and City might have just stumbled into
Aladdin’s cave, so does any of this matter? I reckon it does. We’ve
come to the point where you now need to find a billionaire Sheikh to
able to muscle into the big four. But it is the Peter Pan economics of
Never land where relegation needs to be abolished so the brand isn’t
damaged. Any ambition of reaching the top is over for the majority of
football clubs. But football thrives on competition, unpredictability,
on the underdogs occasionally winning. Instead all that has been
replaced by clubs becoming brands, where owning one is a vehicle to
exert political muscle.

Problem is that if you take away the competition in football just what
have you got left?

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