Who’s looking after the game?
As a football fan, my big beef is there’s nobody in the game to complain to - not FIFA - because they’re all playing the game.
As a football supporter, my big beef in life is that there-s nobody in the game to complain to, because they-re all playing the game.
For me, the modern game is wonderful. Football has never been more exciting, more skilful, more competitive - but the people looking after it - or not looking after it - is what concerns me, because everybody-s milking the cash cow.
Financially, the rest of the world is falling over but somehow football seems to have been recession-proofed, or that-s what they all think.
That is just not clear thinking. There-s too much money going out of the game and it-s a problem. In the real world while banks collapse and people-s houses are being repossessed, players- wages continue to rise and agents- pockets keep getting thicker and that doesn-t make sense to me.
The lunatics are running the asylum.
When I look to people like Sepp Blatter and the English Premier League, I don-t see anyone standing up and looking after the interests of the game.
There-s no one with any moral fortitude, to say, “Hey, this isn-t going to last, we-ve got do something before it-s too late.”
The only person trying to show any commercial common sense is UEFA-s Michel Platini and his attempts to institute financial fair play. That-s heading in the right direction.
I spent a lot of time in the States and there has recently been a freeze-out in the NBA because the owners and players are fighting over money. They have now missed half the season. The owners are saying, “Enough is enough! We are the people paying the bills and the players- wages are too inflated”.
Football in America, however, is different. The Major League Soccer works very hard in an extremely competitive market to ensure, first and foremost, that the clubs and game as a whole are financially stable. I believe the last three clubs into the MLS all made profit last year, and I-m watching that model closely.
It-s certainly a model for the A-League - when you get businessmen and owners looking to build a sport with a clean sheet, a sense of sporting fairness and a proper fiscal responsibility.
Australia is starting from a very good point with a businessman like Frank Lowy and his team; you-re starting from a businessman-s perspective, who happens to love football and have a long history in it.
That-s all good news - unfortunately, the A-League doesn-t have the quality of football just yet or the crowd numbers Europe has, so it doesn-t have a 100th of the money. And you-re fighting against four or five other codes, so immediately you-re on the back foot.
Aussie football supporters are very savvy and deserve good football. The A-League does a great job for what it is and where it is, and I hope it grows on success and the solid foundations they-ve built, because clearly the supporters are enjoying it and if it wasn-t there, Saturday afternoons would be a whole lot bleaker.
The game in Australia is also subject to the world recession, though, as shown in the Smith Review-s financial recommendations to FFA. I-m sure rugby league, union and Aussie Rules are feeling the pinch too. That-s the same all over the world.
However, all you hear in the Premier League is wages going up and agents asking for more, and chairman at clubs falling into line, rather than standing up and saying, “No, enough-s enough”.
Everybody-s trying to rort the system for their own selfish needs.
Nobody-s looking at the big picture. It can-t go on like this; the bubble has to burst. When the world-s in a financial crisis and supporters can-t afford tickets, it-s no surprise fans are becoming disenfranchised.
Sepp Blatter and FIFA should show some long-term vision for the game and its financial viability. The World Cup in South Africa was basically the sponsors- World Cup. It was driven by the sponsors, for the sponsors, with the sponsors- products, and FIFA made an absolute fortune.
What was missing from the World Cup, however, was the heart and soul of the game itself.
It showed me that not one single bloody football administrator at the highest level could see the quality of football was the worst we have ever seen at a World Cup tournament.
The quality of play, and the players- touch and feel of the ball should have been the most important thing - and the people who run our world game didn-t even notice the difference. That-s a crime against football and they all should have been jailed for that right there!
This is because the Jabulani football was a complete farce. The quality of play was totally ruined by a sponsor-s product that was so sub-standard as to be a disaster, and I told Mr Blatter as much in a letter I wrote to him during the tournament. (You can find this easy enough if you Google it.)
Not that Mr Blatter read my common sense letter or cared to even acknowledge he even received it.
At club level, the money that-s being taken out of the game at the highest level should be distributed into the cities it came from and go back into development in the communities of the clubs youngsters. Very little money gets spent on grassroots programs compared to what goes into players- and agents- pockets.
The kids aren-t coming through, that-s why the EPL academies are being revamped. Greedy business practice and a total lack of common sense have taken over the game.
More money doesn-t make a player play any better. If you give a player a week 100,000 rather than 50,000, he-s not going to try any harder; the game and human nature doesn-t work like that.
If there was a financial crash tomorrow that wiped out Russian oligarchs, Middle East sheiks and wealthy American Sports franchise collectors, I would ask two questions: who would pay the players wages, and what would the players do…?
The first answer would be nobody would pay the wages; the second answer would be the players would get together - and play for nothing. Why?
Because they would figure out that they are the luckiest people in the world to be able to train with each other and play this wonderful game with each other on a daily basis out in the fresh air.
What else are they going to do? Get a job like the rest of us suckers? I don-t think so!
I will go one step further and say that these rich and famous young men would actually pay for the privilege of playing with and against each other. Why not? They have got plenty of money to spare...
And I would ask a question of you, the reader - would you give your right arm or sell your house and all your worldly possessions to play just one game at Old Trafford or Anfield or Stamford Bridge with your heroes as your very teammates?
Your answer is probably, “Yes, yes, yes!” So how about some financial common sense in the game?
Very few clubs actually make money and those top clubs have sugar daddies with more money than sense that want their own team to win at all costs, and they don-t care that they-ve dramatically increased the wages of the clubs that can-t afford it.
In England you have the situation where wages have gone up everywhere because the big clubs are paying silly money so the little clubs have to follow suit, and it-s not sustainable. That-s a simple economic argument.
It-s like the people occupying Wall Street now saying, “Hang on, what-s happening? Where-s this money going?”
The game-s never been so healthy in one way but because no one-s looking after the interests of the game, I can see it crashing down. It-s time to bring it back in.
Who can I complain to?