Football: Cure mad cash disease

Libero

A GLOSSY little package entitled "Premier Football Plan" arrived on Libero's desk the other day. Not some consultants' idea for a Premiership North and South, but "the chance to share in the financial success of our national game by investing in a portfolio of quoted football clubs, companies associated with football and our balanced fund". In other words, a classy way of saying "Got any spare change, guv?"

The theory, of course, is that supporters can benefit by saving with the company concerned. They invest your money in football shares and you watch your pile accumulate. It is worth remembering, however - especially at this time of year - that clubs can go down as well as up.

The "invitation" seemed a fitting little symbol of the season now closing, one that has had much to do with flotations and finance. How high was that transfer fee and how huge the wages? What will be the cost of that missed penalty, refereeing decision or relegation? How much is that Dugarry in the shop window? This newspaper probably has it right by twinning business with sport.

Libero is obviously not alone in tiring of everything in the game being related to money; sums supplanting sport. When he left Newcastle, Kevin Keegan was concerned about being free to manage in his own style once flotation considerations kicked in. It seems that Manchester United's "remuneration committee" could not go the whole hog to sign Alan Shearer. In future Newcastle too might not be able to make such a signing.

You also wonder about motives and agendas. Was it mere coincidence that Sheffield United announced they were interested in Paul Gascoigne shortly before their flotation was announced? How cautious do managers have to be, bearing in mind share prices, in assessing a team's performance post-match? Honest Keegan was probably beginning to feel the binding around his hands and the gag around his mouth.

It used to be that relegation could actually benefit a club in the long term. It gave managers a chance to rebuild and gates might even go up at the top of a lower division. Now the Premiership is seen as the only place to be. The Football League last week contemplated restructuring, almost in recognition of its waning status. Now, its dignity reducing, it is back to squabbling with the Premier League over what amounts to grant-aid.

Encouragingly, the stories of Leicester City, Barnsley, Chesterfield and Stockport County have shown that football remains about romance amid the finance; there have been many encouraging signs despite the pursuit of pounds. Manchester United and Liverpool have shown that the English game is not too far from European fulfilment, while the entertainment value of the Premiership, if not always its quality, has generally been high.

There are also signs of sounder housekeeping, with clubs beginning to think twice about spiralling transfer costs. The queues for Roberto Baggio, Paul Ince and Gazza are shorter than before as the Premiership ponders its reputation as the soft-touch market of Europe.

The ramifications of Bosman are still sinking in but it does seem that investment in English youth, with more clubs viewing academies and training facilities as worthwhile investments, is more sensible than signing fading superstars. It is surely the only way. There may come a time when expensive replica shirts are no longer fashion items. Digital TV may not be the money-spinner anticipated and pay-to-view too much for an audience sated and squeezed dry.

The new Minister for Sport, Tony Banks, may find his views tempered by the burdens of office rather than fuelled by the luxury of opposition but his early utterances on ticket prices and the domination of satellite television suggest that here is a man who feels for the fan. The rights holders Sky were wise to backtrack on excluding Radio 5 from England's tournament in France next month rather than offend him early on.

Most Premiership chairmen, if not necessarily those of plcs, seem aware of the pitfalls of the Premiership's mad cash disease when it comes to milking the cow. These are prosperous times but the danger - for television, for greedy clubs - is of too much short-term exposure rather than long- term strategy. In such an attractive environment, less should be more. Otherwise English football could end up knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own