Football: Lots of money and the right result: The first Premier League season is almost over. Jasper Rees hears from the experts what they thought about it

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LAWRIE McMENEMY

England under-21 manager

THE significant difference has been to do with television, because of the influx of money. More than ever now there is this urgency to join the gang. A club like Norwich City, who have had a great season, are rewarded with pounds 700,000 or pounds 800,000. In addition to the fact that they have been on television so many times, you're talking about very big bucks indeed. If anything they're still providing players for other clubs, and yet their ground is gradually becoming the perfect ground to take your family to see the best football. The money coming in has been well used. They've proved that you can still compete with the giant clubs.

If I'm talking with my international hat on, I see the cost of the fixture congestion with the under-21 squad. There are injuries like shin splints - 25 years in football management and I'd never heard of that until this year. The managers tell me a lot of these lads are not 100 per cent, 'and if you do have them, you won't be training them, will you'?

BOBBY CHARLTON

Director of Manchester United

MANCHESTER UNITED being very successful, the Premier League has obviously been a good thing. We've been well supported because we played what people expect of Manchester United: good, attractive, attacking football, not negative. And Aston Villa have done the same. If you want to win things, we're a good example.

The new back-pass rule has helped to make this a special year, and has been particularly good for the game in general. People who have paid to go and watch are actually getting more for their money now, some reckon about six minutes. The effect of the Premier League from a detrimental point of view has been on the smaller clubs. One has sympathy with this but the costs of having to build new stadiums, to put new seats in, have made it such that the Premier League had to be instigated. I think it has been a reasonable success. The main thing is that it got off the ground.

DOUG ELLIS

Chairman of Aston Villa

IT'S been a success from a business point of view - there's no doubt about that because the income is that much greater through television, perimeter boards and what have you. So far as the football is concerned, if I speak of Aston Villa I've got to say that our football has been - I won't say a revelation - but certainly much better than it has been in the past, and that is due to the purchase of some very experienced players. From that point of view we have been Premier in every form, in my view. Our turnover has gone up considerably, but at the same time we've got a lot of expenditure due to Lord Justice Taylor's requirements.

As for the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, if you say Wimbledon is a little club and Manchester United is a big club, that's always been the case. It's nothing to do with the Premier League. The opportunity for all small clubs to be in the Premier League is there, irrespective of their income or stadium. That's the great thing about English football: promotion and relegation is the life blood.

RICK PARRY

Chief Executive of the Premier League

WE'RE just at the first half-term break, and it's very much a case of so far so good from my point of view, but absolutely no reason for complacency. We only got the go-ahead in February 1992 to form the Premier League. That didn't give us much time considering we were starting from scratch, so really last year it was all to do with getting the basics in place. In that context, we haven't done badly to have a league at all. But judge us in five years' time.

It's been a very exciting season: we've had a great finish at top and bottom, lots of movement up and down the table. In terms of the quality of the play on the pitch, it would have been entirely fatuous to expect overnight changes anyway. Just because you've got a Premier League you can't say to players and managers, 'Play better.' That again is very much a long-term plan.

JOE KINNEAR

Manager of Wimbledon

THERE'S certainly been more excitement this season than most. With more money and more sponsorship deals going into the game it's definitely keyed up everybody. The financial package will do wonders for us, though I think it'll be very very hard for anybody to achieve what Wimbledon have in the past.

We're not worried about fixture congestion. All the games are earners for us, so the fewer games the less money we get. I can understand the other point of view but they're basically a little bit selfish. We look upon ourselves as one of the bigger clubs as far as playing is concerned - obviously we have a disadvantage because of the supporters and the ground - but we fight our case in the Premier League for all the other smaller clubs. What we're worried about is the big fish grabbing all the rewards by starting a European Super League and throwing crumbs to the little ones. It's something that they will probably be looking at in years to come.

GORDON TAYLOR

Chief Executive of the Professional

Footballers' Association

POLITICALLY it's not been all sweetness and light, but considering what could have happened, we're satisfied that all the arrangements for players - with regards to contracts, their status and conditions, and their appeal systems, the transfer system and the pensions, and medical provision, have been protected.

As a whole my members are happy. The Player's Assocation has taken part in the increase of monies coming into the game, which can be used for our education and retraining programmes, accident insurance and hardship and community programmes, youth training schemes. I would have to say so far so good, but I think it will be better judged at the end of this decade. The jury's still out, but as far as the supporters and the players at the very top of the pyramid go, they won't be disappointed. But I'm still as concerned as ever whether the base of that pyramid will provide the variety and quality of competition that our domestic game has done over the past 100 years.

Over the past 30 years we've had over 50 clubs in the top division, and I think that's been very important as an administrator to have that variety of competition. Also, you shouldn't forget that at least two-thirds of Premier League players have come from outside the Premier League. If in fact it does create this polarisation and a contraction of the number of clubs then you'll see a reduction in that variety, but then again that was the concept of the Premier League. The people behind it saw it as an elitist concept and personally that's why I have grave reservations. For the moment it hasn't left behind the Football League economically, but that's for the short term.

In the long term there will be a lot of clubs taking big gambles to get through these golden gates into the Premier League and if this gamble fails then it will create more financial instability. The stakes in football's card game have gone up a lot. So losers are going to lose heavier, but for the winners the rewards are higher than they have ever been.

MIKE RATHBONE

Manager of Halifax Town, relegated from the Football League yesterday

IT'S a bit like asking what the weather's like in Australia. I don't really understand the financial nuances of what's coming to us, but there's always going to be the haves and the have- nots: it's been like that for 100 years, hasn't it? We're down here and we do our job. Good luck to the haves.

A few of the lads are big Manchester United supporters. One of them went to the game on Monday night and he came in with his champions T-shirt on. Having said that, we have a couple of young lads at the club who, if they keep developing the way they have done, they could well be playing there. As far as points and money it's a lifetime away, but as far as producing good young players it's maybe not that far away.

ANDY GRAY

Former Aston Villa striker

LAST August there were a lot of sceptics around about Sky. Contrary to the popular belief that too much football turns people away from the game, it actually encourages people to go. Attendances haven't dropped even though a lot of the biggest grounds in the country have been redeveloped this season.

I'm delighted that not only Manchester United and Aston Villa are there for football's sake, but also Norwich have been there for most of the season, and that Sheffield Wednesday, Blackburn and QPR have had such a wonderful season, because they're all teams that actually play the way that the majority of people want to see. But I'd hate to see the likes of Wimbledon and Sheffield United disappear because it's the mix that makes our league so special.

Manchester United and Villa played a refreshing, uninhibited brand of football that has just got attack built all round it. They defend well but they go out and home and away they play with a smile on their faces. Both managers could easily have gone a bit negative towards the end of the season but both said, 'Sod it, this is what has got us there, this is what'll win us it.' That's something that's not always been the case.

BOB WILSON

BBC presenter

On the football side, there hasn't been a ha'p'orth of difference. It's a total shambles that clubs are playing the number of games they're playing, and that Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal have to go into a Cup final playing eight games in five days. On the monetary side, that remains to be seen, but I can't see that the numbers through the gates have increased substantially. Obviously the sides within the Premier League are guaranteed, thanks to the Sky money, sums that were unthinkable a couple of years ago.

Manchester United and Aston Villa have had games where they have played wonderful football, but nobody wins the title without being able to score one goal and play absolute rubbish, a la Arsenal in 1971 and Liverpool throughout the two decades of success.

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