Peter Corrigan: Tycoon Malcolm rages, and the FA do nothing

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Even the scriptwriters of Doctor Who would be hard-pressed to create a monster as fearsome as Malcolm Glazer. He stands at the gates of Old Trafford, ill-disguised as an earthling, threatening to impose all manner of calamities on a helpless Man-chester United, who have nothing with which to defend themselves except the rage and insults of their supporters.

Even the scriptwriters of Doctor Who would be hard-pressed to create a monster as fearsome as Malcolm Glazer. He stands at the gates of Old Trafford, ill-disguised as an earthling, threatening to impose all manner of calamities on a helpless Man-chester United, who have nothing with which to defend themselves except the rage and insults of their supporters.

It is a desperate scenario, sure enough, but I hope it does not take long for the realisation to dawn that whatever we think of Glazer, the true scandal of the situation is not that he has bought Manchester United but that he was able to.

And for that freedom he has to thank the Football Association, whose husbandry of our national game has been pathetic in many directions but no more fatefully so than in allowing our top clubs to indulge in a damaging financial free-for-all open to all-comers.

I was previously neutral about the FA Cup final between United and Arsenal but I now want United to win and to be warmed by the thought of the FA thumbing frantically through their rule book to see if they can prevent the world's most famous domestic trophy spending the next year on a mantelpiece in Florida.

It may seem harsh to blame the FA, but as the governing body it is their duty and responsibility to oversee the wise and proper running of the game at all levels. Yet they aided and abetted the formation of the Premier League without establishing any ground-rules to prevent the major clubs acting like robber barons and acquiring most of the money and the power that football creates at the expense of the rest.

It was inevitable that the smell of gravy would waft across the Atlantic, and Glazer might not be the last to sniff it. We have enough Bisto kids of our own with having to worry about a new lot.

Admittedly, it is difficult for the FA to impose any control on the monster they helped to create. Back in the Eighties, before the Premier League was formed, many of us pleaded with them to impose some sort of check on those who acquire control of clubs.

After the experience of Robert Maxwell and assorted other crooks, charlatans and fools who somehow got their hands on clubs, it was obvious that new owners should be subject to a test of their probity and motives.

Not only did the FA neglect that task but they have also allowed clubs at all levels to become more vulnerable to carpetbaggers, and you don't have to look far to see the cataclysmic results. Once personal greed took clubs into the stock market, the blackness of the future was assured. When the game as we knew it is finally laid to rest, the letters on the gravestone will be "PLC" not "RIP".

If one divine influence has managed to insert itself into these diabolical developments it is that Glazer pounced only a couple of days after the Premier League's chief executive, Richard Scudamore, submitted a report to Lord Terence Burns's inquiry into the Football Association. Scudamore attacked the FA, said that trust is lacking in the game at every level and that the Premier League want a greater influence over the England team and the FA Cup.

I trust that Lord Burns, who is not unfamiliar with the world of moguldom, is aware that the present ineffectiveness of the FA as a governing body is mainly due to the increasing influence of the Premier clubs within the organisation. The association undoubtedly need streamlining, but what Burns needs to recommend in July is that their overall authority must be re-established under a strong and independent chairman able to resist the remorseless pressure from the major clubs. If Glazer's arrival emphasises that point, he might have done us a favour.

How the players will react to this alien presence can be better gauged by studying their demeanour in today's match against Southampton. Some of them have been just as volubly antagonistic to the takeover as the fans during the long and relentless campaign that Glazer has waged, but where do they stand now? After all, they are mere employees, and loyalty in modern-day football belongs chiefly to the most generous paymaster. Buy the player and the soul comes free.

United's game at St Mary's Stadium this afternoon arrives barely 72 hours after the news of Glazer's controlling interest and it would not be unnatural if a team already low in morale found it difficult to concentrate. But an out-and-out sulk would be dangerous.

In normal circumstances, the match would not be high on the season's priorities for United. It may be life and death for Southampton, but few would expect the visitors to put their lives on the line six days before they play Arsenal in the FA Cup final. If Glazer's audacity achieves nothing else it has added an unprecedented extra dimension to Saturday's climax at the Millennium Stadium.

Changes of management can often introduce fresh urgency into a team, but there is scant evidence of what effect such a dramatic change of ownership can have, and the final's fascination leaps at the thought of it.

Had Glazer not happened by, Arsenal would have been firm favourites to take the Cup. Their end-of-season form has been improving, and their 7-0 defeat of Everton last week showed that they have reverted to their most dazzling. In contrast, Manchester United have been struggling to resemble their best, and Tuesday's defeat by Chelsea at Old Trafford was a humiliation that could take all summer to soothe.

But slinking disheartened out of the season is suddenly not a wise option. As a motivational tool, the events of the past few days have a forceful potential. The threat of the bogeyman does wonders with kids; can it work with footballers?

And if they were galvanised enough to win, Glazer would go into history as the quickest owner ever to win the FA Cup. Think what waves of mixed emotions that would cause among the protesting fans.

Comments