The Last Word: Beware damage owners like Hull City's Assem Allam can inflict on the game

For fans of clubs like Hull and Liverpool their birthright is more important than chasing money

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The Independent Football

As an FA Council member and stalwart of the Protocol Committee, Barry Taylor is at the vortex of power. He decides which colleagues attend the Buckingham Palace Garden Party and monitors the quality of the canapés in the FA hospitality lounge at Wembley.

His duties, as a senior member of the FA Cup committee, offer access to the Royal Box, where Assem Allam will be seated today, amongst football's great and good. Taylor, Barnsley's Life President, voted for Allam to be allowed to belittle 110 years of history and change his club's name to Hull Tigers.

His logic was rejected by more enlightened FA officials, but revealing: "I love the tradition of football but money is the most important thing right now. If someone bought Barnsley, and took us into the Premier League but wanted to call us the Tykes, I don't see why our fans would complain."

Since he is self-evidently divorced from the emotional intensity of those who actually pay to watch football, Taylor and his allies, who include Greg Clarke, the equally myopic chairman of the Football League, might care to tear themselves away from the lunch table and study the landscape.

Hull City's fans will give Wembley a golden sheen this afternoon, in their semi-final against Sheffield United, but the greatest insight into why the game means something more than money, or the arbitrary application of power, will come at Anfield.

The significance of Liverpool becoming champions goes beyond the karmic connotations of the achievement coinciding with the 25th anniversary of Hillsborough, which will set the emotional tone for today's pivotal match against Manchester City. That would be too glib, too dismissive of the sanctity of the stories which are being told with heart-wrenching simplicity and dignity by victims' families in the renewed inquest.

Football's heartbeat can be heard above the din at Liverpool. The club are not immune to the crass commercialisation of the modern game, yet they have pulled back from the brink of disillusion.

Brendan Rodgers deserves to be Manager of the Year because he has emerged as a brilliant development coach and an emotionally intelligent leader who harnesses history to offer hope and absolution.

He recognises real fans don't need plastic flags as props. They can see through the corporate cant of the economic imperialists, Chelsea, City and Manchester United. They want their faith to be respected and their birthright protected.

Football is irresistible, despite its promise of pain. It bonds strangers, who share the exquisite agony of addiction. It is a symbol of regional pride, a communal opportunity to resist social, political and economic pressure.

It may have been colonised by disconnected billionaires like Vincent Tan, Stan Kroenke, Mike Ashley and the Glazer family, but they, like administrators, directors, managers, coaches and players, are ultimately ephemeral.

Those walking into Anfield today will have private memories of their first visit, probably as a child holding a parent's hand. Formative experiences, such as the crowd's roar and the earthquake of a goal celebration, are seared on to the soul.

That's why so many want their ashes scattered on hallowed ground. That's why a mere game is a global community. That's why it breeds a sense of belonging. That's why middle-aged men endure the quiet humiliation of squeezing into replica shirts.

Nothing can beat the cheapest thrill of a walk around the ground, where the senses are assaulted by colour, sound and the acidic smell of burgers of dubious provenance. It generates a sense of identity and an impression of intimacy.

You can't hate football, but you should hate the damage people like Taylor and Allam would inflict upon it, given half a chance.

Send for Coe: Athletics is running on empty

The London Marathon is a folk festival in which unlikely ambition is celebrated and charitable intent is cherished. It remains the best, most inclusive and cheapest sports event in these islands.

What it is not, despite the heavily incentivised presence of Mo Farah, is an indication of the health of athletics.

Track and field is shunned by sponsors and struggling to define its audience. Domestic meetings are sporadic and attract poor crowds.

Haile Gebrselassie, the greatest distance runner of his generation, will pace a world-record attempt today. He fears for the future of his sport once Usain Bolt retires, and accepts it is "just a bit boring to watch". In a macabre irony, athletics' highest-profile figure is currently Oscar Pistorius, whose murder trial is being repackaged as light entertainment.

Athletics desperately requires the drive, vision and political nous of Sebastian Coe, who will become its most powerful figure once he confirms his intention to become president of the IAAF, the global governing body.

If you doubt the magnitude of his task, ask yourself: who is the current Olympic champion in Coe's definitive event, 1500 metres? Come on down, Taoufik Makhloufi.

Me neither.

All eyes on cellino in camera row

Massimo Cellino, the fit and proper owner of Leeds United, has emerged as a quotable, pint-swilling, apprentice rock God. He has discovered the odd secret camera in the Elland Road boardroom, but promises transparency. We shall see. Instinct says this will not end well.

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