Chaos ahead in a world without transfers

The chairman of Leeds Utd says whole communities could suffer if an EU proposal were to succeed
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The Independent Online

During the close season we have heard every emotion being written in the press regarding football in this country from "Boom Time" to "English Football in Crisis" to "We've Never Had it So Good".

During the close season we have heard every emotion being written in the press regarding football in this country from "Boom Time" to "English Football in Crisis" to "We've Never Had it So Good".

The fact of the matter is that none of the above is strictly accurate. There is no doubt, however, that football is staring at some of the most challenging issues that have faced the game for many years.

If governments and football associations are unsuccessful in stopping the threat from the European Union to the present transfer system, the game will be thrown into chaos.

Governments have always argued that football clubs are an integral part of their community and are at the forefront of the pulse and vibrancy of their town or city's well-being and feelgood factor. I completely agree with this. The abolition of the transfer system will undermine the financial viability of every club which has historically developed its own young talent, and will also undermine the principles of the English football academy system. In addition, for those smaller clubs who have always sold to survive, income from transfer fees would no longer be an option.

There has been much criticism of the number of foreign players in this country and there is a view that this undermines the English national team's prospects. I think that this is nonsense. By attracting the best players in the world, the game enables home-grown players to rub shoulders with the best and to learn in the process.

At Leeds United, we have probably more home-grown talent than most and we have chosen this route as our preferred option - with selective buys to top up the talent as and when necessary. Assuming that the transfer system remains in place, we will continue with thispolicy.

One of the most frustrating aspects of developing home-grown talent is when the football bureaucrats fail to move with the times to allow the expansion of youth facilities, such as our proposed investment in the Oldham Athletic youth system, which would reap mutually beneficial rewards for both clubs.

If English football is to compete in both European and national competitions, instead of implementing restrictive practices to foreign players we must take off our blinkers and be prepared to consider a more enlightened acceptance of change to our domestic rules, thereby allowing the national game to benefit.

Let us not knock our game. It is as good now as it has ever been, but let us move with the times and allow everyone to provide our national teams and team managers with the talent to succeed.

Looking ahead to the Premiership campaign this season, it is once again that time when everyone asks: "Can anyone beat Manchester United?" There is no doubt that they have been the benchmark by which we all judge ourselves for so long that no one seems to believe that they can outdo them. However, I think that this season will be closer than for many years.

Arsenal are always strong and will remain so again this year, but my favourites to take Manchester United right to the wire are Chelsea. They have once again spent a lot of money strengthening their squad and as we here know very well, in Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink they have a very good, proven Premiership goalscorer.

Teams such as Newcastle, Sunderland and Aston Villa will always be challenging towards the top of the table and Tottenham have invested heavily this summer and with George Graham, who is used to success, in charge they should be one of the interesting teams to follow.

Leicester City moved quickly to replace Martin O'Neill and in Peter Taylor have a manager who improved with both the England Under-21 team and, of course, with Gillingham.

It is great to see Charlton back in the Premiership. I have the utmost respect for both their chairman, Richard Murray, and Alan Curbishley, their manager. Manchester City are back where they belong and I look forward to welcoming them at the beginning of September to Leeds.

With no disrespect to the teams that I haven't mentioned, my prediction for the season is for Chelsea to win the title in a very tight finish. I would also like to wish Geoffrey Richmond and Bradford City every best wish for the season ahead. Geoffrey has done a great job at Bradford City and with the interesting and ambitious signings they deserve to succeed.

And what about Leeds? I don't make predictions about my own team. Let's just say that we have a great manager and a good playing squad. Let's hope that once again we can do ourselves justice and be proud of our achievements.

On a final note, I hope that football this season is safe and exciting to watch I hope that players remember their responsibilities as role models and that the national team succeeds in their first stages towards qualification for the 2000 World Cup.

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