Sports Letters: Beyond our ken

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The Independent Online
Sir: While having some sympathy with Ken Jones's plea ('Greed a blight on the future'; 22 July) for a return to the days when a footballer's maximum wage was pounds 12 per week and a fish and chip supper and a night at the pictures would cost you less than five bob, does Mr Jones really expect football to be so far removed from the real world?

I grant you, Neil Ruddock's demand for three years' loyalty payment from Tottenham was outrageous.

But were he and his agent, the charming Eric Hall, really doing anything more than any union leader would do?

Ruddock and Hall wanted pounds 150,000; Tottenham told them their demand was 'unbelievable', then still went ahead and paid them pounds 50,000.

A piece of industrial negotiation that would not have looked out of place at the TUC.

I agree with Ken Jones's initial point that money has taken a hold of our national game, but what can anyone do about it? Agents, TV and sponsors are not going to disappear. The wheel has been invented.

Ruddock's game plan is quite clear. Make as many big-money moves as he can while his stock is still high. The situation now is that even a mediocre player has an agent, eagerly seeking out opportunities to earn another 10 per cent. A good solid one-club man is no good to an agent. The cut from Trevor Brooking's career wouldn't have paid Eric Hill's cigar bill.

The bottom line is, though, the clubs bleat and moan how they are being bled dry by players continually demanding more and more excessive payments. They frown and scowl, they shake their heads and look to the heavens. Then they pay out.

The only way to stop the ever-increasing spiral is for the clubs to say 'enough is enough' - and mean it.

But when the rewards for success can be counted in the tens of millions, chairmen, managers, agents and players will continue to sell football's soul for just 10 per cent more.

Yours with a firm handshake

SIMON CHEETHAM

Stoke Mandeville, Bucks

22 July

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