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The End Is Near

By Chris Butler :  11/02/2010 :  Comments (27) :
After listening to BBC 5Live last night on the way back from our terrific win, the question was asked, "Was football better then or now?"

On the show last night they had The Times journalist Rod Liddle who I think is a pretty decent compared to some of the other Sports correspondents. With Portsmouth close to collapse, many people believe this is a classic example of how business has wrecked football. You don’t have to look too far to find out what foreign owners can do to a club, you’ve only got to look across the park.

Manchester United, the biggest club in Britain, are in massive debt despite all the money they get each year. It seems to me that more clubs are in financial trouble than ever before. Bar Manchester City, I can’t think of many other clubs that can buy who they want and spend huge amounts.

Supporters blame different people: greedy players, foreign owners, and Sky TV for the collapse from what they believe were the good days of football. The problem is if the clubs didn’t offer the huge amounts of money then the players wouldn’t expect the huge wages.

Foreign owners are hated by most supporters across the country. They are seen as businessmen who don’t care about the clubs' histories and only interested in making a quick buck.

Sky TV are the people who I believe have destroyed football and fan culture. In the old days, if you said you were a supporter of a club it meant you went to the ground to watch the match; now it means you turn on your TV and sit on your sofa watching the match. To be honest I don’t blame them as who’s going to pay £30 or more for a ticket when you can pay to watch the match on your PC for about £2 a month?

Sky TV have invested millions in the Premier League but, like many other businesses, once people get bored of it or find a more interesting thing to spend their leisure time doing, the company is going to struggle.

Many supporters are deciding that going to the match just isn’t worth it anymore as there are so many other cheaper leisure activities to do now. Lots of supporters feel disenfranchised and feel the gravy train left without them years ago. Even after you pay a vastly inflated sum of money you are told you can’t shout, can’t stand, can’t sing as you may face ejection, which leads many to never return.

To have a successful business, you have to make your product open to as many people as possible, which many football clubs don’t. The main people who watch football are single males in their late 20s and 30s. Less that 10% of fans that go to matches in the Premier League are under 24, which is a worrying statistic as it means that you are losing out on future customers.

In my opinion, unless clubs drastically change, then many will go out of business. In the old days, most people only had 4 channels on their TV and swimming pools and gyms weren’t to the standard they are today... so, for many, football was one of the most popular activities for young men.

Compared with, Germany, football is rubbish in this country. In Germany, loads of teams have the chance to win the league, private ownership isn’t allowed, and you are allowed to stand and drink on the terraces while watching entertaining football. Ticket prices are far higher here than in other countries which means supporters in other countries are happier than they are here.

Personally, I don’t care whether there are three English teams in the semi-finals of the Champions League... as long as Liverpool don’t get through to the final, I’m not bothered. I think that there should be a transfer cap as then Manchester City couldn’t out-spend everyone and the league is more fair — this is what’s happened in Germany.

Sky TV knows they have no competition so actually pay less for Premier League TV rights, which is also affecting clubs. All that’s happened is that transfer fees and wages have became vastly inflated and it’s very hard for clubs to buy anybody — just look at the recent transfer window.

Reader Comments

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Michael Parrington
1   Posted 12/02/2010 at 04:59:49

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Chris, a good question, but there is probably no simple answer.

I would like to see a fairer system, but to get this will mean at some point FIFA will have to get involved and try and put into place some sort of fair salary cap system to go along with a transfer cap system. Certainly this would need to take into account many factors to ensure that competitions like the CL were fought on an even basis.

This would only even out the competition though and would not solve the issue of clubs going broke.

For example there would be other clubs who have great development programs in the lower leagues who make their incomes from finding and developing talent before selling it on. What would happen to them?

Its not just an English Leagues problem, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Holland and even Germany generally have the same 3-5 teams taking home all the silverware and top positions every year.

I dont see this changing in the near or distant future, just lots of talk and no action from the governing bodies.
Jason Lam
2   Posted 12/02/2010 at 04:40:43

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Don’t know anything about entertaining football in Germany but the Premier League is the most exciting and ’entertaining’ league over La Liga, Serie A and all over Europe IMHO. Also you should check out Veetle and save the £2 a month. Cheers
Mike McLean
3   Posted 12/02/2010 at 06:28:53

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Not only has the structure of football changed, so have people’s expectations.

As kids in the ’60s, we would have given blood to have the chance to stand in a sweaty, swaying, piss soaked crowd, with obstructed views .

Compare that with the oft-repeated argument about why three or four thousand seats are left empty each home game.

As to the tedium of the same old teams winning everything, I suspect that, as Evertonians, what we’re really griping about is that, for whatever combination of factors, we’re not part of the top table any longer. Yes, very occasionally a new boy broke through... Ipswich, Burnley and even Tottenham won the league... but they only ever did it once or twice.

Right up until the beginning of Liverpool’s hegemony of the mid / late seventies onward, honours were fairly evenly shared between a big four or five over the course of history. Those names have changed only in that ourselves and Villa have stopped winning trophies and Chelsea have started.

Gareth Humphreys
4   Posted 12/02/2010 at 07:46:33

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Chris, a few belters there:

(1) Germany having a transfer cap? I know they have strict guidelines on ownership not being in the sole hands of one individual and debt levels.
(2) Sky TV rights going down? Where did you pluck that one from?
(3) Most football fans being single males in their 20’s and 30’s? Lies, damned lies and statistics.

Sky are rightly slated for their running (ruining) of the game over here. But the Premier League is not the sole problem.

The problem is the Champions League. Anything that ensures easy games for the big boys in the early stages to guarantee “big games” in the latter stages to keep the sponsors happy is, well, corrupt. As the sponsors are happy then the money keeps rolling in and the situation will never change.

Sky’s involvement in this is open to debate however they obviously have huge power bearing in mind they not only the rights over here but they also run the TV show in the aforementioned well run Bundesliga.

Stopping clubs having massive debts is one step in the right direction and that is why the owners of Chelsea and Man City have turned their debt into equity to ensure they don’t miss out on the gravy train should this became a Uefa directive.

The other point that needs to be made is that attendances are far higher after Sky's involvement than before.
James Elworthy
5   Posted 12/02/2010 at 10:16:11

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The average age of a Koppite season ticket holder is 44 years old. It is a fact they fill the ground every match and to get a season ticket you have to literally wait for someone to die. This makes it impossible at clubs like them for say a Dad and lad to go the match together like they could years ago or for them to buy a season ticket together like they can at Everton.

My Dad took me to all the matches years ago we paid on the gate and stood in the Paddock, we got there by 2pm so he could sit me on the box where the man sat who put the scores up which was near the halfway line on Bullens Road. If you remember where the advertising boards are now they used to have the Letters A to Z along both sides of the ground and he put the half time score next to the letter and you had to match the letter to the fixture list in your programme.

It was fun those days... you didn't know who the starting line-up was until they ran onto the pitch and there were no subs and players didn't even warm up before the game.

Kevin Hudson
6   Posted 12/02/2010 at 10:27:27

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The Championship is the fourth most attended division in European football. The appetite is as strong as ever.
Derek Turnbull
7   Posted 12/02/2010 at 10:28:57

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The key to improving the game is the Europa League.

The Europa League is the most important competition in European Club Football. The sooner people realise this the better.

The Europa League should be the stepping stone between the domestic Leagues and the Champions League. The Champions League money should be distributed into the teams in this competition better. Instead, the CL keep all the money and the clubs are on an island of their own. So much so that the stepping stone is now a City style billionaire.

Another way that the CL clubs ensure there’s no stepping stone to them is that there’s only 3 places in the Europa League, 1 League 2 Cup, so how is a club supposed to sustain a challenge to the big 4 when it’s hard to consistently get that 5th place? It’s easier for Arsenal to finish 3rd than it is for Everton to finish 5th year on year.

If 4 clubs go in the CL then 4 should go in the Europa League.

Sort out the Europa League and sport will return.

Chris Butler
8   Posted 12/02/2010 at 12:02:34

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Financial expert from Coventry University, Gareth, said the thing about Sky. Hoffenhiem got into trouble for their owner as most German clubs make money from a variety of avenues wheras they were only gettign money from their owner.

Again it’s not going to happen in the next 3 years, Gareth, but according to some of the so-called financial experts it could well collapse. Again I’m not in the position to argue with them; if you disagree with them, fine.

Mick Wrende
9   Posted 12/02/2010 at 12:33:59

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As one of the older generation, the major changes have been the price of admission and all-seater stadia. In say the sixties no-one had to worry about whether they could afford to go to a game. And don't anyone tell me facilities are better — you still have to stand in a puddle of piss when you go for a leak and the food is still disgusting.

The Premier League clubs got a major lifeline after Hillsborough with everyone seated — clubs such as Everton only need crowds of 35,000 now to be full. Like many things, life was better then.

But as an individual, what can I do? I could stay away but then what good does that do me? Football will carry on but I won't be watching when it has been my lifeblood for so long. The sooner Portsmouth, Liverpool, United and one or two others go bust, the better. I just hope it happens in my lifetime.

Mick Wrende
10   Posted 12/02/2010 at 12:42:35

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Oh and James, I remember well those days of the half-time scores. The guy would put the Liverpool score up first and you would wait with baited breath as he slowly walked along to the correct letter with 2 numbers in his hand and you didnt know which would be for which team. Oh so that's another thing isnt it — 3 o’clock Saturday kick-offs!
Tony I'Anson
11   Posted 12/02/2010 at 13:57:48

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It’s funny how you remember the small things like the numbers and letters along the Bullens. I wish we could have some nostalgic, yet modern day equivalent of that when the Old Lady gets a makeover.

In relation to the money and debt, anyone care to recall the events that brought down Bearings Bank (1762 to 1995)?
Richard Dodd
12   Posted 12/02/2010 at 17:38:54

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Football, as we know it, did not exist before the Premier era. The old First Division was an almost entirely domestic tussle with so many players who wouldn’t even merit a contract these days. It was so, so easy for the likes of Royle and Ball to shine given that opponents were mostly English and Scottish with a few Taffs and Paddies thrown in for effect.

Comparing then and now is like looking at Champagne against Tizer (and who remembers that?)

Mick Wrende
13   Posted 12/02/2010 at 19:24:17

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Yeh right, Richard — only in today's game would someone as crap as Tony Hibbert get a contract. Anyway, I much prefer Tizer to Champagne — the latter is vastly overrated and far too expensive... rather like today's football really.
Brian Denton
14   Posted 12/02/2010 at 19:33:14

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Wow, Doddy, you’ve said some provocative things in your time, but that takes the biscuit. I presume you’re not serious, otherwise you’re an idiot.

Reid and Bracewell, or Ball, Kendall and Harvey could only beat what was in front of them — and they usually did. Do you feel like telling any Man U fans that the Busby Babes were useless because 50 years of improved fitness, diet and training methods would mean that even a mediocre Premier League team of today would beat them? Actually, I’m losing the will to live on this one...

Mike Allison
15   Posted 12/02/2010 at 20:10:25

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"To be honest I don’t blame them as who’s going to pay £30 or more for a ticket when you can pay to watch the match on your PC for about £2 a month?"

I’d say this is your key point. Why do clubs still charge so much for tickets when they get income from the TV anyway? The simple answer is because they’re greedy about players and offer them silly wages.

I’m no expert on German football, but I do know their attendances are impressive, I think their tickets are a lot cheaper too and I doubt this is a coincidence.

I stand to be corrected but I think their gates are still important to them relatively, whereas the Premier League has clubs like Blackburn, Wigan, and last year Middlesbrough, where no bugger turns up because the clubs want to have their cake (TV money) AND eat it (high ticket prices). Halve your ticket prices, fill your stadiums and the execs at Sky will send their cameras there anyway, especially as your full houses are likely to spur the team on to a decent home run. Has no-one at these clubs thought of this?

It's different for different clubs though, Portsmouth sell out their ground, but spent unbelievably on wages, way, way, way beyond their means (not just way beyond like most clubs), and something similar happened at West Ham. It explains why we’ve missed out on a lot of transfer targets to lesser clubs in the last few years.

Gavin Ramejkis
16   Posted 12/02/2010 at 22:06:29

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Doddy, huge own goal son, you admitted a few weeks ago on a post you are too young to remember pre Sky football so don’t pretend you know what it was like.

Mike, the attendences in Germany are very high as even for a top Bundesliga game the ticket prices are a fraction of those in the EPL, even European games are cheaper over there. I’m fond of that league as I think it’s very underrated.
David Cornmell
17   Posted 12/02/2010 at 22:26:24

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Ahh, another "back in the day..." vs here and now piece. Grand. Not trying to be too harsh but a few points:

"Manchester United, the biggest club in Britain, are in massive debt despite all the money they get each year. It seems to me that more clubs are in financial trouble than ever before..." but then you write "Foreign owners are hated by most supporters across the country. They are seen as businessmen who don’t care about the clubs’ histories and only interested in making a quick buck." I don’t agree; tell me the names of three foreign owners who’ve made a quick buck out of football in this country.

"The problem is if the clubs didn’t offer the huge amounts of money then the players wouldn’t expect the huge wages. .." You’re close here, but you don’t take it to the logical next step. If the fans didn’t pay the huge ticket prices then the clubs wouldn’t offer the huge amounts of money. You’re just paying the going rate - "what the market will bear". As are the Germans incidentally.

The Premier League is football's equivalent of the arms race, and nothing in the short or medium term suggests it might change.
Chris Butler
18   Posted 12/02/2010 at 22:49:58

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I don’t know actually, David with the collapse of the Icelandic banks but previously it was alleged that a few of the Championship owners were pocketing the clubs' funds... they never mentioned names though (according to The Times). I can’t think of many in the top flight come to think of it but they don’t buy these clubs because they have any affection for them do they?
Richard Dodd
19   Posted 13/02/2010 at 09:54:38

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Gavram, I don’t need to have been there to know all matches in the old First Division were between British players. The record books show it only became a game between the WORLD’s best players when the Prem came into being. Thus my champagne and Tizer comparison!
Ciarán McGlone
20   Posted 13/02/2010 at 11:26:10

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One of the worst article’s I’ve eve read on here... talk about poking everyone in the eye with a big stick.
Ciarán McGlone
21   Posted 13/02/2010 at 11:28:33

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...and I’d suggest your ’financial expert from Coventry University’ should really learn to count...

I struggled to find one factual point in the article... or even a conclusive opinion.
Dan Brierley
22   Posted 13/02/2010 at 11:46:12

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I have been to Bundesliga matches over in Germany (Hamburg & Bremen), and the matchday experience is a lot of fun. But that is in part to being served alcohol in your seat. That said though, it is nowhere near as good as what we have. And the technical footballing standard is much lower without a doubt.

Only the Premier League is watched on a truly global scale. I have been to both Malaysia and Singapore, and they are truly Premier League mad. It's without question that our league is the most entertaining.

I don’t believe Sky have destroyed top level football at all. Even those who cannot afford to go and watch the match are now able to do so. But if you are talking about English football in general, you might have a case as the gap between the top and lower leagues is much bigger than in the pre-Sky era.

If we were at the top of the table creaming all the Sky money from the Premier League and Champions League, I don''t think many people would be complaining about it then, that's for sure! We only moan as we aren’t getting a decent share of the pie.
Gavin Ramejkis
23   Posted 13/02/2010 at 17:56:42

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Dan, Germany has an open policy with alchohol, the car production lines in factories have beer dispensing machines on them and the workers can have beer on their breaks and have no increased accident levels because of it, similarly in lots of places in Europe you can take beer to your seat in a cinema. I think the UK has gone overboard on the clamp down everything routine.
Stephen Williams
24   Posted 13/02/2010 at 18:12:43

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I just don't buy into this article, Chris. Would you prefer stagnation? Sky Sports is head and shoulders above the useless BBC who like to show more of the big 4 and spend more time talking about defensive lapses. ITV were not much better.

Before Sky Sports, clubs got virtually no income from armchair punters who do not or cannot go the game. As for having a drink watching the game, we would all have plastic macs on, every time a team scored your pint would end up on the guy in front.

Although you mention Portsmouth with foreign owners, it was an English manager and an English CEO who got them into a financial mess, 'Arry Rednapp and Peter Storrie, when they paid high wages that could not be maintained, and when he saw the writing on the wall, 'Arry did a runner.
Chris Butler
25   Posted 13/02/2010 at 19:17:33

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Well, really, I was just saying football is far more enjoyable in Germany. It’s cheap, friendly, and entertianing. Really, before Sky, everyone was reasonably equal. Scudamore and his cronies are only interested in how much money they get.

Ciaran, there are facts in the article. Football's just became inflated. The league's not exciting, it's boring.

There's no other business like football, Stephen. There was a time when it cost the same prices to go to match as it did to go to the cinema... look at the diffrences now. It's just like owning a pub and charging £7 for a pint when people can get 8 cans for the same price next door — it’s madness.

David Cornmell
26   Posted 14/02/2010 at 12:54:24

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Yeah, but there was a time a pack of fags cost the same as a pint of milk. Times change and we with time.
Gavin Ramejkis
27   Posted 14/02/2010 at 16:44:55

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Doddy, if you look back at those old English only teams, check out a few that won European trophies, how many foreigners were in those sides and just who were they playing against?
European Cup
1966-67 Celtic
1967-68 Man Utd
1976-77 Liverpool
1977-78 Liverpool
1978-79 Nottingham Forest
1979-80 Nottingham Forest
1980-81 Liverpool
1981-82 Aston Villa
1983-84 Liverpool

The European Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and the Uefa Cup had winners including Liverpool, Newcastle, Tottenham, Leeds and Ipswich.
Foreign doesn’t automatically mean better, don’t get suckered into this "football didn’t exist before Sky" bollocks.

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