Football. If ever there was a sport that has been dramatically altered by money, it’s this one. More and more clubs are being taken over by billionaires, with the seemingly important ‘must love football’ often not being part of the criteria. Television companies are scrapping over broadcasting rights and manipulating fixtures as they please. And the players themselves are earning a ridiculous wage every week considering firstly, they don’t save lives or help the needy, they kick ‘an inflated pig’s bladder’ around a field, and secondly, they get their paycheck whether they put in a world-class performance, mooch round looking disinterested, or lounge at home ‘resting’ their ‘tweaked hamstring.’
Maybe that assessment is a little overdramatic, and most certainly extremely bleak, but it cannot be denied that the reputation of football is diminishing, particularly to those outside the sport. And a lot of the time, it only has itself to blame.
Take, for instance, clubs such as Manchester City and Real Madrid. They have spent over £400 million between them and it’s not even the end of July yet. Real, having a history of success and of course the famous ‘Galacticos’ era, have maybe a little more excuse to be splashing the cash – their so-called ‘tradition’ of buying top quality players, no matter how much they cost, doesn’t look like ending any time soon, especially with Florentino Pérez as President. But when Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG) officially completed their takeover of City on September 1st 2008, we could only guess what kind of impact it would have.
The ‘money crises’ of past decades seem miniscule in comparison. Johnny Haynes became the first player to earn £100 per week, when the £20 wage cap was eradicated in 1961. Trevor Francis was the first player with a transfer fee of over £1 million in total in 1979, moving from Birmingham City to Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest. This is put into a rather dramatic perspective when considering Cristiano Ronaldo’s £80 million transfer from Manchester United, or the ‘stratospheric offer’ put forward to Samuel Eto’o of Barcelona by Manchester City, which included a wage packet of £180,000 per week.
The days of paying 15p to attend a football match and 5p to buy a programme are difficult to imagine nowadays. It cannot be denied that football is changing, whether we like it or not.
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