Thursday, November 22, 2007

Money can't buy me Euro 2008

England 2 Croatia 3. As most of the commentators said last night, the better team won, and England didn't deserve to go through.

But this is a good thing.

First, we'll be spared all the usual hype that goes with the European or World tournaments when England are involved.

Second, it may (but don't hold your breath) force the English FA to wonder whether all its offerings on the altar of Mammon have really brought the blessings it sought. The torrent of cash pouring into English football has found its way into the pockets of shareholders, sports agents and overpaid players (John Terry's £135,000 a week salary puts him in the top 0.001% richest people in the world, according to the Global Rich List).

Meanwhile English football is drying up at the roots. 12 years ago Alex Ferguson was starting to put together a Manchester United team drawn from the MUFC youth academy: Beckham, Scholes, Butt, Giggs, the Neville brothers, all home grown, all becoming established international players, helping Man U become a European champion team. Now Ferguson is doing the same thing again, but look at where the players are coming from: Rooney - bought in from Everton. Tevez - Argentina, Anderson - Brazil, Ronaldo - Portugal, and so on. The home-grown players in the Man U first team are the same ones as in 1995 - Scholes, Giggs, Neville - all coming to the end of their playing careers. Meanwhile its not uncommon for Arsenal to field a whole side of overseas players, with Chelsea and many other premiership clubs not far behind.

And whilst all this is happening, the average working person is being priced out of the game. For a swathe of Premiership clubs who were founded as sports clubs for the inner city poor or from inner city church Sunday schools, (e.g. Everton, Villa, Spurs - see the book Thank God for Football), their original working class base is one of the many things sacrificed on Mammons altar. Even here in Yeovil, the repeated pleas from our local club chairman for better crowds bump up against the practical reality that adult tickets start at £16 a throw. There seem to be only 5,000 or so folk in the area who are willing to pay that on a regular basis, no matter how much encouragement they get.

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