Football Administrators And StructuresThu, 8 May 2008
There seems to be a disconnect between the purported issue and the proposed solution, but then, Sepp Blatter has never been the most intelligent of football administrators.
The free market works if those who administer the system understand it and adapt the system to make the most it. Skilful players (employees) should be free to play for the clubs (employers) that provide the best package (including salaries and bonuses) to secure their services. Clubs (businesses) should be free to decide how much they are prepared to pay to secure the services of skilful players, and should bear the consequences of their decision, be it success on the field or financial ruin. Club owners (shareholders) should be free to sell the club to investors (which potentially includes fans, provided they can raise the capital) at a mutually agreed price.
A major problem is that football administrators, especially Sepp Blatter and FIFA, have their own agenda. Amongst other things, I have little doubt that they are envious of the wealth pouring into the top levels of European football in general, and English football in particular.
A proper solution would require a review of the way national, European and world football is structured, both in terms of the associations that administer football, and the way competitions are structured.
Sepp Blatter would never go so far, as it risks undermining his own power base.
There appears to be an inevitability about a split between FIFA and the leading European clubs (whether with or without UEFA).
There are parallels with events of the mid 1880s:
“In January, 1884, Preston North End played the London side, Upton Park, in the FA Cup. After the game Upton Park complained to the Football Association that Preston was a professional, rather than an amateur team. Major William Sudell, the secretary/manager of Preston North End admitted that his players were being paid but argued that this was common practice and did not breach regulations. However, the FA disagreed and expelled them from the competition.
It was well-known that Sudell improved the quality of the team by importing top players from other areas. This included several players from Scotland. As well as paying them money for playing for the team, Sudell also found them highly paid work in Preston.
Preston North End now joined forces with other clubs who were paying their players, such as Aston Villa and Sunderland. In October, 1884, these clubs threatened to form a break-away British Football Association. The Football Association responded by establishing a sub-committee, which included William Sudell, to look into this issue. On 20th July, 1885, the FA announced that it was “in the interests of Association Football, to legalise the employment of professional football players, but only under certain restrictions”. Clubs were allowed to pay players provided that they had either been born or had lived for two years within a six-mile radius of the ground.
Blackburn Rovers immediately registered as a professional club. Their accounts show that they spent a total of £615 on the payment of wages during the 1885-86 season. It was revealed that top players such as James Forrest and Joseph Lofthouse were being paid £1 a week.”
The risk of professional clubs splitting away from the Football Association was averted in 1885 by compromise. However, similar disagreements within rugby resulted in a split between union and league in 1895.
A compromise can only be reached when the various factions have sufficient common interest.
They does not appear to be a sufficiency of common ground when a significant difference between the factions is that one is rapidly acquiring wealth (the top European clubs), and the other wants to stop them (Sepp Blatter and FIFA).
Continuing from here, Keegan’s outburst has the Premier League’s Chief Executive defending the league and Keegan in trouble with the Newcastle United owner.
It appears to be of lesser significance that what Keegan said is largely true, albeit conveyed in Keegan’s often somewhat hysterical style of self-expression.
“Having top clubs competing in both their domestic league and in the Champions League increases the divide between the them and the rest of the league. The dominance of the top clubs is reinforced by having two significant sources of revenue, while the rest of the league only has only one (excluding domestic cup competitions).
There is no level playing field, and what is sport without a level playing field?”
A simple solution is to have the top European clubs leave their domestic leagues and play in a European league, not merely because they see it as lucrative (as the G14 might have wanted a couple of years ago, see also here) but because it would be good for the rest of the domestic league.
The top European clubs would have a level playing field at their level, and the top remaining domestic/regional clubs would have a level playing field at their level.
The Championship has shown that an exciting second tier can generate a lot of interest, and with increased interest comes the potential for greater revenue.
The only real issue in any such system is that there should continue to be relegation and promotion between the European league and the domestic/regional leagues (as all domestic leagues have between their first and second tiers). It is not difficult to envisage a simple structure that allows for this.
Unfortunately, football administrators lack the vision.