The English Premier League is the most watched football league, with some of the highest paid players in world football performing in it, but at what cost? The last report showed that only two clubs in the top flight were breaking even or marginally in the black, as clubs spend money they do not have to try and keep up with their competitors.
A similar trend has arisen in the Hyundai A League with some clubs investing vast sums of money in high profile players coming to the end of illustrious careers. With no transfer system between A League clubs we have also witnessed unproven young players with promise, switching clubs on a regular basis as one club out bids the other in terms of what they think the player is worth. Isn’t this simply a club’s way of showing their fans they have ambition? How many times has it proven to be an inspired move? The end result is that the club ends up paying far more than the said player is worth based on his career at that time.
In Britain, Parliament has stepped in and told the English FA that they must reform. There are many who believe that they should butt out, but as Britain was one of the nations to lose out on the recent bid to host the World Cup, and like Australia the Government gave financial support to that failed bid, they are now taking a greater interest in the welfare of the game.
What has the bid got to do with the running of the game or the League you may ask, but sadly in football there are many who make it into key positions and are then feted by FIFA and UEFA and enjoy junkets to various events and games around the world where they are wined and dined and often beneficiaries in many other ways; the same is true in many countries, even Australia. As a result these people charged with governing the game, and doing what is best, turn a blind eye when it is appropriate to do so, they also are called upon at times to ‘pay the piper,’ and are more than willing to do so as long as they continue to enjoy the benefits of their position.
In the UK the latest report from the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee (CMS) shows the will across all sides of Parliament for football to modernise and change for the better.
According to John Whittingdale MP, and chairman of the committee “While some progress has been achieved, much greater reform in football is needed to make the game inclusive, sustainable and driven from the grassroots, where it should be.The proposals for reform so far simply don’t address the fundamental problems: the licensing model, the way supporters are engaged at club level and the membership of the main board, which is not fully representative or able to balance interests adequately.” The same could be said of the game in Australia.
The report highlights that greater representation for supporters and tackling issues that concern them such as ownership and effective financial regulation is an issue that must now be tackled.
“The involvement of fans is essential for the future vitality of the game and there is a worrying trend as financial interests take hold that the game is becoming remote from the communities from which the clubs originated,” Labour’s shadow minister for sport, Clive Efford MP is quoted as saying.
With many UK clubs facing perilous financial predicaments the committee says that measures to safeguard their future have not gone far enough. Something many fans would agree with.
With virtually every A League club losing money the management of the Hyundai A League and possibly our own parliamentarians would be wise to follow what is happening in the UK as many of the recommendations made would benefit the game here in Australia. Press releases from the FFA boasting about increased crowd figures hide the fact that they have lost a great many football fans for a myriad of reasons and that the game at semi professional level is haemorrhaging. Despite the many positive steps forward the game in Australia has made in recent years, the fact is still what is being achieved by the sport is no where near what could be achieved. Let us use what is happening in the UK and around the world, to learn vital lessons and make necessary changes ourselves, in order to give the game a long term future.
Sadly with a desperate desire to not follow anything to do with football that is British by the powers that be, the game in Australia could suffer in the long term. As long as the same mistakes are avoided, and the game thrives does it truly matter from whose mistakes we learn as long as we do?