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By Tony Attwood
In the first article in this little series on who controls football in England I came up with my top five entities that actually run football in England…
- TV stations
- Newspapers and radio stations
Since there were some kind comments about the analysis, and some very interesting further analyses as well, I thought I’d plod on with my next five. Meanwhile if you missed the first article it is of course still on the site.
6. The Premier League
In breaking away from the Football League, in order to keep more money for themselves, the Premier League were supported by the FA, who subsequently found they had made a bit of a blunder and had enabled a monster they now couldn’t control.
But since then, it has become a common observation that to understand the PL all you have to do is see some of the messes it has got itself involved in…
In 2006, West Ham did a deal with four companies to bring in Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. But having done that it turned out West Ham did not own the players per se, but had merely purchased economic rights to their signatures. That was fundamentally against the rules of all football in England.
The PL fined WHU £5m but did not remove any points because they didn’t see why the fans should suffer from the club’s illegal activities!!! (Was this an issue when Arsenal were docked two points after a bit of a hoo-ha at Old Trasfford in the 1990/1 season? No one thought of us then.)
So WHU kept these illegally acquired players and with these players WHU avoided relegation and Sheffield Utd went down. Sheffield Utd then went after WHU for compensation with the Premier League standing helpless in the wings desperately hoping no one noticed, and to avoid a dispute in the courts WHU paid up. The Independent quoted a figure of £18m.
Moving on, in recent decades, the topic of female equality and the opportunity for women to have as many rights in football as men has become one of increasing discussion and debate.
The PL however has been notable by its silence on this matter, just as it was when its broadcaster of choice had Andy Gray and Richard Keys abusing a female assistant ref live on air. Sky did remove the disgusting pair of prats, but the PL did nothing. The prats then moved on to Talk Sport and commentating on PL matches for overseas channels.
Moving on again, in 2012, former Southampton player Claus Lundekvam claimed that he and others regularly manipulated matches for financial gain making arrangements with the opposition captain about betting on the first throw, corner, yellow card or penalty. The Guardian ran this story and the Mail followed with reports that Liverpool allegedly benefited from match fixing during a 2009 Champions League game. The PL made no comment. The story went away and there has long been a suspicion that pressure was put on the media to drop the investigations.
In January 2005, Chelsea tapped up Ashley Cole from Arsenal. Scudamore at the PL set up an independent commission to look into the matter which found that Cole, Mourinho and Chelsea were guilty of breaking Premier League Rules. Cole was fined £100,000. Mourinho £200,000 and Chelsea FC £300,000 and a suspended three-point deduction. The points deduction did not get implemented. The fines, compared to the damage done to Arsenal, were tiny, and it gave a signal to all clubs that tapping up could now take place for a very minor cost.
In January 2006 former ex Luton manager Mike Newell and ex QPR manager Ian Holloway said that bribery was rife in English football. In September that year the BBC ran a Panorama programme on corruption. Eventually Scudamore of the PL set up an independent investigation agency which reported in December 2006 revealing 17 transfers that looked dubious involving five clubs, three managers and numerous agents. Nothing happened. Sam Allyerdyce who was implicated announced he was suing the BBC. He never did, which of itself is quite interesting.
In May 2014 emails containing numerous sexist and insulting remarks written by Scudamore were leaked by a former temporary PA. Scudamore said that the emails were “private emails exchanged between colleagues and friends of many years,” even though he used the PL account to send out the emails. He apologise but nothing else happened.
The power of the Premier League can be seen in all these stories. If caught they investigate and nothing of consequence happens. No matter what the allegation nothing happens. That is the measure of supreme power.
For an organisation that is known to be corrupt and is clearly broken, Fifa wields enormous power, for three reasons. One the sponsors continue to pay into it. Two the broadcasting companies continues to pay into it. Three the Football Associations in each country continue to support it. They might make noises, but they don’t pull out.
Given all that support, both moral and financial, it is clearly safe for Fifa to continue to manipulate the game worldwide.
Fifa decides when games are played (imposing rules about when there will be the preposterous international breaks, and regulating the TV market) and insists that clubs have to release players, even though Fifa makes no payment for the use of players. Some countries have to pay compensation if a player gets injured on international duty, but not all.
So it wasn’t surprising that Fifa arranged for the world cup to be held in a country with no footballing tradition, where league games are attended by crowds of a few thousands, where migrant workers are treated as slave labour, and where fundamental human rights are overruled by the constitution of the country.
Meanwhile Fifa insists that only the products of its sponsors should be shown, hence the infamous occasions in which people wearing the wrong t-shirts are imprisoned and held in appalling conditions without trial – South Africa joyfully seemed to engage in this partnership with Fifa.
Fifa pays no taxes (if there is a suggestion that they should, they simply will not give the games to the host nation) and demand the same sort of political immunity from prosecution which emissaries of countries get. They even demand, and get, their own car lanes and thus disrupt traffic throughout the cities where they swan around in their freely provided cars.
Fifa also demands that nothing contrary to the Fifa image of itself is shown in the host nation during a world cup tournament. Indeed so strong are its political demands for no negative publicity that in the run up to the elections which saw Russia and Qatar will the right to hold a world cup, the FA begged the BBC not to show a Panorama programme on the corruption within Fifa, for fear it would exclude them from the right to stand. In fact England only got two votes, after the BBC to its eternal credit, would not bend the knee to the will of Fifa.
Fifa thus has massive control over how the game is played, when and where it is played. Of course it does make the occasional right decision – such as tackling child trafficking by clubs in Spain, but these tiny victories for basic human rights count as nothing in their support of countries where human rights are simply non-existent.
There is massive evidence that all voting procedures in Fifa are rigged and that bribery is rife, and yet Fifa is right up near the top in terms of the way football is organised on a country by country basis. And yet the English establishment has loved their every move.
Uefa is little Fifa in action, controlling football in Europe. This is the organisation that fines or otherwise deals with outbreaks of racism and the like across Europe in club matches.
The benchmark was set when in June 2012 Nicklas Bendtner was fined £80,000 for unauthorised sponsorship as well as getting a one-match ban and charged with improper conduct after he revealed a betting company’s logo after lifting up his shirt while celebrating a goal against Portugal in a Euro 2012 group game. That then is the basis against which all other fines should be measured. £80,000 and a one match ban. We can see what other fines have been imposed.
Four months later, Lazio were fined £32,500 by Uefa after their fans undertook monkey chanting aimed at Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend. Three Tottenham goals were ruled out and the match ended 0-0 with no enquiry into the referee. (Compare with £80,000)
Two months later Serbia were fined £65,000 for racist chanting and violence on the pitch in Serbia’s Under-21 game against England in the European Championship qualification play-off. (Compare with £80,000)
In January 2013 AC Milan midfielder Kevin Prince-Boateng took his team off the pitch in a friendly after insulting chants were heard. The President of the Italian Football Association, said the abuse of Boateng was “unspeakable and intolerable”. Uefa did nothing saying it was a friendly and so they were powerless to act. (Compare with £80,000)
The list goes on and on. Porto fined £16,700, Bulgaria FA fined £34230, Croatia fined £10,000, Macedonia fined £16,500.. (Compare with £80,000).
Ajax were fined £8500 when fans unfurled a banner with a picture of a sheikh clutching a bag of money with the caption “against modern football”. Man City were find £24740 for coming out late in the second half in a match. And in March 2012 Arsene Wenger was given a three-match suspension and fined £33,000 for talking too severely to the referee at the end of a Champions League match against Milan.
I think that shows you where their priorities lie.
9 The Football Association.
The FA managed to shoot themselves in the foot by supporting the Premier League’s breakaway from the Football League, and then found themselves marginalised. It was typical of what they are and what they do. They have since been in massive financial trouble, recently made over one third of their staff redundant, have the lowest number of people going through its referee courses per number of players of any European country, and had a grant given by the government to help it develop grassroots football removed after it misappropriated the funds.
Grassroots football is now in total decline, and the FA and government have hit on the ploy of demanding the Premier League pays for it, even though it is the FA’s remit. This move might well succeed and will once again let the FA off the hook instead of bringing its history and whole existence into question, as should happen.
The FA has courted constant disaster by cozying up to Fifa, as when it lashed out a fortune entertaining Jack Warner, part of which involved a trip to Prince Charles’ home and what the Daily Mail called a £135,000 sweetener.
The Football Association chairman, Greg Dyke, has described a sexist email exchange involving the Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Scudamore, as “totally inappropriate”, and nothing happened. So much for their influence
Meanwhile Greg Dyke admitted unwittingly breaching both customs rules and Fifa’s code of ethics after accepting a £16,000 designer watch at the World Cup and bringing it back to the UK.
The Fifa’s ethics committee ordered the return of 65 Parmigiani timepieces handed to football officials, including the Football Association chairman, before the tournament in Brazil. When Fifa catch you out on a matter of ethics you know you are in trouble.
The FA’s powerbase has declined but their willingness to kowtow with Uefa and Fifa, not fight over the ludicrous position on racism, and spend money trying to get the World Cup to England, shows what a manic and dangerous organisation it is.
Advertisers are of course like sponsors, but without the regular commitment, but they still have a huge influence on football, for if one of your big advertisers suddenly says he doesn’t like the product, then all the talk about editorial integrity can go out the window. It doesn’t always happen and some publications are known to stand up to any attempts to manipulate the product by the advertisers, but I have severe doubts as to whether any commercial broadcasters or indeed clubs have such integrity to stand up to advertisers.
There’s no doubt that if advertisers had stood up to the broadcast companies about Fifa and Uefa at any time, they would have had an influence, even if the sponsors had stayed loyal. And the fact that in the UK we have an advertising free, independent and tax funded broadcaster, helps to moderate the influence a little. But even the BBC is under pressure to follow suit and broadcast football as the advertisers want them to do.
What advertisers who buy spots within football programmes want beyond everything else are people who think that football is a jolly good thing. The last thing they want is people like the writers and readers of Untold suggesting that there are all sorts of things wrong with football – starting with referees are either bent or incompetent and working down. So they treat fans as jolly funny chaps who can be interviewed occasionally, and who have opinions which can be heard on phone ins, but otherwise ignored and make it clear that they are pulling their advertising out of football if certain news stories are opened up.
That’s the second ground of five influences then. And what does all this mean – this list of organisations, players, advertisers and sponsors, and broadcasters? It means the fans are ignored. Not one of these organisations thinks about the fans other than to say, “If you support the club you’ll turn up, behave as we tell you, follow our rules, and buy whatever we tell you.”
I will carry on with the next five when time and space permits.
Next up The Rugby Club vs Arsenal
Please note that there won’t be a post-match review by Walter today due to the Arsenal Belgium AGM being held. Walter’s asked me to give his apologies, and also his thanks to everyone who looks out for the report (and emails him to ask where it is, when he takes more than 10 minutes to complete it).
Insult of the day (dedicated today to Stoke City):
I am stifled by this smell. (King John)
Two anniversaries – more on the home page
- 17 January 1948: The pivotal match of the season: a 1-1 draw with Man U in front of 81,962 – the biggest crowd for an Arsenal league match and reported as the highest league attendance ever. The game was played at Maine Road, as Old Trafford was still being repaired after the second world war.
- 17 January 1968: Arsenal’s first semi-final since 1952 – Arsenal 3 Huddersfield 2 (in the League Cup). Graham, Radford and McNab scored. After no semi-finals in 16 years Arsenal now went on to six semis in six years ending with a defeat to Sunderland in the FA Cup in 1973.