By Tony Attwood
Imagine you had a son or daughter who was showing really great promise as a footballer. And imagine you were a lifelong supporter of Liverpool. Or Newcastle. Or Tottenham. You wouldn’t worry too much that it was 26 years, or 90 years or 56 years (as it has been for those three clubs) since they last won the league. Your heart would be with your team, and the honour of having your child within that club, even if just at the under 9s level, would be something wonderful.
In such circumstances I can imagine that nothing would get in the way of that pleasure. Years of not winning the title, years of under achievement, none of it would matter. Indeed you could add Chelsea to the list, for if you were a lifelong fan then even knowing that the number of players who have made it from the youth team to the first team since John Terry is very very very very tiny you still wouldn’t mind. Chelsea is your club.
Same with Manchester United. The fact that Manchester City has more modern training facilities for youngsters while Man U has not been in the Champions League for a while would not worry you. Man U is your club. Even if you live in Cornwall, it is your club.
So the fact that Liverpool have just been fined £100,000 and banned from signing academy players from English league clubs for two years (the second year of the ban suspended for three years), after being found guilty of speaking to a Stoke player and his family without permission, and of offering inducements, including paying for the boy and family members to attend a game at Anfield, probably won’t put the families who support Liverpool off the club. It’s a sort of Sam Allerdyce offence, only with children. It might however put off families associated with teams with a less prestigious academy from looking at Liverpool.
Families might also note that the parents of the boy have been left liable for thousands of pounds of school fees after the club refused to pay for the commitment that they had made, in placing the youngster in a private school.
The official ruling said, “In an investigation following that rejection, the Premier League found evidence that Liverpool’s conduct prior to applying to register the player contravened League rules. The League found evidence demonstrating regular communications between representatives of the club and members of the player’s family. This included hosting them at Anfield for a match with expenses paid and other efforts to encourage the player, via his family, to sign for Liverpool. League rules strictly prohibit the offer of any inducements to encourage a move.
The schoolboy concerned is now 13 and cannot sign for another club until Stoke receive a compensation fee of £49,000. Liverpool are not paying that so he now can’t sign for anyone. Bit of a cock up really.
But Liverpool are not alone in not quite following the rules of course. Barcelona, and the two Madrid giants are all too familiar with fines and punishments relating to under age footballers and from what we hear nothing is stopping families queuing up to get their children into the clubs, no matter what laws are broken en route.
So does anything put parents off? Breaking the rules, leaving the young lad without a club. Leaving the parents with a massive private school bill. Or in the Spanish cases moving children across country boundaries…
It made me wonder what would put me off supporting Arsenal. Having Sam Allerdyce as manager would. But the stories in the media about Arsenal’s turmoil and collapse? No, because I go to almost every home match, and some away games, and I know what really goes on.
So if I look at the Daily Telegraph and see, every single day headlines like “Watch | Arsenal fans clash outside Emirates stadium” it doesn’t affect me at all. I know just how many are involved. But for parents of talented youngsters, looking to find a club, yes that could have an impact. So could the stories of walk-outs, late arrivals and chaos within the club as the media gives us every day – none of that can help entice young players who could go anywhere.
The damage is being done by the protest groups and their media allies day by day, not just because sacking one manager and appointing another is most certainly not a route to instant or even medium term success, but also because of the image of the club. West Ham of course did themselves no good yesterday through the actions of their fans, but they have less of a good reputation to maintain. We’ve already seen the pictures from the Tax Payers’ Stadium this season. But at the Ems, these activities will be eating away at Arsenal at all levels, just as the rather sordid episode at Liverpool will have dented their image and made some youngsters more likely to go elsewhere.
The Arsenal History Society
Ongoing: The series on Arsenal in the 1930s is complete and the first eight articles in the series have now been completely revised and updated including new pictures from the first Racing Club v Arsenal match. The book is available on the web site, and will shortly be published on Kindle. The index to the book on the web site is here.
Arsenal History Books on Kindle
The novel “Making the Arsenal” by Tony Attwood which describes the events of 1910, which created the modern Arsenal FC, is now available for the first time on Kindle. Full details are here.
Also available on Kindle, “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football” the only comprehensive history of the rise of Arsenal as a league club, and the attempts to destroy the club, from within and without. For full details please see here.
Both books are also available as paperbacks. Please see here.