The One Percent – the tiny group that controls our game

THE 1%……..Don McMahon


Many of us have recently heard of the 1% in society, representing the richest, most influential and powerful elites who, in their greedy benevolence, deign to provide us mere mortal commoners a marginalized living.

Since UA is definitely NOT a political forum but rather a democratic and highly specialized Football blog site, I will focus on the Football 1%, the elite, to whom everything is apparently mere means to their ends.

Who are these entities?

I use the word entities, because some of the actors in this Football pantomime are NOT people, but organizations. Here are a few names of the top 7 club owners in the EPL to remind you about who we are dealing with…

  • Our own Stan Kroenke
  • Our own Alistair Usmanov
  • Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan (
  • John W. Henry  (Liverpool FC)
  • Roman Abramovich (Chelsea FC)
  • Malcom Glazer (Manchester United)
  • Joe Lewis (Tottenham Hotspurs FC)
  • Robert Elstone (Everton FC)

Then we have these :

  • FIFA—soon to be headless
  • EUFA—Michel Platini
  • The FA—Greg Dyke,chairman
  • The EPL—Richard Scudmore, CEO
  • The British Sports minister—Tracey Crouch
  • PGMOL – Mike Riley

What is at issue here?

My basic premise is that a great deal of power in a few hands is always a dangerous proposition no matter in which field it occurs or in whose hands this power rests, but in Football it has lead to a deteriorating situation and one that menaces the very integrity and health of the Beautiful Game.

Take for an example the long established behaviour of some “BIG” clubs like Madrid, Bayern, Barcelona, and closer to home Chelsea and City. I am NOT in any way impugning their motives but it  is well known and a proven fact that these club have in the past, and even now, stockpiled top players, who they had little or no intention of actually playing regularly. They did this in order to prevent their potential competitors from strengthening their sides and threatening the aforementioned clubs’ prospects for ongoing success.

How has the presence of the 1% permitted Football to suffer?

These entities pump vast sums of money (in some cases billions of pounds/Euros) into their respective clubs thus ensuring that the administration can usually buy whoever they want.  Once bought, the targeted player may or may not actually get a place in the first team but because they were enticed away from their original team, that team suffers the loss of a potentially top-class player, even IF they make a wad of cash in the process.

In the case of the Arsenal, we were fortunate to have a manager who could make do with what he was given but not all clubs have been so fortunate.

This vision of the rich and powerful manipulating the Game and using clubs for their own purposes (money-laundering, gambling, monopoly-like megalomania in some cases) or legitimate investments in the case of Kroenke, Henry, the Glazers, Lewis, etc has still had a negative effect on Football.

What model do I propose?

It is unrealistic and rather Utopian to hope that majority ownership of a club could devolve to the supporters. Yet we are the lifeblood of these clubs and without us, they would rapidly disappear, as would the Beautiful Game itself.

That said, we CANNOT bide our time while the 1% muck about with the Game. We have only to look at the mess FIFA is in right now and the absolute lack of accountability, respect for their stakeholders (people like us) and arrogant ignorance to see what can and does happen when the 1% control it all.

Therefore, as eccentric as it may seem, I am calling for a revolution in thinking and a new paradigm for Football which would involve the following as a start:

  • A draft system be created and administered by Fifa in which the best young players would be drafted by the weakest clubs in their division. (Already very successfully used by the NHL and NFL)
  • A salary cap, enforced by Fifa, which would ensure that insane amounts from a clubs budget don’t go to just one or two individuals. (Already used by the NHL and NFL and NBA)
  • A requirement that a majority owner provides up to 25% of shares in the Club to its supporters.
  • A requirement that every professional Club provide a minimum of FA certified coaches and 2 referee candidates to their local amateur league(s).
  • 5% of the annual net profits for EPL teams be set aside for the development of local football clubs, coaches and referees, including infrastructure and development needs.
  • The FA be disbanded and replaced by a democratically elected Football Development corporation whose principal objective would be to promote and develop the Game in England. Candidates would be nominated from a pool of currentprofessional Football managers, retired players and former administrators, as well as a few from among the supporters of professional Clubs and administrators of amateur football leagues.
  • An independent “ dubious” calls review Board be created and administered by the sports minister with the express objective of reviewing suspicious or poor Football officiating at all levels. Its aegis would extend to amateur and professional levels and would NOT be punitive (unless illegal activity was detected) but rather remedial and educational.
  • Finally that the FFP implementation and authority be invested directly in the EU and that their legal departments be mandated with the task of overseeing all transactions in professional, both at the youth and adult level.

I may be crazy and wearing rose-coloured glasses but surely it is time we began to take back our Game from the greed merchants and corrupt sycophants that currently dominate our beloved Football?


Two of today’s anniversaries

  • 16 July 1962 Joe Baker was Billy Wright’s first marquee signing and Arsenal’s record signing at the time.  He had been Hibernian’s  top scorer for four years getting 102 goals in just 117 league games before moving to Torino.
  • 16 July 1963: Bob Wilson signed as an amateur, having been playing reserve games for Wolverhampton while studying at Loughborough College (now Loughborough University) to train as a teacher.



12 Replies to “The One Percent – the tiny group that controls our game”

  1. Love it. It may not be perfect but it would be a start. Sad that only our Sports Minister is democratically elected.

    There is a need for rules on Agents & bye laws to ensure tapping up is truly removed from the game. Currently the ‘money’ seems to have a freehand in tapping up players.


    Is our Sweet FA vile?

    Comment from K.I.O.:
    “The FA has damaged its own credibility and anti-discrimination policies…”How can anybody truly challenge discrimination and prejudiced attitudes in football with confidence now?”

    That would be for those who mistakenly have given this FA any credibility prior to these announcments.

  3. A very good write-up but does not look like happening in our life time because that 1% you talked about have too much power in their hands and will never allow it happen.

  4. It can happen if there is sufficient momentum gathered in the web/net across all/most football supporters. Supporters uniting will form the most powerful of all entities. Start off by tweeting this post & slowly but surely supporters will begin to see the plight of the game. If nothing is done, kiss goodbye to fair competition. It is our game to protect.

  5. Something I think needs to be added, and that is some kind of “polling”. Every league needs to have a web presence, and people can visit that website to find out about teams, games and players. The website may decide that on such and such day, it wants to poll 3 people. So starting a midnight, it will “interfere” with a website request to ask if the user (whoever it is) wants to fill in a survey. If yes, than the person is shown the survey and the system stops asking for surveys for 8 hours (1/3 of day). People need to register (sort of), the registration is NOT unique. The idea is that there be no practical way to associate any given registration to a person or group of people. The survey seeks information on recent games they might have seen (locally or otherwise). Rate the game as a whole. Rate each team as a whole. Rate the officials as a whole (for amateur, there may not be assistant referees, or not many). And then optionally, rate individuals (players, coaches, referees).

    A person could also allow people to do a similar survey on their own volition. While allowing people to choose to fill out a survey on their own leads to higher participation, the answers submitted may be for effect and not indicative of the circumstances, situation, …. For example, Arsenal has a reputation of skewing many web surveys. But the idea is to acquire data which can be examined to look for poor referees, poor coaches, poor players and so on.

  6. It’s important to dream big. It’s even more important to not allow oneself to fall into depression when those dreams come crashing down.

  7. Nice article Don . A big LIKE from me . While it is not impossible , the 1% that are the ‘big boys club’ probably have the clout and money to maintain the status quo. I for one would love to see it implemented just for the sake of fair play .
    A fairer distribution of assets I would agree to , but not to the bailing out poorly run clubs. A very good system of check and balances is needed ,wherein an early warning alarm would go of if any of the preset conditions were to be broken , breached, or appears to be tempered with.
    Let the rules , laws and conditions be very clearly defined without any ambiguity whatsoever ,so that there are no misunderstandings and to prevent any pushing of the boundaries .

  8. Don,

    It’s a good article and one that many fans of all clubs can identify with to some extent at least. The trouble is, I can’t see some of the suggestions being too realistic a goal – a club owner, for example, isn’t going to give a 25% stake to fans in exchange for nothing and even if he were prepared to sell the stake that 25% could amount to hundreds of millions for the bigger clubs which would make it difficult for fans to raise the cash.

    However, if you want to see your ideas being given a wider platform then you could let the Football Supporters Federation know – the FSF “reach” stretches to the fans of pretty much every club in the country. I’m sure they be interested in some of the suggestions and they’ve done some sterling work in helping get the voices of fans heard by the authorities. Incidentally, their annual summit takes place in Manchester tomorrow and there will be fan groups present from all over the country. I’ll be there with some fellow City fans and I’m pretty sure Arsenal will have a representation there via Red Action. Much of the talk will focus on issues such as ticket pricing and the ongoing “Twentys Plenty” campaign for more affordable tickets for away fans but other issues will be covered as well such as over-zealous policing/stewarding, fan ownership, and discrimination in football. It’s an opportunity for fan groups to put rivalries to one side to work together for the greater good and many of us will be having a working lunch to discuss ideas, etc, so if I get the chance I will mention your comments.

  9. Thanks M18CTID……………….I would relish attending such an event but living across the pond renders it a difficult option to put it mildly. Now if I were the 1%, I’d have a private jet to bounce me over to merry old England and I’d load it up with London Football supporters to attend this event.
    I believe if the Club owner had no alternative but to offer 25% of shares at a reduced rate for supporters, then enough people would find the money to invest. Imagine if the millions of fans worldwide could own one share each, then the demand would far outstrip the supply and groups of supporters could buy a share or two. The owner might take a small loss but he or she would be truly enrolling supporters into the Club. I agree that my suggestions are a bit of a stretch but if we don’t try we will never achieve anything!
    Have agreat day the the FSF!!

  10. would be nice to see some comparison of draft system to current transfers system in football

  11. Oleg….I will publish another followup tothis article detailing how the above recommendations could work in Football.

  12. omgarsenal (aka Don – I wasn’t aware you were one and the same person until I saw your response lol),

    Firstly, I totally concur with the 25% suggestion – there’s nothing I’d like more than for fans to have a stake in every club in the country. As long as we weren’t responsible for picking the team and deciding on tactics, etc – that would be the definition of organised chaos!

    Most of your other suggestions make perfect sense to me and many other fans but getting the 1% to give up some of their power (and money) is a job in itself. That said, the FSF summit was very interesting and showed that when fans get organised they can make a difference. You’re absolutely bang on the money when you say that football without fans is nothing – as successful as the Premier League is, I doubt whether the TV companies would pay as much for the rights if the games were played in front of half-empty stadia. Interestingly, the head of the FSF said that it’s not a case of there being too much money in football but the issue is more a case of where that money is going. As we know, it seems to be going to the clubs, players, and agents and too little of it is being distributed down the lower leagues or going back to the fans in terms of subsidising ticket prices. But on the latter, there definitely is some significant movement – Swansea, who incidentally are part-owned by their fans so this will not come as too much of a surprise, are subsidising every single one of their fans that travels to away matches next season to the extent that none of them will pay more than £22 a ticket. Other clubs are exploring the idea of reciprocal pricing where they agree with a particular club to charge their respective fans the same amount.

    There was also a meeting between Barclays and reps from Spirit Of Shankly (Liverpool supporters group) and the FSF on Friday. SOS and the FSF wanted to put Barclays in the picture as to some of the things that the fan groups are campaigning for and hoping that they can use their influence as the Premier League’s sponsor to “lean” on the Premier League in some way. Somewhat surprisingly, Barclays were in favour of some of the proposals so hopefully we can see some movement on various issues in due course.

    There was a funny moment when speaking to an Everton fan, and it shows why football club rivalries should be left at the door when it comes to these things. Apparently last season Spurs fans wanted to do something for the North London derby (not sure what – possibly a protest over ticket prices) which would’ve involved Arsenal fans as well in a joint protest. Trouble is, the guy from the Spurs fan group asked the Everton guy to act as an intermediary because he said he couldn’t bring himself to talk to the Arsenal group directly!

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