The image of the band playing on the Titanic while the iceberg joined in with the percussion is so hackneyed that I always try and avoid it, but after half an hour of sitting here I can’t find anything better to describe the news swirling around football.
While most of the media focusses on the day’s events (and nothing wrong with that – I’ll be doing a little piece myself in the Observer this weekend on saturday’s game – a very little piece I must add) the whole liner, uncontrolled by an out-of-touch set of organisations (EPL, FA, UEFA, FIFA) sinks.
Only in five years time when the whole football scene is utterly different in every regard from that which we see today, will people sit up and think: blimey, what happened?
I’ve rambled on so often about Manchester Bankrupt and the rest that I’d like to try and pick up a couple of bits and pieces from elsewhere, just to show how huge the problems are.
And I would add, these stories are not the result of detailed searching through obscure Peruivian monthly reviews of local sport – they come from publications you’ll know, all currently available. The stories are there – it is just that most of us (and that certainly includes me) are generally so focussed on our own clubs, that we often don’t notice.
Manchester Money: there’s a brilliant piece on the Guardian site today showing how the agent Kia Joorabchian, who fixed the Argentine loan deal which is still bringing down West Iceland Utd was deeply and illegally involved in the attempts by Manchester to get Kakakakak.
The rules broken in this scenario are so widespread that in any other world the club would be already under detailed investigation – but no, not a word, no one moves. Presumably because Arab money is all that is keeping football afloat, so what do rules matter now? It’s fine to dock Luton Town loads of points (actually I think it IS fine to do that) but we had better not look too closely at a club from Manchester.
Then there’s Rangers. A piece in Scotland on Sunday showing how incredibly close to the edge that club is. They have gone beyond the cover-up stage of Manchester Bankrupt, they are way beyond rescue by Sheik Yermoney, they are now on the fire sale stage, with an utterly wrecked financial structure and not the slightest chance of borrowing a penny.
To people like me who have probably only ever seen a dozen matches in Scotland in a lifetime of football, it might seem like just another club going down, but this is one of the only two real big-time clubs in the country. Without Rangers there will be no serious competition at all (not that there is much anyway). Worse, the owner has fallen out big time with the supporters who have formed the “We Deserve Better” campaign. Everything is in ruins.
So, Manchester City flagrantly breaking the rules that have led West Ham into the ruins, and 50% of the giant teams in Scotland about to go down… Is that a crisis?
Yes, because it adds to the problems with Manchester United, West Ham, Liverpool, Chelsea… What it shows is that the system we have had for years of clubs being able to survive roughly within the rules of the game have gone.
Italy went into near meltdown over the fact that so many matches were fixed – and the game in Italy is now only a shadow of what it was in the 1990s. Such a collapse, only on a larger scale, is about to happen here, simply because you can only fudge and apply sticking plaster for so long.
The cause of the problem is that old-fashioned vision that so many of the people in football have that the rules don’t apply to me. We may be very happy that the Lord Wenger knows all the rules, and applies them all, but in most places this is not the case.
English football has been here before – there aren’t too many books around on the subject but between 1910 and 1915 football league matches were reguarly fixed – and prime fixers were Manchester United and Liverpool.
Indeed when Henry Norris arranged for Arsenal to come out of the second division into the first in 1919, despite the club not having finished in a promotion spot, a significant part of his argument was that unless Arsenal were allowed up he would start court proceedings against Liverpool and Manchester United and bring the whole of the football edifice down.
Norris was a dealer, not a man looking for justice, and he got what he wanted: Arsenal in the first division. The Football League took the warning and started (slowly) to clean up the game. This time, I fear, the disaster is already too far advanced, and the problems too deep.
This is really my argument against people who want success for Arsenal now, at any price. We are on the edge, and much of what we take to be normal, is about to fall apart. When the dust settles I want Arsenal still to be there, because we never got on the Titanic. I don’t want to be supporting one of fifty clubs that is existing from a lifeboat.
(c) Tony Attwood 2009.
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