MEHSTG Vol. 2 - Issue 17  -  November 2000

The players of today don’t know they’re born, do they ? Tens of thousands of pounds a week in wages; big cars; more for endorsements to wear a particular brand of boot or tracksuit; money for ghost-written newspaper or magazine columns; money for signing with a club; money for leaving a club; money for staying with a club. Where will it all end ?

For Tottenham, the Bosman ruling has had little effect until recently. David Howells was allowed to leave after his contract was not renewed and he went off to Southampton, where he has sadly had to retire from the game due to injury. Spurs poached Neil Sullivan from Wimbledon when he decided he would not be signing on again at Selhurst Park and came to the Lane on a free. Darren Anderton was holding out for big money, so we were lead to believe, but he signed on for another year, when it was feared he might leave last summer. Of course, the big one to affect Spurs will be Sol Campbell, who has failed to enter into contract talks with the club despite his current deal running out in July. It is very disappointing that Sol has not made his intentions clear. One can understand that if he did come out and say “I’m going to Manchester United to further my ambition to win trophies”, he would upset Spurs fans in the same way that Teddy Sheringham upset Sol when he left Tottenham, but it would be more understandable than the current “I’ll still be here at the end of the season” line he is taking, but with no comment about next season added. He really wouldn’t endear himself to the fans if he came out now and stated “I am on my way to Old Trafford next season for bundles of money”, would he ? Campbell would put himself in the same position that Steve MacManaman found himself in during his last months at Liverpool, where he got booed every week. Still, at least he did go abroad, so that the Kop wouldn’t have to witness him playing against their team twice a season ! However, all this leaves Tottenham in a pickle about what to do for a replacement, as they will want to be assured of a place in the team, which cannot be offered with certainty if Sol might still be at the club come August 2001.

So, what should Spurs do ? Well, there are a few options in the reserve side at the moment and they should take steps to ensure that they will be experienced when the time comes to blood them. Do you leave Sol on the sidelines to watch his understudies taking his place ? Some players you would be able to do this with, but Sol is too important to take this line. It could be better to bring them in to play alongside them and draw on his experience. The young stars being signed by David Pleat with his own budget could provide a healthy lifeline if lots of Tottenham players decide to walk at the end of their contracts. Buying replacements would be hard when you have no money coming into the club from the departure of those leaving. And this could be made even more difficult with UEFA about to decide what will happen to the existing transfer process in the next few weeks.

To fall in line with the current employment legislation existing in Europe, UEFA have to try and iron out the inequalities of competition for the top players and the fact that clubs can buy and sell players when it suits them, leaving the player with few rights in the procedure. Scare stories have sprung up that players will be able to move on at the drop of a hat meaning that the top players will be concentrated at the top clubs or those who are able to pay the highest salaries. With many clubs on the continent already on or beyond the brink of bankruptcy, this will make some of the decisions made by them, if this scheme is introduced, very interesting. For those on a sound financial footing, the future might look a little brighter. But the fact that players can act like people in any other business is an amusing one. Where else would a worker be expected to work for about 15 hours (max) a week and not be dealt with if they were not performing to the expected level ? Beats me !

The rot really set in with Jimmy Hill’s revolution back in the 1960’s against the maximum wage. Here players were given an earnings ceiling, which they could earn up to and not go above. When George Eastham rebelled about his move to Arsenal from Sunderland, it split the game apart. It sent similar shock waves to those that Jean-Marc Bosman created when he couldn’t get his transfer from a small French club to a small Belgian club. And now, because of a little known player being prevented from moving from a Swiss club to an Italian one, the European Commission have moved in to establish his rights and those who should have free movement of employment throughout the European Union. Within the space of 40 years, a game that has existed for over 125 in an organised form could be facing its death knell. Not for the bigger clubs, but at the lower level, teams who previously existed because of the sale of players up the league ladder could go out of business very quickly. Football exists on dreams and hopes, but most of all, it exists on the grass roots level and those who are willing to work for lots less than the Premier League players and administrators earn.

This is all pretty good news for the big boys, as it means less teams to support and more revenue from attendances, as fans will supposedly adopt their local big team and more money from TV because there will be a limited amount of coverage to spend it on, leaving a monopoly for clubs to exploit, whether it be on TV or the Internet or whatever. For those fans of teams who are lost to this ruling, it is the end of their aspirations. No chance of playing against the big clubs either in the long run of reaching the Premier League or even in the one off in a Cup competition. Football is littered with these fairytales and to abolish them will make the product blander than it is already. Alex Fynn, soccer finance writer, always talks of “the event” of a football match. In Scotland, where teams played each other six times a season, the crowds dwindled at all but the big clubs, who were likely to win something. Imagine the excitement of seeing Tottenham play Bradford City for the fourth time in six months. Not enticing is it ? But these are not scare stories. Even though we are just past Halloween, it really could be as scary as this … in reality.

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