Football needs to reconnect with its roots, drive out wild spending and consider salary limits


You only had to watch Monday Night Football on Sky this week to see how selective the moral outrage can be in football, a sport that has really consumed itself.

The quality of Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher’s dialectics was brilliant, as always, but in the ad breaks connecting the segments were wall-to-wall ads for a gambling industry that supports the sport while retaining a laughable pretense that protects it from addiction.

Doubtful sources of money support football everywhere. The sport is a walking advertisement for gambling companies. It washes away the reputation of despots. And yet the obscene amounts spent seem to be a source of pride.

Football has become a giant walking advertisement for the gambling companies

Until the end, Manchester United’s Ed Woodward was bragging about it, recalling in his outgoing statement late on Tuesday that he had spent over £ 1 billion on players – while the team in question is no better than when he was 12 years old. arrived ago. So amid the unadulterated celebration of the European Super League’s placement in the repository where it always belonged, the sport could find time for self-examination and asking, how did it get this far?

Perhaps now we can hope that the money grabbers who came to feed on our sport – people like Joel Glazer, John W Henry and Stan Kroenke, who just see it as a different trade – will sneak away, realizing that supporters won’t tolerate them food from the history of the sport. They have become poisonous. They need to know they are being taunted.

Somewhere along the way, the distorted image emerged that clubs need these people, even though that was only because of the economics of a football industry that will pay a player £ 300,000 a week without blushing.

Outgoing Manchester United chief Ed Woodward has bragged about the club's big spending

Outgoing Manchester United chief Ed Woodward has bragged about the club’s big spending

And if the leeches are gone, maybe we can hope the whole, massive expense has been reversed; that sport is re-established in the villages and towns that are the emotional core; and that consideration should be given to the collateral damage caused by this brutal machine.

As the sport has accelerated into a perverse parallel universe of unadulterated spending, the search for the next ridiculously valued talent sees 10,000 young people, most of them children, being driven into British football’s developmental system at any given time. Most will be rejected, with all the heartbreak that goes with it.

Imagine a world where the TV deal paid significantly less and players didn’t earn more than say £ 100,000 a week. That would still make them monumentally wealthy individuals, but the groaning payroll burden for clubs would be eased along with the cost for supporters to watch a team or buy a shirt, and the next multimillionaire hurling into town would be less. being attractive. . Could the football standard really be any worse, capped at £ 100,000 a week?

Footballers like United's David De Gea have been given a fortune to keep from leaving

Footballers like United’s David De Gea have been given a fortune to keep from leaving

There was hardly any evidence, before the crazy past 72 hours, that the pandemic had resulted in football being reset. Talk of a salary cap for the lower leagues was quickly quashed by the Professional Footballers’ Association, who took to court to have it dropped on a technicality.

But this kind of restraint is the only way to bring order to a sport now prey to predators who have no respect for the principles and history of football.

Last year there was no more miserable example than Wigan Athletic, bought by the odious Au Yeung Wai Kay, who threw the club into the records within a week ‘like garbage thrown from a speeding car’ – to an excellent analysis article to quote.

Championship clubs, more than any other, spend a lot more than they can and stand for financial Armageddon.

Personal wealth is an essential part of sports. It should be and always has been.

Salary limits have been proposed before and these may seem like a good path to follow

Salary limits have been proposed before and these may seem like a good path to follow

It has given us owners who are currently major assets in our national football life – Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens at Aston Villa, Steve Parish at Crystal Palace, Tony Bloom in Brighton. In the lower leagues, Mark Stott and Simon Sadler are quietly reviving Stockport County and Blackpool, their respective local teams.

The challenge is how to keep the vampires at bay and map out a route from the hellish place where football has become. There is greed, self-interest, myopia and narcissism everywhere and not enough intellect in places where it really needs to be.

Neville expressed his willingness to take the lead last October, when he was one of eight signatories to a manifesto calling for independent regulation and legal powers to save football from itself. It drew minimal attention and sparse publicity at a time when the football road show was back in full swing.

Monday’s compelling Sky show told us to be at the forefront of figuring out how football moves forward.

But no less important is how wild spending and money can be relegated to the past.