Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Glory glory, Sheffield United

What's this I hear on the grapevine? My beloved Sheffield United, recently relegated to the third tier of English football and generally going through a bit of a financial crisis, are going to be taken over by affluent businessmen from the Far East with millions of pounds in their back pocket? Things are looking up at Bramall Lane!

Oh no hang on a minute. It's a Channel 4 Dispatches programme, exposing a consortium of wannabes and fantasists called the London Nominees Football Fund. A group of people who describe to unknown hidden cameras how they can flout strict FA rules and buy numerous English football clubs for one owner. And who is the guinea-pig club they are planning to buy in this way first? Sheffield United. To make matters worse, the figure-head for this supposed illegal transaction was former Blades manager Bryan Robson. Oh dear.

Thankfully, as the proposed buyers were Channel 4 reporters and not Indian businessmen as they claimed, the deal of course did not go through. But the ease in which it apparently could have done, was worrying for all fans of English football.

Football clearly needs to be regulated more thoroughly, a problem that has arisen in the last 25 years with the large influx of money into the English game. It started with agents moving players from club to club in order for large signing on fees and “bungs” to managers. The problem is now even more dire.

I think the documentary showed that Bryan Robson was being ignorant to what he was figure-heading, as supposed to an out and out crook; however, he should have been sensible enough to realise he was in murky water. Likewise, I think Mr Sim was full of a lot of bravado and embellishment, in relation to the connections he had with Sir Alex Ferguson.

This does not take away the fact however that something is clearly array in the apparent ease to breach FA regulations and buy a number of clubs, milk them for all they’re worth and sell them on. It outlines the danger of the collision between the high emotion concerned with football supporters and the businessmen looking to exploit it. The talk in the documentary of stripping clubs of their assets was very disturbing and to Bryan Robson’s credit, he expressed that he did not support this. Whether that was due to his love of the game or simply to protect his name is another matter.

Most fans would of course welcome an injection of money into their football club, in order to gain promotion and success, but if it all goes wrong then these consortiums will not hesitate to discard the club into the dreaded depths of administration – as was shown at Portsmouth FC.

Robson said in the documentary that "I disagree with people when they say football is a sport... Football is a business". To a certain extent he is right; with the sponsorship, endorsements and large amounts of money in football, it is certainly entwined with business. But the vast majority of people who watch or are involved with football, see it as a sport. A sport that they love. For the people at the top with the money to treat it like a business is dangerous. And if it is going to be treated like this, then clearly the regulations need to be stricter and stronger.

As for Sheffield United, with Danny Wilson at the helm, who needs millions of pounds... ahem.

No comments:

Post a Comment