Chapter Seventeen – Comes The Revolution (cont.)
Thus football can never attract capital investment in the way that other businesses do. No business man will invest in an industry in which the dividends are limited, in which capital share values and share issues have no relation to the earnings and assets of the company, in which the opportunities for employing new players will be at the mercy of ridiculous legislation and at arbitrary purchase prices. How will he reconcile the fact that to a great extent the price of his product will be fixed regardless of its quality? How could he accept the fact that he could not offer incentives to his employees? How could he accept an annual statement of account in which his greatest asset, the transfer value of his players, is not shown on the balance sheet? These restrictions, as I understand it, were brought into football to prevent any one man wielding a dominating position in a club and using it for private profit. They have failed. Although no business man would invest in a football club in the ordinary straightforward way of business investment, people do put money into football. Some may have a genuine love for the club or the game. Most of the others realise that they get all the indirect but no less effective private profit they need in the way of local prestige and publicity. They might even find in time a place in the national administration of the game which brings with it tremendous national publicity. For these reasons some men quietly buy up majority shareholdings in clubs. In other countries, notably Spain and Italy, wealthy individuals have dominated clubs and in buying outstanding foreign players they have lavished personal fortunes on their clubs. This is decried in England. We are inclined to patronise this, but I cannot believe that it is necessarily worse than our method. If these foreign club presidents buy good players and create an outstanding team they are hailed as heroes. If they do not they are crucified just as quickly by the club supporters. The objective is the same in every country – a successful team. Victory is success in football and if you can buy victories by buying the world’s best players then I say go to it and the best of luck.
Football legislation in this country in the past seems to have been designed to turn capital away from football instead of towards it, in a country covered in great cities which bulge with wealth. Clubs in almost every one of them live from hand to mouth. Imagine Bristol with its cigarettes, chocolate, aircraft; the lace industry of Nottingham; steel in Sheffield; wool and cotton in the great Lancashire and Yorkshire cities; the car manufacturers of Birmingham, Coventry and Derby and the vast wealth of London alone. Is there any reason why these cities should not have clubs which are actively supported by local industries, financially if need be and staffed with outstanding players of high skill?
Too often in the past London, one of the world’s greatest cities, has failed to produce one team to match any other in the world when the city is inhabited by footballers and almost built of gold. Hackney Marshes, the classic East End nursery, is still flooded with footballers but in the past they have been content to play there for fun simply because in professional football they could not see sufficient incentive and reward to merit devoting a career to it.
The paradox and the irony was that at a time when footballers were more articulate, more intelligent, more ambitious and in my opinion better craftsmen than ever before, they had less incentive than ever before. As products of an ever-widening secondary modern and grammar school system, they saw the wage differential between the professional player and the ordinary worker as much less than it was in 1939. Then a footballer could earn £8 a week when a skilled craftsman in industry would have a basic wage of about £3. The footballer was at least three times better off. But with the national average wage reaching over £10 per week, and the footballer pegged at £20 per week, that differential was greatly changed.
It's All In The Game was published by Arthur Baker Limited.
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