John Williams, from the University of Leicester Department of Sociology,  took part in a debate at the French Institute in London.

The conference asked: “At a time when the billionaires of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Russia are treating themselves to some of Europe’s biggest clubs, should football still be viewed as a fully fledged Olympic sport? Is it even a sport at all, or just another business? And has the beautiful game been tainted by this influx of money?”

Williams, who will be returning to the French Institute in April to talk about hooligans in sport, argued that despite its obvious strengths, the British game faced some deep-seated, consequential and debilitating problems – ones rooted in failings in the funding and maintenance of the economic infrastructure of the domestic game itself.

There are a number of key indicators on the scale of the problem, said Williams:

• Since the satellite TV-funded Premier League club breakaway in 1992, on an unprecedented 54 occasions have football clubs in England and Wales been declared effectively bankrupt and placed into administration. In Italy, Spain and elsewhere there are tales of economic problems, but perhaps not on this scale.

• Significantly, the recent impetus for applying potentially fatal pressure on financially failing UK football clubs has come, increasingly, from public as well as private sources. Since 2009 alone the UK tax authorities HMRC have issued 26 winding up petitions against a selection of Football League and one Premier League club. Football clubs seem no longer to be protected from economic realism because of their identities as important ‘community’ assets.

• The financial gap between the Premier League and the Football League has induced middle-range clubs into excessive, short term risk taking – sometimes to near disastrous effect.

Also, according to PFA figures, in 1992 average basic weekly earnings of players in the English top flight were £1,482, compared to £320 a week in the lowest professional tier. By 2009/10 average basic top football wages in England had increased some 15-fold to £22,353: but lower-end wages had only just more than doubled, to a very moderate £747.  Most professional footballers today actually still have more in common – economically and probably culturally too – with skilled manual workers than they do with the huge endorsements, sponsorships and global football celebrities featured on the magazine circuits.

At the top end of the sport in England today, local millionaires and family supporters are gradually being replaced by global multi-millionaires or even billionaires in the boardrooms.  These include heads of state, global capitalists, or faceless corporate investors who hope for a return – psychic or material – on their investments in English football.

“Living, as we do, in what criminologists call the ‘now society’ in which gratification is seldom knowingly deferred, both ‘jam-today’, success-hungry fans and the game’s official guardians, seemingly, must take offers of external benevolence and commitment largely on trust. In straightened times, who can afford to look a deregulated gift horse in the mouth? ” said Williams.

Williams argues that most football supporters in England today display a remarkably resilient and realist acceptance of the game’s new commercial traits: while managing, at the same time, to hold on to their own affective, non-market understanding of their identities as committed sports fans.

At many smaller English football clubs, new patterns of involvement of supporters in running, or even owning, clubs, in the shape of government-backed Supporter Trusts, has produced a potentially progressive new dynamic, with a focus on local community input as an alternative to the conventional commercial football model.

Finally, William argued that there may yet be glimmers of regulatory hope beyond British shores. UEFA’s proposed new licensing regime aimed at producing ‘financial fair play’ by limiting the spending and debt of top European clubs, offers perhaps the most viable prospect of a much needed trans-national form of future ethical football governance, one aimed against financial exploitation and recklessness.

He concludes: “But this also raises the crucial question: can UEFA really afford to eject its star television names from its elite competitions for alleged financial excesses? After all, which football supporter does not what to see his or her club pay out the largest transfer for the best player and hang the wages – and the future? We wait, as they say, to be amazed.”

14 comments
howaymebonnylads
howaymebonnylads 5pts

Come on Alan man, everyone mistimes a tackle or two.  What you should be saying is it was clumsy and a yellow at best.  It's not like he raked him right down the shin.  These challenges are why shin pads are worn because it happens.  Shearer should be questioning why officials have it in for Mitrovic before the games even kicked off to put some uncertainty in their mind and sticking up for his own!!!

Wayne Clayton
Wayne Clayton 5pts

It's because we are who we are and they are who they are.

No complaints within the letter of the law with the sending off but the application of the same law that was applied to Arsenal was inconsistent.

Spider66
Spider66 5pts

As soon as I saw who the referee was I knew we were on to a hiding for nowt not from arsenal but the ref I honestly thought we were capable of beating the arsenal until I saw the refs name

TonnekToon
TonnekToon 5pts

What is it with the footballing gods and Newcastle ? The ref was a bit too card "happy" today , and  as its been said, he set the tone on 3 minutes  with Sissoko and his yellow . I think all our bookings and the sending off weren't malicious , just clumsy , though Mitrovic's  sending off was coming at some point early this season , it was just a matter of time. Hope he learns from it . On the positive side , we seemed solid enough once again after a lot of sustained pressure at times , their winning goal a lucky deflected OG . They didn't let their heads drop , which was a good sign and if they can stay as solid in future games we should be ok .

John Rush
John Rush 5pts

Wonder if al would have thought the same if it happened to the "united" centre forward rather than mitrovic

1957
1957 5pts

Or when Al kicked the Leicester player in the head and should have been suspended, accidental I think he claimed at the time.

Spider66
Spider66 5pts

Al would have said that was proper football then. It has got to cissyfied now Rodney Marsh was spot on what he said about it being a no contact sport before long.

AndrewCowley1
AndrewCowley1 5pts

Wasn't a red,the ref obviously had it in his mind about mitrovic before the game began.ruined the game absolute joke

John Rush
John Rush 5pts

Agree he pulled him up in the first minute for an aerial challenge for which you would rightly be laughed at if you appealed for a foul on a sunday morning

1957
1957 5pts

My issue with the referee wouldn't be over the sending off, more his approach to yellow cards. NUFC 15 fouls, 6 cards, Arsenal 8 fouls, 1 card. Similar fouls didn't get equal treatment, Anita tugs someone back, yellow, Thauvin is blocked and pushed off the ball no card.

John Rush
John Rush 5pts

And tell me why is gio booked for waving an imaginary card but its ok for sanchez and giroud to demand one verbally

howaymebonnylads
howaymebonnylads 5pts

@John Rush exactly mate, every time they're rolling around demanding a card why did the ref not give one to them...spineless

The Adelphi
The Adelphi 5pts

I agree with Rodney Marsh for once. They may as well make football a non contact sport if that's a straight red