Football is the world’s game. It is played by over 250 million players in over 200 countries. From the Turks and Caicos Islands to the Russian Federation. It has risen to become the best sport in the world because anyone can play all you need is a ball. The game has come a long way since 1869 but during the 1990’s the game changed dramatically. Suddenly TV deals brought the game to a new level, record transfer fees and wages. The new Champions League and of course the Premier League. But at what cost. Many believe the money has made football less competitive and has created an unfair playing field only suited to the top clubs.
Many argue that money has grown football to become the undisputed best sport in the world. The money has certainly brought in more millionaires and billionaires into the game. These rich owners have invested money into transfers, stadiums and training grounds but at the same time they are taking football away from its roots and turning it into a business. Each new owner, who takes over, changes the club and ruins it. When Pete Winkleman bought Wimbledon FC, he completely destroyed the club by moving the club to Milton Keynes, then he changed the club’s name to Milton Keynes Dons FC, badge and colors. The fans of the old Wimbledon refused to support MK Dons and set up a new club called AFC Wimbledon.
The more money invested into the sport by this surge of new owners creates an environment of unhealthy spending. Take, for example, Qatari-owned FC Paris Saint-Germain, which has spent more than €1 billion since its acquisition by Qatar (excluding the 16/17 season), making PSG almost unbeatable, wiping out competitiveness in France’s top league, the League one. This happening more and more in Europe, the team with the most money wins, take Austria as an example, there league is almost every year is won by the Red Bull funded Red Bull Salzburg and even in the big leagues like La Liga and Premier League there is a massive gap between teams with less money.
The big clubs of European football pay millions of pounds for even backup players. Clubs of youth players find it harder and harder to break into the first. Time and time again youth players, who shine at their level, are hardly ever given a chance. In 2018 English players starting in the Premier League dropped to an all-time low. Less than a quarter of starters in the Premier League were English. Instead of developing young groups of players clubs would rather buy already made stars. This harms international teams due to lack of experienced quality players. UEFA tried to fix this problem by putting in a home-grown rule that squads need to have a certain amount of players from its country, but it’s not enough.
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The Champions League has arguably become stall due to the big clubs winning it every year due to their financial power. Gone are the days when the Lisbon Lions all from Glasgow, when the European Cup or Brian Clough Nottingham Forest won it. Now only the teams from the top 4 leagues seem to have a chance, teams like Rosenburg or Celtic are lucky to even get to the group stage of the competition. Most Champions League winners are not even the champion of their own league. Because of the way UEFA have changed the qualification methods the 4th best team in the Bundesliga gets put straight into the group stage while most league winners have to go through qualifier rounds to reach the group stage.
The UEFA have almost been forced to do this due to the threat of a breakaway European super league by clubs like Real Madrid, Man City, Juventus and rest of Europe’s elite. The European Super League would destroy domestic leagues. The lesser nation clubs wouldn’t be allowed in. The poor would get poorer while the rich got richer. If this league was to go ahead it would be for the money it would bring in not to play the best every week but for the profit it would make the owners.
The greed of money has also led to clubs exploiting their own fanbases. No longer are fans the lifeline and identity of the club there now just another source of income. Clubs are trying to squeeze every last penny out of fans. Increasing ticket prices are one way for a club to earn more money. Season tickets and matchday tickets are becoming more and more expensive causing fans to be priced out of the game. Arsenal is infamous for their high season ticket and regular ticket prices. Their lowest season ticket is around £900 and their matchday tickets can go up to £97. Inside the ground once you have paid (premier league tickets range from £9 to £97). The club sells food, matchday programs. And also, most clubs have club store, where they sell football tops, mugs, footballs, scarves and even towels. To watch football at home fans must pay a monthly fee to Sky Sports, BT Sport or Amazon Prime. Clubs also charge season ticket holders for Europa League, Champions League and domestic cups.
Unless fans stand up to clubs and football organizations the greed for money will only get worse. Fans do have a voice many clubs are now becoming fan owned and now fans unhappy with the direction the clubs board are going are now boycotting games. Fans can now use social media to get their message across. Teams like AFC Wimbledon and FC United are standing up against their old clubs’ owners and are returning to the clubs place in the local community. Because that’s what a good football club not money rich titan paying a hundred million pounds for a player, a good club is a club which is the pride and identity of its community and is for everyone young and old.