Football elite in need of urgent treatment

Before we ponder Robbie Fowler’s contract negotiations, Rupert Murdoch’s plans for Manchester United, and the amazing fact that anyone is masochistic enough to referee a Premiership match these days, think about the men and women presently running themselves ragged in NHS hospitals.

What are they up Are All Prada Products Made In Italy to? They’re inserting catheters, emptying bedpans and are up to their elbows in blood. And here’s what they get for all this: if they are new to the job, their salary is 12,855 a year – or, put another way, slightly less than Joe Cole, West Ham’s 17-year-old prodigy, has been paid in the fortnight since he made his first-team debut; if they are at the very top of the pay table, they are getting 26,965 a year – in other words, five grand less than the aforementioned Fowler is reported to have turned down as his possible maximum reward for one week’s work for Liverpool.

It may not be exactly revolutionary to observe that life is unfair, that society rewards life-savers with peanuts and footballers with riches beyond most people’s wildest dreams. But the English Premiership insists on rubbing fans’ faces in it again and again.

If it’s not players who set out to injure, or after a nudge in the ribs register agony on their face, it’s Moaning Manager syndrome, particularly virulent when it comes to complaints about referees and their assistants on the line – those dedicated individuals who are rewarded with earfuls of abuse and cheques that the like of Arsne and Alex wouldn’t even pass early morning wind for, let alone get out of bed.

Then there are those who walk football’s corridors of power without respect – Doug and Freddie, the Newcastle Two; Martin Edwards, who, in being willing to sell Manchester United to BSkyB, shows himself to be more moved by the spirit of Mammon than that of Matt Busby; Keith Wiseman, severed head of the Football Association, undone for slipping a brown envelope to his Welsh counterparts. And now, the bizarre goings-on at Crystal Palace.

Always a handy paradigm for the nation’s moral health, football exhibits some of the worst aspects of late 20th-century Britain: principally, that the rich are getting richer while the poor are forced to the touchlines and ignored. Meanwhile, cheating is finessed ever more outrageously in an environment where winners are everything and losers Best Prada Outlet In Italy despised.

As ever in such circumstances, the language has become as corrupted as the things it describes. Footballers, not noted for Black Leather Prada Milano Purse their mastery of words, seem to know their Orwell. “Win a penalty” entered football pro-speak about 10 years ago and has now filtered down to the public parks. What next? “Win a yellow” or “win a red” for the skill with which you get an opponent wrongly cautioned or dismissed? However, to extend the medical metaphor, we should beware of contracting terminal nostalgia, a persistent disease in English football, which has probably done as much damage as some of those who boast that they are modernising the game.

Football clubs, lest we forget, have always had their share of iffy businessmen at the helm. For all the importance of clubs to male working-class communities in the past, managers and players have been wheeling and dealing over About Prada Products wages and fees for just as long. And saffiano, of course, there have always been cloggers, divers and moaners.

Similarly, fears that the benefits brought by affluence may be outweighed by the drawbacks are nothing new. “In the past few years professional football has become glamorous, with the inevitable ballyhoo more often associated with the pop world,” wrote a PFA leader once. “The opportunities in modern football are enormous. So are the responsibilities.” That was Derek Dougan in Denis Law’s Book Of Soccer No. 4, published in 1969. His words suggest that the basic burning football issues of the late Nineties boil down to what they have always been: human values, good and bad, and the interplay between them.

That interplay is integral to the sport’s fascination. You don’t need a degree in philosophy to see that a football match itself is, for players and spectators alike, a 90-minute unscripted drama, in which every human characteristic is vigorously expressed by the cast on the park.

Sometimes the result is Twelfth Night, sometimes it’s King Lear, and frequently it has more in common with the very worst of Emmerdale. Yet without a All Prada Nylon Bags mixture of creativity and skullduggery, heroism and villainy, comedy and tragedy, every match would be an episode of Postman Pat. Nobody wants that on the pitch, any more than they want a Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada Outlet Online dug-out full of Smurfs.

By the same token, no one halfway realistic expects to find angels and philanthropists in the boardrooms of one of the most maniacally competitive sectors of the leisure industry, and it would be plain daft to deny that the advent of new television money has led to improved facilities and an influx of wonderfully exotic foreign players – if Chelsea win the Premiership this year no one should begrudge it on pure footballing grounds.

However the dark side of the glamour is starting to cast too long a shadow. As the Champions League expands according to the maxim that wealth comes before equity or merit, the latest profit-driven idea floated by Murdoch is a four-yearly world club contest to be held at the mid-point between World Cups.

This raises the prospect of some mouth-watering fixtures (notwithstanding the nightmare connotations of the word ‘Estudiantes’) yet poses a further threat to the FA Cup because entering it will make progressively less financial – as opposed to football – sense. Any devaluation of the competition would be a serious blow, not for sentimental reasons, but because it would radically advance the dislocation of the elite from the rest.

The most depressing thing is that it is difficult to see how the worst of the present trends can be tackled, and a healthier balance of football values restored. Gerhard Aigner, general secretary of Uefa, recently warned that “selfish objectives” threaten what he, rather poetically, described as “the football movement”, and he berated the biggest clubs in Europe for not helping develop the game at the grassroots. But how is he going to change them when market forces dominate with such impunity? In Britain, footballers and football moguls are about the only fat cats in the alley who are never reproved by our elected leaders. True, the government set up the football Authentic Prada Vitello Daino task force, but then appointed a former Tory politician, David Mellor, to make the case for the redistribution Ap Lei Chau Prada Factory Outlet of big football’s wealth. (‘New’ Labour’s close acquaintance with Mr Authentic Prada Shoes Outlet Murdoch’s small intestine may have other implications. It would be no surprise if, five years from now, football is home to more than a fair share of their former spin doctors.) So, at least until the great day when all the richest clubs in the Premiership go simultaneously bankrupt and everyone realises that football can be just as spiritually rich without them, we must endure a climate in which (for whatever reason) even decent Danny Wilson can barely squeeze out a post-match condemnation of Paolo Di Canio for felling a ref, and in which a player’s Authentic Prada Bags Uk refusal to accept a penalty because he knew he wasn’t tripped is such a rare event that it makes the leader pages of the national press.

Okay, maybe Robbie Fowler – for it was he, you may recall – deserves all that dosh more than most. After all, similar signs of honesty, humility and sanity of perspective on the role of sport in modern life are depressingly rare at present.