“Money corrupts and wads corrupt absolutely” – anonymous football fan – last night.
I heard about Sam Allardyce’s departure from the England Manager’s job while watching Cambridge United beat Yeovil Town in a Tuesday night league 2 fixture at the Abbey. Actually it’s not the Abbey anymore, the U’s sold their heritage to some Glass salesmen so they refer to where Abbey United used to play as the Cambs Glass Stadium, that too is part of the problem.
The only good thing to come out of Allardyce’s 67 days at the club was his leaving. I heard a vox pop on the radio asking whether the England manager should be accepted to be a saint. The answer is that the job of England Manager should be something you should be so proud to have, that the thought of taking questionable payments from questionable people would be out of the question. We don’t expect our managers to be saints , but we expect them not to be sluts.
To the question “he did nothing wrong”, the answer is that by taking this money , Allardyce broke not just his contract with the FA but his contract with the game, its players and its fans. His statement that he was “disappointed” rather than the hand-wringing apology we should have had, demonstrates what every fan knows, that it is money not the beautiful game , that most people in football are serving.
Let me give you two examples; one of what is good and one of what is bad with football today.
Firstly the good
As we were waiting for the game to start, Pat Custard – our greatest fan – offered us a Ferrero Rocher chocolate. She didn’t just offer us one, she offered all the fifty or so fans who were with us a chocolate. I don’t know who funded the chocolates but I rather think it was Pat. I don’t think she was being funded by Ferrero Rocher.
Secondly the bad
Cambridge United, like most clubs, take away fans for granted. In the end there were 98 of us.
At the Cambs Glass
- away fans are not allowed to pre-purchase and get the home fans discounts
- away fans cannot get discounted tickets by purchasing online
- away fans face an 800 yard walk from their coaches, not much fun for our elder and less mobile supporters
- away fans can’t buy beverages from official outlets but must pay inflated prices to a concession
- away fans are subject to the taunts of the Cambridge United Youth team, whose potty mouthed abuse went un-noticed by the club – despite their lads being in club colours.
In short, we were treated like scum, as away fans often are.
British Football is awash with money but the fans never seem to benefit. Instead the money is retained by a small group of managers, agents and other hangers on (with a fair bit going to a few star players). The grass roots of the game is starved of money which is why Cambridge United cash-cow their heritage , their away supporters and probably a whole lot more.
The news in the Telegraph this morning is that 8 Premier Managers are implicated in taking bungs for player’s contracts.
Why this burn of the money coming into the game is so reprehensible – is not just because it leaves clubs in the lower leagues starved of cash but because it shows the absolute lack of any kind or moral compass (governance) at the top of the game.
Allardyce is reported to have been paid some £3m a year for the job. That is enough to satisfy anyone’s financial needs. That money, which came ultimately from the fans – was paid so that we had a full time manager focussing on making the English National team good again. Not “great” – “good” will do.
What an insult Allardyce’s behaviour is to the fans. If proven, and the Telegraph have a good record so far, then the behaviour of the other 8 managers is equally shocking.
The reason why these managers have multi-million pound contracts is partly because there are few of them good enough to do the job that well and partly because such money should focus their minds on getting great results on the pitch.
If great results off the pitch nclude taking questionable payments from questionable people, then fans have got a right to tell these managers to leave. The Football Supporters Trusts, which give fans places on the Board and a stake in clubs, should make it clear that fans expect managers to stick to the job they are paid to do.
We don’t need Saints, just people who think of the people who pay them
As we made our way home late last night and early this morning, my son and I talked about the game, ethics and his future. He will be going back to Cambridge in a couple of days to start as a student. His interests include questions around where the money goes and why there is such social injustice in this country.
The reason is that people like Sam Allardyce are seen to have done nothing wrong. It is good that he is out of a job, I hope any others found breaking their contracts with their clubs and the game will also be out of a job – very soon.
With money comes power, with power can come corruption, but it doesn’t have to be like that. With good governance, the corruption can be curbed. In a properly run club, as in a properly run business, those at the top are paid to set an example, not just at doing their job, but in everything they do.
Sam Allardyce should spend less time with shady agents and more time with the likes of Pat Custard and this lovely lot!