(Photo by Action Images)
By Chris Dunlavy
FOR once, Massimo Cellino’s judgement was spot on. Football, the Leeds chairman told undercover reporters, is a ‘f*****g dirty, dirty business’.
A dirty business where filthy rich men, already paid vast salaries, grub around in the gutters for an extra £50,000.
A dirty business where managers would rather fly to the Far East to line their pockets than plot victories or scout opponents.
A dirty business where players are signed, not on talent but on the willingness of their agent to chuck in a brown envelope or a little ‘coffee’ to sweeten the deal.
The events of last week have provided the bleakest illustration of the ugly industry we call the beautiful game – a game where greed is good and ethics are for everybody else.
Football, as Stoke chairman Peter Coates argued, may be cleaner than at any stage in the past 30 years, but then so is Chernobyl.
Sam Allardyce was paid £3m a year to manage England, a job he’d craved for decades. He threw it away for the sake of a £400,000 pay day. Senseless.
Senseless, too, were Tommy Wright and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, two other football figures filmed allegedly demanding kickbacks in exchange for signing players. Both deny any wrongdoing, but to sit down at the table at all demonstrates a catastrophic lack of judgement.
Fools, one and all. Yet, if Allardyce and his ilk deserve our scorn, it is important to remember that they are a symptom, not the problem.
As Chris Coleman said in a blistering rant this week, football is an industry where there is greed and corruption “from the very top”.
FIFA, UEFA, the Premier League – all of them justify excess and injustice in the craven pursuit of wealth.
This is an industry where FIFA delegates accepted handbags, jewellery and seven-figure backhanders in exchange for votes.
Where Premier League chiefs have bribed (let’s call a spade a spade) Football League clubs to accept detrimental rule changes by threatening to cut off funding unless they agree.
Just last month, UEFA announced an ‘evolution’ of the Champions League’. This basically amounted to guaranteed places for the wealthiest leagues and extra prize-money for clubs with a strong pedigree in the competition.
So Liverpool, who have won the competition once in the last 32 years and failed to qualify in all but one of the last seven seasons, will earn more than Swiss champions Basle, who’ve reached the last 16 twice in five years.
These changes were pushed through in collaboration with a select few representatives of the biggest clubs.
No discussion. No argument. Why the rush? Well, a couple of weeks later, Slovenian Aleksander Ceferin – a champion of European’s weaker leagues – was elected president.
Some might call that expedient. Personally, I’d call it self-serving and protectionist.
THIS is the kind of example being set at football’s top table. A culture of grasping, short-term greed fuelled by ever-increasing revenues. Coleman is right, of course. Any manager or coach caught with his fingers in the till should be banished. No fan should ever have to worry that the men in the dugout are signing players for the wrong reasons.
Ending the murky world of ‘undisclosed’ fees and making details of all transfers public available would be a good start. So, too, would a thorough investigation into the ‘ways around’ third-party ownership mentioned by Allardyce.
But where the head goes, the body will always follow. And, until the culture of greed and self-interest at the summit of our game changes, it will remain full of men on the make.