Has money corrupted the heart and passion of the game?

Money in FootballFootball used to be about passion, loyalty and heart. Would you still agree that this is what surrounds our beautiful game? Football has always been a business but the business aspect of the game has increased greatly within the last decade. Money is the foremost product in football, but is there too much of it? Has money corrupted the heart and passion of the game?

The best club used to be about who had the best manager, best fans and the best players that came through the academies – not who has the richest owner. Clubs would have to make a name for themselves building their own homegrown players, but that is no longer the case with the billionaire owners bringing players in from around the world as they wish. Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger were the men to envy as they built teams full of homegrown talent, whilst the investors and chairmans sat quietly in the background. To be fair these are still managers to envy but their clubs are top of the financial hierarchy within the super league that is the Premier League. In comparison to today’s game there were very few foreign managers let alone investors and an abundance of British talent coming through the ranks with the likes of Michael Owen, Rio Ferdinand and David Beckham displayed a promise for England’s future. The game over the last 10 years has changed massively due to money.

The millenium saw more money being poured into the developing super league and more foreign superstars like Henry and Zola came over to English football. 2003 saw a certain Roman Abramovich walked through the gates of Stamford Bridge and took the Premier League to a whole new level. Players started to play for money over passion and would move to teams solely for higher wages. Investors and chairmen that invest their own money into the club is dangerous as they can pay players wages over the average, attracting more talented players to their club over the clubs with more modest budgets who have no chance. With all these billionaire investors coming into the league it also sees the managers frequently losing their jobs. Chairmen and investors require too much involvement with on the pitch development which has seen many managers lose their jobs and there doesn’t appear to be an opportunity for another Sir Alex Ferguson figure in football as managers are never being given the chance to work and develop with a team long enough.

Money in the Premier League has also changed players attitudes to the game and the reason why they play. Assou-Ekotto admitted that he plays football entirely for the money “I play football for the money. You mustn’t undersell yourself just because you like a club. I can stay only if there is money. True relationships do not exist in football, it’s not about friendships.” which is exactly what football used to be about. Players would stay at clubs because it was their passion and loyalty for the club and its fans but obviously this is non existent anymore. As fans of course we would like to think that a player is playing because he loved the club just as much as we do, but that is not the case anymore, due to the implications of money. Player wages for the 2011/2012 Premier League season reached a record of £1.6 billion. This represents 70% wages to revenue ratio, a figure that would completely be untenable in any other business. Chelsea have already splashed out £60 million since the new year with half of that just on one player. Eden hazard, a Belgian 21 year old. £32 million for a 21 year old is incongruous.

As much as we hate it, sports and money are inseparable. There is no way competitive sports would be able to continue at the level and standard we enjoy it today without the funding of facilities, wages, and all the overheads that running a football club incur. The standard of football today that we watch is so high where is it going to be in another 10 years time? But although its great football to watch, is it great for the Premier League as a whole? Financial crisis’ can also make teams plummet. Leeds rose to the Champions League quarter finals (as they always remind us) and dropped down to League One due to money troubles. Leicester City and Wimbledon also went into administration and countless others followed due to their struggles with finances to keep themselves running. It will always be the wealthier clubs winning the titles from here on in, as they’re the ones with the money to do it.

Sporting competitiveness has been taken out of the game by the uneven financial playing field. There is a lack of sportsmanship and community spirit in the game now compared to what it used to be and this has all changed because of money. We can only wait to see what will happen in the foreseeable future but at this rate it can’t be looking good.