Money and Politics in UK Football – Are They Ruining the Game?

In the last few months, scandals, sackings and sanction threats have cast shadows over UK football. So has the sport become too focused on money and politics – and can it continue as it is?

The 2016 UK Football Corruption Scandal – What Was It All About?

In September 2016, Sam Allardyce stepped down from his position as manager of the England team by mutual agreement after just 67 days in the post, following allegations made about him by the Daily Telegraph. The newspaper claimed that the England manager gave undercover reporters posing as businessmen advice about how to bypass player transfer rules and agreed to represent their “company” to investors in the Far East as part of a £400,000 deal.

The revelation was part of a larger investigation carried out by the paper, in which eight current and former managers of Premiership clubs, and two Championship club managers, were accused of taking backhanders in respect of transfer deals.

For many people, the seeming greed of managers already receiving huge pay packets showed just how far the game has strayed from its roots. For years, critics of the way the sport is being run have claimed that it’s being damaged by over-corporatisation, and that it’s more about business deals than about talented players and loyal fans.

Poppies and Pay Packets – How Do Politics and Cash Affect The Sport?

Nowadays, it seems that football’s frequently grabbing headlines for issues unrelated to what’s happening on the field. Last week, for example, the Prime Minister got involved when FIFA reportedly refused to allow the England and Scotland squads to wear armbands featuring poppies in their Armistice Day ties, and described the decision as “utterly outrageous”.

“Before they [FIFA] start telling us what to do, they jolly well ought to sort their own house out,” she said, during Prime Minister’s Questions.

FIFA, of course, was hit by its own corruption scandal last year, which resulted in former President, Sepp Blatter, along with Michel Platini, the former UEFA President, being barred from taking part in activities relating to the sport for six years.

FIFA allegedly turned down the two home nations’ requests to wear the armbands due to a rule they have in place which prevents teams from displaying “political, religious or commercial messages”. There is a certain irony, therefore, in the fact that the argument about whether or not the poppy falls into that category has now become a matter for debate in the House of Commons.

The issue is, however, that the beautiful game is still the UK’s national sport and one of the most popular activities around the world. Politicians are therefore keen to show the people that they share their interests and, where there is money to be made, greed will always exist.

While there may be plenty of cash in the Premiership, lower league and non-league sides see precious little of the sport’s wealth. Players for so-called ‘minnows’ often have full-time jobs too, while their clubs are largely staffed by volunteers. Kevin Nicholson, the manager of National League club, Torquay United, for example, has famously been acting as team’s bus driver as a result of the club’s recent financial woes.

The difference between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ is obvious when you consider that, in 2015, Nicholson claimed that some Gulls’ players earned less than the minimum wage, whilst Manchester United – who some see as an international brand rather than a sporting club – currently pay the likes of Ibrahimovic, Rooney and Pogba an estimated £220,000, £250,000 and £290,000 per week respectively.

Not all UK clubs benefit from the cash that’s always being thrown at the sport, therefore. For some, it’s a constant battle simply to keep their clubs going – winning major trophies and becoming wealthy are still just dreams for members of their squads.

UK Football – Is the Situation Sustainable?

Despite the recent revelations, things are unlikely to change any time soon. The debate has been raging for decades, yet the amounts the leading clubs, players and sponsors earn increases year on year. One interesting development, however, is that according to the Guardian, early season viewing figures for Sky and BT were lower than expected, and fans seem to be finding other ways to watch the sport instead.

Television deals are hugely important to clubs. Not only do they benefit from the agreements directly, the more coverage a team gets, the more likely it is to get sponsorship deals, and sell match tickets and merchandise. So could this affect the way in which the sport is run? It will be interesting to see.

Are you a footie fan? Do you think UK Football is too influenced by money and politics? What do you think its future holds for the game? Leave a comment.