The Myth of Football's "Good Ole Days"

illya mclellan@illya mclellan @illbehaviorNZSenior Analyst IJanuary 26, 2009

More and more I have seen people lamenting the "changes" football as a worldwide network is undergoing.

The perceived change in values and ethics by professionals and the teams they play for as they apparently only just start to bow to the almighty dollar.

These fantastical ideas are just that, fantasy.

There has been no massive shift in priority from one generation of football to the other.

This idea is completely false, as since the advent of the professional game, money has been as big a part of the game as it is now. 

Previous to the age of professionalism being the thing spoken about behind closed doors.

"You play for my team you get free meat from my brother the butcher for the year," etc.

It is with minds tinged by the hazy sentimentality of nostalgia that people remember the good old days and how their local teams captain used to play for a bottle of milk that he would drink after the game.

The idea that the game has become predictable and dominated by well moneyed clubs is in fact smashed to bits by what Alex Ferguson has achieved with Manchester United.

While they have by no means been conservative spenders over the last twenty or so years, the occasional extravagant purchase was backed up by a profitable enterprise and not a huge injection of cash from a wealthy new owner.

United are in fact almost the antithesis of what Chelsea became under Abramovich.

But in mentioning Chelsea I must also say that they were by no means suddenly propelled in to orbit by the intervention of the Russian and his conveniently acquired riches.

They had in fact been working towards challenging the order of things for a number of years and it was this that perhaps in some ways first caused Abramovich to notice the club.

Others would say that it was all to do with him wanting to own expensive real estate but either way what happened at Chelsea was refreshing and gave a large group of fans something they could have only dreamed of a few years beforehand.

We now see Manchester City in the same position as Chelsea were not too long ago.

They now have the money though some seem to doubt the prestige.

But again Manchester City had been building for success and had been comfortably afloat in the Premier league with a good youth program and a club set up that was envied by many other outfits across Europe.

David Moyes (Everton) and Martin O'Neill (Aston Villa) have in fact been doing something very similar to what was going on at Chelsea and Manchester City before they were picked up by investment. That is, consolidating a strong position and slowly building on it.

I would not be surprised at all to see in a year or a couple of years some other wealthy investor or investment group coming in for one of these clubs or any other Premier League or top European league entity and transforming them into big players for a period.

The question for these clubs is whether they can carry it on in the manner that clubs like Manchester United, Real Madrid and even Arsenal have with cunning investment and advantageously conspired marketing practices.

Money is a part of the game and anyone who laments the fact is living in a dream world. Just take a look at your memorabilia collection and replica shirts if you have any doubts. The world is a huge market and we are participants in it whether we like it or not.

Football could never exist outside it, nor could any other sport.


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