The Myth Of Player Power

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The Myth Of Player Power
(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The debate about player power isn't a new one.

For many years now chairman and managers have complained that there has been a shift towards a player dominated industry.

There have been many allegations laid at the feet of agents as well, and they are considered by many more as agent provocateurs than player advisers.

But how true is the talk of player power? About a player determining his own destiny rather than playing second fiddle to the wishes of club chairmen and managers?

I opt not to enter into the "slave" debate, or the legality of non-European passported against EU citizens, and will aim this piece directly at the player/club/agent relationship.

Let's take the simple example of Manchester United and their want away player of a few seasons, back Gabriel Heinze.

He no longer wanted to play for United or Sir Alex Ferguson—the suggestion being it was the relationship with Sir Alex that caused the upset.

If the player power argument was to hold water then his demand to be transferred to Liverpool would have happened, but it didn't.

He was transferred to a club more of United's choosing than the player's, and at a price dictated by the club. The player engineered the move but the club dictated the terms. 

Another example was the recent Kaka saga involving my own club, Manchester City.

Kaka's employers seemingly decided to cash in on the <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:"Cambria Math"; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-1610611985 1107304683 0 0 159 0;} @font-face {font-family:Calibri; panose-1:2 15 5 2 2 2 4 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:swiss; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-1610611985 1073750139 0 0 159 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-ansi-language:EN-GB;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} .MsoPapDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; line-height:115%;} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.0in 1.0in 1.0in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> £70 million on offer and initiated negotiations. The player decided that he would rather not move and the deal evaporated.

 

A victory for the player?

I don't think so, I think it was a weakness of the chairman. A fear of the fans backlash by an ego driven populist chairman.

The club decided to make a point of not selling the player, for now at least.

If the club had wanted the move then Kaka would be playing for the reserves now, and  be given a very clear choice; move or your career has stalled.

The idea of player power really stems from the weakness of chairmen and shaky business models that rely too much on selling players to generate income before their contracts run down.

That of course is where Sol Campbell proved players can control their own destiny didn't he?

Well again, not really.

He proved that a player's worth on the field outweighs the desire of chairmen to remove them from the team.

Sol Campbell in the reserves, or even dropped from any playing role at all, would be a less attractive proposition for the "buying" club.

As well as that, of course, we have a situation where the club Campbell signed for, Arsenal, have continued to do business with the rest of the Premiership as if they were complete innocents in the affair.

There will no doubt come a time when Arsenal are on the receiving end of an expensive Campbell type transfer to another EPL club. Will they complain? Of course they will.

Player power only exists while the people who own and run clubs fail to challenge it in any meaningful way.

I am not suggesting players return to the days when they were held to ransom by clubs and had no way of earning a decent living.

What I would like to see is a situation where a wage cap limits the need for agents and  removes the player's desire to jump ship for another massive pay day.

I don't mind football clubs making profits because they don't have to match crazy wage demands. The upside may well mean players become more loyal, and remain with the clubs that developed their talent and their relationship with the fans.

Fan power, now there's an idea.

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