Ten ways to fix football
One of the criticisms of people who dare to speak out about the state of football in the modern era is complaining without offering valid suggestions for how things could be better. With this in mind, I present to you a list of changes that I believe would greatly improve modern football in ten key areas:
The Premier League in England makes €2.2 billion every year in worldwide television rights. Meanwhile, clubs like Hereford United face extinction for a few thousand pounds, while Rushden and Diamonds, Chester City and Farsley Celtic have all been dissolved since 2010 for sums of money less than the total value of the iPads inside Premier League stadiums.
These smaller clubs have just a right to exist as their glamorous top division companions, and could certainly use the money a lot more. With this in mind, I believe that all of the money earned by clubs in a country from television should be shared equally by every professional club. The amount would be considerably lower, but just one seasons worth of payment would keep dozens of football clubs alive for generations to come, while the money would barely be missed by the rich powerhouses such as Chelsea and Manchester City.
Influence of broadcasting companies
If you support Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid or several other top clubs, playing at 3pm on a Saturday is the exception rather than the norm. Television companies have such control over the game that matches are now played on Friday nights, Saturday morning, Saturday evening, Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon and Monday night. In fact, just about any time you can imagine apart from Saturday afternoon. These fixture changes often make no consideration for away supporters, sending Newcastle to Southampton on a Sunday morning, or Chelsea away to Newcastle on Monday night.
Television is now such a part of the game that it is foolish to think it can be stopped altogether, but it can be improved. A rule could be implemented that a side can only have five of their home games moved from Saturday 3pm every season, and only three of their away games. When a match is moved away from Saturday 3pm, the television company must pay for the tickets and travel of the away supporters.
Return of the European Cup
Lets face it, the Champions League group stages are terrible. Apart from the excitement of watching how Manchester City will manage not to qualify every season, the whole thing is extremely predictable. Already this season we have seen teams win 6 – 0, 7 – 0 and 7 – 1, hardly reminiscent of a competition for the elite. BATE Borisov have a goal difference of -12 after three games, one of which they won!
Meanwhile the Europa League has become a distraction for many teams, to the point where many sides would clearly rather not participate at all. The competition is further devalued by allowing Champions League dropouts to enter it if they fail to qualify from the group stages. Since the 2006/07 season, the final has featured at least one team who originally played in the Champions League, with the 08/09 final not including a single team who actually qualified for the competition. This is simply ridiculous, and it is no wonder that many have turned their back on the competition.
The answer to this is simple, bring back the European Cup with a two legged knock-out format from the very beginning. Rather than watching Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Chelsea and Real Madrid destroy teams for a couple of months before finally getting to the exciting games, the competition would feature elite fixtures from the very start. Domestic champions could be rewarded by being seeded for the first round, but from there on it would be pot luck whether you take on Braga or Barcelona. Not only would this be beneficial to supporters of the top clubs, but also the smaller clubs. For example, Feyenoord or Galatasaray would have almost no chance of qualifying ahead of Real Madrid or Chelsea over six games, but put them in an all or nothing tie in their rocking home stadiums and anything could happen…
A panel would be established to look at players accused at diving, or players who were booked for diving during a game. If it can be conclusively proved that they have dived in an attempt to cheat the opposition, the club they are playing for will be deducted one point. Should it come in a knockout game, they will forfeit the tie. In addition to this, the player will be suspended for three games, and the manager given a touchline ban for one match for failing to control his players.
Once this happens once, just wait and see if it happens again…
Domestic cups/European qualification (double improvement)
Teams treating fourth place as a trophy simply has to stop, especially when supporters have been brainwashed into thinking that finishing in the top four is better than winning a domestic cup. The way to fix this is simple, reward winning an actual trophy instead of this imagined accolade invented by Sky Sports and money hungry UEFA.
In countries where they have three European qualification places, the winner of the top domestic trophy will take the European place over the team who comes in third. In countries where they have four places available, the winner of the top domestic trophy will also take the third European place. The final qualification spot on offer will be contested between the sides who finish between 3rd – 6th in a playoff format, similar to that used in the Football League in England already. Not only will this ensure that there are less pointless matches at the end of the season, but it also opens up the possibility of European football to teams who could never hope to displace the big boys at the moment. This European playoff system is currently used in the Dutch Eredivisie, and has proved popular and successful. Using this system last year for the Premier League, the semi-finals would have been Chelsea vs. Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal vs. Everton, Serie A would feature Napoli vs. Parma and Fiorentina vs. Inter, while La Liga would have had Real Madrid vs. Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao vs. Sevilla.
Not only would this keep things exciting for the supporters, but television companies would also be delighted by having the extra exciting games to show at the end of the season, making up for the concessions they would have had to make earlier in the article.
The amount of money in the top divisions of Europe prove that ticket prices are high not due to necessity, but due to greed. Most clubs in the top flight could let supporters in for free, and still make a gigantic profit every year. With this in mind, tickets would be capped at the following amounts as a maximum:
Away supporters – €20 adults/€15 for 19- 23 year olds/€5 for 0 – 18 year olds
Home supporters – €30 adults/€25 for those under the age of 23/€10 for 0 – 18 year olds
As many clubs already do around Europe, holding a season ticket would also entitle you to free access to local public transport. With these realistic yet affordable prices, we would ensure that younger supporters are able to watch their team in the stadium rather than their living rooms, opening the game to a new generation and avoiding the danger of football becoming the sport of the wealthy middle class.
As proved by Yaya Toure in the summer and so many examples before him, agents are a real threat to the game, and one of the main reasons players are kissing the badge one week and demanding a transfer the next. It is likely that clubs would become too powerful and hoard players if agents were banned altogether, so instead each club could have a single representative to bring concerns to the club directly, rather than searching for a new contract by running to the media and saying how their star Argentinian has always dreamed of playing for Crystal Palace or how the striker they represent used to run around the favelas of Brazil wearing a replica shirt with Niall Quinn on the back.
Vincent Tan, Massimo Cellino, Assem Allam, Zdravko Mamić, the list of terrible owners of football clubs could fill a 2000 word article all by itself. The current ‘fit and proper’ ownership test is a complete joke, and allows these people who could barely tell you what shape a football is to run once proud clubs into the ground. With this in mind, stricter regulations would be set up to ensure that the people who own football clubs not only know what they are doing, but are doing it for the right reasons. This could be done as following:
- You may only own one football club in your entire lifetime. This would prevent people like Peter Ridsdale and Sam Hammam causing havoc at multiple clubs.
- You may not own any other business of any sort with an annual income in excess of €15 million.
- All owners must sign an agreement not to change the name, historic colours or crest of the club.
- Every six months, the supporters will be able to vote on whether or not they are happy with the ownership of the club. If an owner receives more than 50% negative votes three times in a row, they must relinquish ownership of the club.
- A democratically elected fan representative must be consulted for major decisions, such as moving to a new stadium or redeveloping the current one.
Now the truth (which anyone with half a brain knew anyway) has come out about Hillsborough, there is no reason for the authorities to deny football fans the right to stand up to watch their team. Of course, standing is not for everyone and it would be wrong to take away the choice to sit down from those who wish to use it. Every club would be required to make at least 25% of their stadium a safe standing area in the home sections, and at least 50% of the away section.
Of course, some of the smaller clubs would not be able to afford to make this change. If a club can prove that it is not financially possible for them to convert their existing seating into the safer rail seats, they can apply for a grant from UEFA, using some of the 1.5 billion Euros in revenue which the organisation makes every year. With many supporters around Europe complaining that the atmosphere has been taken away from their home stadiums in the modern era, the combination of cheaper tickets and safe standing sections would almost certainly soon see a return to the good old days of packed stadiums and walls of noise.
Football doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to shrug it off as “that’s just the way things are now”. We don’t have to put up with this. With the right people in charge, we can be supporters not customers once again.
What do you think? Apart from sending Adrian Chiles and Clive Tyldesley to the gulag, how else could football realistically be improved?