I’ve commented before on how the Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party insist on blaming global capitalism for everything from cruelty to animals to SARS. But this has to take the biscuit – yes, the oligarchs are to blame for West Ham’s relegation from the Premier League!
I have two words that might help Roger Protz get a broader perspective on the failures of his team – Glenn Roeder.
The article is a predictable rant about how the ‘people’s game’ has been ‘hijacked’ by big business and is all the worse for it. This is a widely held view in liberal circles including the so-called fans’ movement. But when it comes to football I have to break completely with the old left attitudes. The fact is that what football needs is not less capitalism but much, much more of it.
The game has always been controlled by wealthy people, often succcessful local businessmen who fritter away their fortunes on the vain hope of glory for their team. It is a plaything of capitalists consumed by the working class. But there is no alternative. I doubt turning West Ham into a co-operatives or state run club would go down to well in the East End. The middle class activists of the fans movement demand a seat on the board for supporters. But it is not schoolteachers in the boardroom that is needed but good businessmen.
The problem is that football is an example of the worst run capitalist companies. It is an old cliche but it remains valid that people who have astutely and carefully built up their businesses for decades, discard all that knowledge and experience when they get hold of the reigns of a football club.
They forget things like market value and get involved in silly bidding wars for players. They forget basic precautionary steps to take before major investments and go heavily into debt on ground re-development plans and even transfer sprees. And they treat their customers like idiots, demanding more and more money from them while doing little in the way of market research and having almost no interest in customer satisfaction.
Amazingly when things go completely pear-shaped, the businesses rarely fold. Leicester City has written off around 50 million in debt by going into administration and then effectively ‘re-forming’. Other clubs are going down the same path. Aside from hitting creditors hard the result is that well-run clubs who avoid debt are punished for their prudence. Everyone demands ‘ambition’ from club chairmen and that means getting the cheque-book out. Those fans who demand the club ‘invest’ money are the first to chant ‘sack the board’ when clubs like Leeds find their anarchic approach has got them in hot water.
What football needs is simply sound management based on the basic laws of the market economy. My experience as a Burnley fan is that supporters will accept limitations on spending if the reasons are clearly explained and if they have confidence in the management of the club. So forget blaming Rupert Murdoch, who for all his faults, has piled so much cash into the game that some of the best players in the world have been attracted to play in England. Football needs all the capitalist bastards it can get.