Everything that’s wrong about football

This is followed on from yesterday’s piece on footballing myths.

Last night’s BBC Panorama’s “revelations” on managers taking bribes are sadly nothing new.

In fact, what we saw and heard (and in my case, read) was just a slice of all the underhanded activities going on in football today.

Do you seriously believe that shady financial deals are NOT a part of football? Considering the exorbitant sums of money involved in player transfers, it would be shocking if the whole system was transparent and clean, and not the other way around.

From the Tevezcherano move to West Ham, to Chelsea’s deals for Obi Mikel, United’s sale of Stam and countless others (how many shady deals have Arsenal made? That’s not a rhetorical question but an actual one), transfers are just one example of how agents and clubs can make staggering amounts of money thanks to a player’s talents.

The Premier League’s statement in response is predictable – they have to take such accusations and ‘evidence’ seriously. Unfortunately, the system is too far gone and the people in charge are not strong enough to bring about lasting change. The “authorities” have known about agents and their growing strengths (financially and otherwise) for years – but because they are dealing in a shady area of law and are able to use loopholes to get out of trouble, no steps have been taken to curb their activities.

Here’s a look at all that’s wrong with football today, starting with the most obvious culprit of them all, money.


A common cry of football fans is that money has ruined the game. They are right, but not in the sense they think of it. The turning point comes when clubs start valuing money more than football (and with the elevation of football from a casual, amateur sport to proper, big business, this has happened across the board) and the bottom line becomes more important for club owners than the sheer spectacle and joy of football itself.

There is an unfortunate trade-off between a club’s popularity and how charitable it is towards its fans. The analogy I made yesterday about football clubs being real-world businesses and fans being customers is key to understanding the money problem – expansion of the sport has certain costs attached to it, and increasingly those costs have to be paid by the fans.

Like it or not, professional football is a product. The sad reality is that this is the price we have to pay for our entertainment needs.


I absolutely loathe the hype-creating media that twists facts and tries to mold public opinion.

How is Soccerlens different, you ask?

As much as I’d like to think that we are somehow more noble than the rest, that’s not the case. We are biased and weighed down by our own opinions. However, what I want to do, and what I’ve tried to do, is challenge the biased views of others and in the process wear down my own bias as well.

In our subjective realities we’re always right – however in football as in other areas of life, opinions will always differ. And considering that a majority of our discussions are based on memories (which are unreliable to begin with), is it any doubt that we are always in disagreement?

My gripe is with blatant hyping and attempted manipulation of public opinion. I dislike misreporting and lying. If you have a different opinion (a la Rob Smyth or Arseblog or UnitedRant or ChelseaBlog or even, sometimes, CaughtOffside), I’ll call you stupid at worst and respectfully disagree with you at best.

On the other hand, if you are lying, you are fair game in my book.

And the news media (and to some extent the blogosphere) thrives on lies and manipulation.


If the money-hungry players, agents and executives aren’t bad enough, we have militant fans to worry about. Read yesterday’s post for more on this.

Some day I’ll do a full feature talking about this particular subject, but the bottom line is – while football would be nothing without the fans, the fans themselves have a responsibility as well. A very vocal but small minority ignore that responsibility, and like in business, these are the fans that must be fired.


More appropriately, the refusal of the “authorities” to improve / change laws.

Like cricket, footballing authorities have an irrational fear of using technology to aid referees or to change laws to suit the changing conditions under which the game is being played. Today, cricket is largely a batsman’s game and it seems set to stay that way until laws or conditions change. The later is very unlikely, which puts all the pressure on the authorities to take action.

Football has problems of its own – glaring issues such as diving, bullying referees and the worst bit, bad calls by the refs and the linesmen. A lot of these issues can be fixed by using video replays and handing out punishments retrospectively.

I have a theory on why the respective authorities don’t want to change laws – it has to do with the officials in charge of the games (referees / umpires) and their “authority” on the field.

With video replays, a ref’s role becomes largely ceremonial – he’s there to blow the whistle and keep time. His authority is seemingly undermined. Tradition is a hard habit to kick.

The reality is that football players will always respect authority on the field (they have a captain, don’t they?) just as they respect authority off it (the manager) and that authority is not eroded because you try to help refs make better decisions. The referee cannot be replaced – but his job can definitely be made easier.

The other issue often raised is that video replays are inconclusive – and that’s true, but how many times have you seen refs make bad decisions that could so easily have been corrected by a 5-second vid replay of the incident? Yes, having more time to ponder on a case that is inconclusive does not help you make a better decision, but giving up correct decisions on even 5-10 percent of bad decisions just because video replays could not help 90 percent of the time (the actual percentages are more like 20/30-80/70) is an immature reaction.

Another thing – something as simple as ensuring that only the captain is allowed to approach and talk to the referee will solve a LOT of problems. Common sense? Lack of it?

That’s enough for a day, methinks.

What do you think is wrong with football?

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