The 9th of February 1979 – the day the British transfer record was broken. Trevor Francis moved to Nottingham Forest from Birmingham City for a then mammoth fee of £1 Million.
The fee was almost inconceivable at the time, it was so remarkable that Forest’s assistant manager Peter Taylor was forced into an explanation for spending such a reckless amount on one player, by a gobsmacked press. What would this mean for the game going forward?
“We can afford to pay prices like this because of good management in the past” was Taylor’s message to the astounded British public.
If only the same British public could see what was to come, to see transfers surpassing £200 million, to see Chelsea spending £15 million on Ross Barkley because it was deemed a ‘bargain’, to see the utter chaos the game of 2017 finds itself in.
Despite £1 Million being a very substantial amount, I can see why Clough agreed to the unprecedented fee. Clough wanted to improve his team, wanted to win things, wanted to make the fans happy. The last thing on Clough’s mind, or anyone’s mind for that matter, was how many shirts the club could sell with Francis’ name on. They weren’t interested in image rights or attracting a bigger fanbase. Clough wanted his team to play good football, for the fans, not TV rights.
Back then football was for fans, not profit. Manchester United was fan owned, not floated on the New York stock exchange. Players played for the love of the game, not to kickstart a career in fashion. Fans weren’t forced to watch their team on a Monday at 8PM, just to compete with reality TV.
But then again, that’s just it, it’s not our game anymore, it’s theirs. Players are signed for profit not for our enjoyment, Paul Pogba, the most expensive player in British history’s price tag of £89 Million was paid back in shirt sales on the day of his transfer, with Manchester United going on to make around £110 Million pounds profit in merchandising alone in just 48 hours. Pogba improving Manchester United was only a small part of the Frenchman’s transfer, United wanted his social media influence, image rights and brand more than they wanted his goals and assists.
Growing up a United fan, I was fooled by the players post- match thanking of the fans and, more recently, their gratitude on social media. But what are they really grateful for, my support or my money?
The money. That’s the conclusion I have come to. After all if they were in the game for the fans support they wouldn’t play for Manchester United, or the Premier League at all, playing for crowds of tourists who can’t name the club captain, let alone recite a chant about them.
I’m not for a second suggesting Pogba’s world class talent would be better displayed in a Clapton FC shirt, I am however stating if footballer’s played for the fans, not their banker-rivalling salaries, Pogba would not play for the Red Devils, or any premier league club.
I know the type of football I want, Kick off on a Saturday at 3PM, Or a Tuesday night, Club owners being local business men ‘done good’, they type of football I can be proud to tell future generations about.
The sad thing is, this type of football exists, but Premier League fans have so many false pretences about the non league game they are unwilling to see what football really is.
Since following local team Solihull Moors I can honestly say I get as much excitement from watching Dapo Afolayan make a sprint down the left wing then I got watching Christiano Ronaldo, if not more. Because I know the 19 year old balancing playing for the National League team and completing a degree wants a goal at he end of it to hear the cheer of the crowd, to see our team succeed, not so he can start a range of denim clothing for profit, Players like Ronaldo have lost all sense of what football is about, he’s as much a business man as a player these days, and that’s a problem.
Honestly, I would rather be packed into an away end watching my local team, our local team, making more noise than the Sir Alex Ferguson stand, than be a customer to a billionaire driven by profit, not pride.
I know I am not alone, I know many football fans are disillusioned with the modern game, paying £50 to watch their game on a Monday at 8PM on a Monday, only to watch a team with more passion for their bank balances for the game we love, but due to misconceptions about football amongst the lower reaches of the English game, not many fans are willing to give their local team a chance, and, I think we can all agree this is something we need to change as fans of the beautiful game.