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Power In Football: The Fergie, Rooney, Tevez Debate

What football fans witnessed this week in the form of Carlos Tevez’s refusal to play was repugnant. What Alex Ferguson has witnessed in the form of TV’s ever growing influence over football was repugnant also, in his opinion. At the hear…

What football fans witnessed this week in the form of Carlos Tevez’s refusal to play was repugnant. What Alex Ferguson has witnessed in the form of TV’s ever growing influence over football was repugnant also, in his opinion. At the heart of both these much publicised incidents is the idea of power within football and who should have the right to exercise that power.

When we examine Ferguson’s gripe, that TV has become the driving force behind the Premier League’s scheduling of fixtures, it is hard to argue. Television provides the money and the hype that makes the English Premier League the spectacle that it is. Manchester United received £60.4 million in television rights money last season, while the Premier League raked in a preposterous £3.5 billion in television deals that are set to run to the end of next season, when they will no doubt rise again. The massive corporations such as BSkyB have the money to pump into football and in this way they can ensure that they extract the most value for their money out of the sport. This is entirely reasonable, but it is the fact that their money is distributed in an uneven way that rankles with most football fans.

A worse case can be seen in the Spanish League, where the TV deal is negotiated externally, as opposed to the centralised arrangement that English clubs adhere to. This means that because Real Madrid and Barcelona pull in the highest attendance and viewing figures, they can expect to receive the lion’s share of the TV money. Just three years ago, Real Madrid negotiated a deal that saw them take more than 4 times the amount of money that the team one place below them, Valencia, was awarded. It’s no coincidence that the Spanish League has become the embarrassing duopoly that it now is. While the Premier League, largely due to the centralised structure it has in place, has not fallen victim to this sorry state of affairs, the “bigger” clubs can expect to receive more money than those left in their wake. And that’s where the League loses competition, as teams live outside their means in a desperate attempt to make up the financial gap created.

The money and coverage from such deals has proved to be a driving force behind the commercial success of Manchester United. That is not to say that Ferguson is being hypocritical or that he doesn’t raise a valid point. Teams cannot be expected to look at travelling to Europe on a Wednesday night and then play an away game on the following Saturday. In previous posts, I have been critical of players’ inability to play more than one game a week, but this negates the effect of travelling on players and the fact that the level of fitness required for the games nowadays is astonishing. The fact that clubs are forced to meet the demands of the TV schedule takes away from the purity of the game and forces managers to rest players and rotate their squad, offering fans less chance to see the players they want to see. Decisions over fixtures and the timing of fixtures should be left to an independent body to sort out, rather than the biased TV moguls and the greedy upper echelons of the Premier League. (Here’s looking at you, Scudamore).

Carlos Tevez’s refusal to take the field was another example of flagrant power abuse by players. Under the Bosman ruling, players gained the ability to decide their own destinies once their contract was up, but in the past five to ten years, player power has taken a more sinister turn. The latest twist was a disgraceful show of petulance and exaggerated self worth from the Argentinean. Manchester City have taken decisive action, with Tevez reportedly having been fined £500,000 in wages and given the maximum suspension allowed, two weeks.

However, the damage has already been done. Manchester City have been humiliated on one of the biggest stages in the world, with Mancini left powerless as the self absorption of one player both disrupted his team and overshadowed City’s second Champions League group match, after their hard work got last year got them to this stage. The emergence of player power has given managers across the globe a new headache, as has the emergence of agents determined to get their client a quick buck.

A case in point was when Wayne Rooney essentially held Manchester United to ransom last year, declaring he would be happy to sign for their biggest rivals in a craven, successful attempt to extort more money from his club. A club where he is now the fulcrum again, his form recovering after being given his massive wage rise, coincidentally.

What Tevez has done is give an example to every impressionable youngster watching that game. He has sent out a message that it’s fine to leave your teammates in a pickle, because it’s more important that your pride and ego is massaged, than to actually enjoy the chance to play football in a major competition against an opponent with a rich history. His arrogance, in emerging laughing and joking after the game and his pathetic excuse that it was a “misunderstanding”, (despite not explaining how), show the depths to which football has sunk.

The decisiveness and palpable anger shown by Mancini in his post-match interview was a breath of fresh air in a largely sterile football world. The sickening reality is that Mancini will be largely hamstrung over the next few months, with the most likely scenario being that Tevez is left to rot in the reserves and then moved on in a loan move in January. The very fact that he will be present at Man City’s training ground will serve only to unsettle his teammates further, not that this will bother the Argentine, who, judging by his actions on Tuesday night, is perfectly happy to sit the game out and not engage with his teammates.

The threat made by FIFA member Jim Boyce is probably just an attempt to curry favour with football fans, but it mightn’t be the worst thing if football were rid of this particular menace. Perhaps Carlitos needs his very own “Uncle Ben” to tell him that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.

Submitted by Football Friends


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