** The key role played by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp in the financial explosion of top-level football is featured in a new TV documentary.
How Much is Enough?, a four-part documentary series by Australian-based film-maker Rod Hay, examines finance and the transfer market – and the advent of cable and satellite television proved economically revolutionary.
Murdoch broke the monopoly of free-to-air channels over English League football, by offering a staggering 10 times more for live broadcasting rights. Court action proved in vain.
The subsequent emergence and consolidation of the Premier League has created an industry that now operates in billions rather than millions, as it continues to climb in apparently unstoppable popularity.
Whilst Murdoch had his football marketing experts re-create British football’s status quo, elsewhere, modest Belgian midfielder Jean-Marc Bosman, was embroiled in a transfer stand-off with his Flemish club, RFC Liege, and Europe’s football authority UEFA.
This would finally lead to the collapse of end-of-contract constraints and restrictions in the international freedom of movement of European Union players.
Victory in 1995 proved a poison chalice for Bosman, however. Victory off the field hastened an end to his career as clubs steered clear of him. Later he would receive some compensation through a handful of testimonials from players who understood the sacrifice he had made.
Elsewhere, other players of far less talent than his own went on to make fortunes.
The Bosman Verdict, as Hay illustrates, triggered an explosion in player movement from around the world which had little option but to fall largely in line with the new rules decreed by the rich Europeans.
Hay’s documentary follows the dizzying speed of change which ensured professional football could never be the same again.
The new leaders of the pack were now definitely the agents and, at long last, the players. Close behind were the cavalier entrepreneurs, keen to be associated with the clubs and the potential value in becoming a major shareholder.
The name of the game was money, and those that had lots of it were able to put it to a variety of uses. Agents also took full advantage of their clients’ new-found importance to their respective clubs, squeezing the clubs for everything they could get.
Image rights also became an important factor in negotiating with sponsors, who now arrived in large numbers at clubs front doors eager to interest both club and player. Whilst transfers were seen to be a thing of the past, player loan outs and fees, now rose enormously with agents eager to capitalise.
Even English football threw open the doors to the rest of the world – and with more money to spend than anyone else. Players flooded in from far and wide. ‘Football slavery’ was now a thing of the past. Good, average, and not so good players were all eager to take advantage of the opportunity. Youth Academies sprung up everywhere. Every club wanted to find the next star, without deliberating over the potential pitfalls.
For Hay, credibility was in little evidence.
Young boys came from nowhere with nothing more than average skills, a pair of worn out boots, and desperate families totally reliant on their sons to look after them. More often than not the adventure finished up a disaster.
Many of the kids would be exploited by a myriad of dubious agents, and those that didn’t perform finished up in a state of despair, often in the hands of devious paedophiles.
A new order of stars though, was developing. Players who had made a good living under restrictive contracts could now move where and whenever they wanted within the new transfer windows.
Clubs regularly selected team squads without a single home player. As a result, clubs improved significantly, whilst national squads suffered adversely, because local players were no longer playing regularly at the highest level.
So has the game really benefited and improved, with the shift in power from clubs to players?
Hay says: “The game is overflowing with money and with large crowds paying high admission costs in impressive stadiums but morality within the game has suffered. There is far less consideration and empathy in the game.
“Television dictates. The esprit d’corp of old seems to have disappeared. Gambling is on the increase at all levels, making genuine results often questionable at best.
“Drug cartel involvement has been a constant source of trouble that stretches over several continents. Agents have an unhealthy influence over many clubs that they have their players registered with. Entrepreneurs who have invested in clubs are now dismantling the heritage the old club identified with its fans because they have no affinity with the old image.
“Russian Oligarchs, Middle East potentates, and sponsors, who are also investors, all want immediate success for both their sizeable investment and branding. Does it augur well for the game’s survival?
“We have yet to find out. What we do know is that every club wants to find the next Messi, Ronaldo or Neymar, and will go to whatever lengths they can to realise that objective . . .”
Part One — http://keirradnedge.com/2014/04/19/how-much-is-enough-new-documentary-examines-how-football-followed-the-money-part-one/
Part Two — http://keirradnedge.com/2014/04/21/how-much-is-enough-part-two-football-finance-from-world-war-i-to-colombias-pirates-and-george-eastham/
The credits . . .
ROD HAY is an award winning writer-producer-director, based in Australia, who has been creating unique images and stories for over two decades. His experience stretches across four continents and a range of features, television series, documentaries, commercials and music videos. He is equally at home with action, drama, sport, and animation.
In sport he has covered many subjects, covering football, athletics, horse racing, boxing, motor racing, rowing, rugby, swimming, tennis, and gymnastics, all at top level, although football is his passion and preferred choice. He played for West Ham United as a junior.
He has won a number of global awards including Sportel’s Golden Podium d’Or in 1997 and Ficts Film Festival’s best football film of all time, in 2008.
His programmes have screened in more than 100 countries, including History Channel in the United States and the rest of the world, Discovery, Sky, Fox, ESPN, HBO, Globo, TF2, ART, Premier, SBS, Canal +, to name but a few. He is also a freelance photo journalist and correspondent, author of four books, and an inveterate traveller.
In 2006 he was president of the prestigious Sportel International Film Jury, in Monaco, has been a jury representative on various other festivals, including AlJazeera. He has been running his parent company, Moving Targets, for more than 25 years.
How Much is Enough? is currently playing on ESPN. The series goes global from April/May, and then onto DVD and the internet.
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