Making Football Once Again The Peoples Game

Martin SlimcereContributor IJune 30, 2009

With every passing day where a transfer record is being broken or and a weekly wage is being increased, it's time to rethink how football is operated, with a main focus on Europe.

Because as much as Platini and Blatter will have you believe they are trying to make the sport more fair, they are really not.

Football, the beautiful game, the people's game, is no longer for the people. Now, it's becoming a game dominated by money and power rather then talent and skill.

Now, I'm no fan of a small team in League 1, nor will I say I'm a die hard fan of a team you have probably never heard of. No, I myself am a Manchester United fan, so yeah, this might be a tad hypocritical on my part.

But even I know when things have to change.


The Youth System

The youth system in professional football can be summarized with one word: Gamble.

At the time of writing this article, I am 17 and have known many players who have pursued the dream of becoming a pro player.

Some I know are in academies (the lucky ones), and others I know were cut (the unlucky ones). A similar trait that binds them all together, though, is that once they were at the age of 16-17 and were in these academies, and they ultimately had to give up on education. That leaves them all but hopeless if they didn't make it pro, and the clubs that turn them down don't have to shoulder any of the responsibility.

My idea is to introduce a draft similar to that seen in North American sports leagues. Now, you may be thinking that it can't work in Europe, but with a tweak to the youth system as a whole, it could not only work, but all together make the youth system hold less risk for those involved.

Like what Canada does for minor league Hockey with the Quebec Minor Junior Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, and Western Hockey League, Europe should introduce dedicated leagues for youth players aged 15-19 to develop into better pros by dividing them in to four leagues based on region.

Using England as an example, dividing the English Junior Premier League into four leagues based on region: South Eastern League, Midlands League, North Eastern League and North Western league.

The teams featured in these leagues will have no ties to professional teams, as players may only be drafted once a full year of junior football has been completed. Players for these teams will be acquired by scouts going across schools in their specific region to find players, and best of all, games will be fashioned around times players go to school, not forcing them to make a choice.

These leagues will be in similar fashion to the Premier League in the sense that each team plays 38 games home and away, and the top team in the league inevitably wins the league.

Unlike the Premier Leage, however, there will be no relegation for the teams who finish in the bottom three. The top four teams in each league will be entered in a Champions league-type competition, but skipping the group stage and going straight to the round of 16.

At the start of the season, at Christmas, and the end of the season, UEFA can release a ranking of the top prospects in their respective country.

For those who follow any of the major four leagues in North America (NFL,NBA,NHL,MLB) then the actual structure of the draft will not be new to you. But for those who don't, I'll explain how it could work in football.

The first round of the draft will consist of 100 of the country's best players, and the worst team that has not been relegated gets the top pick. From there after, each team in the Premier league may pick a player until all 100 picks have been made.

The second round will be a dedicated round for the Championship, but the same rules apply, with the third round also having the same format and vice versa.

With this method, the young players will know beforehand how realistic their chances of going pro are, with the UEFA rankings and mock drafts all aiding to a more secure process for young players looking to go pro. Some things will remain the same, however, with players going into the reserve teams to develop, and some breaking straight through to the first team.

I personally feel a draft in football would not draw away from its roots, but rather incorparate a system developed away from home in order to make football adjust to the times.


The Transfer Window

By now, if you follow football even in the most casual of fashions, you have heard about Ronaldo and his transfer to Real Madrid at a staggering £80 million ($132 million,€94 million). Yes, with £20 million more, Real Madrid could have bought Newcastle United.

The significance of this is not in its price tag alone, but rather a deeper look of what football is coming to, especially in these current times of global recession and what have you.

Yes, just when Kaka was purchased from AC Milan for a then-record fee of £62 million, the world was in shock that money like that can actually be spent on one man, not knowing only two days later the world record will once again be shattered by a whole £18 million by the same club.

Now, the cynic will tell you there is nothing wrong with that, as the best teams just want to have the best players. But the vast majority of football fans see this is as more prove of the direction that football is going ina direction where the greed of the sport's top teams (including Manchester United) have now almost become alien to their fanbases. Fanbases I can gurantee you that are not making £21 a minute. 

I have thought of many possible solutions to this, but none do enough to change the nature of the over-the-top spending of today's game. So I propose a rule allowing no club to spend more then £35 million on one player. If a club believes the player is worth more then the sum suggested, they can throw in the money, plus package in a few players (or draft picks).

Again, I don't feel this deals with the problem efficiently, but it's the best current proposal I can think of at the moment.

If, however, this trend continues into the next 10-20 years, do not be shocked if transfer fees of the billions are reached. After all, I believe Ronaldo's buyout clause is an estimated €1Billion.



This is a questionable one, depending on who you talk to, but I can honestly say some of the players today are really not all that interested in the game anymore. They are interested, however, in the privileges gained because of the game.

An example that has stuck in my head was when Nicklas Bendtner was pictured trousers down coming out of a night club just a day before the semifinals of the Champions League. Great.

Now, what kind of message is that giving to the fans? I mean, if he played the match and put in a great performance, then all would be forgiven in the crazy world of sports. But that didn't happen, and of course, nothing more was said of the matter.

Paolo Maldini I can honestly say is the last of his kind: A player that has been considered one of the best in the world at his positionso he has definitely suffered no shortage of offersbut through his career spanning 25 years, he has stayed at AC Milan through the good and the bad.

Another Italian, who conveniently enough plays the same position as Maldini and has the same amount as caps as Maldini with 126, however, hasn't shown this kind of loyalty at all.

That man is Fabio Cannavaro.

Cannavaro was once a Juventus player highly regarded and seen as a man who would spend many years with team, but he opted to leave once the team got relegated for the match fixing scandal of 2006 to none other then Real Madrid. After Juventus returned to Serie A, however, he moved back to the team.

What's that saying to the fans who stuck with the club during those tough times?

Football has changed, and I can say it is a change for the worse.

With managers announcing ludicrous fees for their players based on a one off 20-goal season, with players making absolute asses of themselves on the field rolling over just to get a free kick, and with players undermining everyone around them from the coach to the board, and of course, us fans.

Football, the beautiful game, the people's game, somehow that doesn't sit well with me. Somehow, I'll say they have moved football further away from the people then they would like to admit.


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