What on earth is happening to the World Game?
In the last 12 months or so we have witnessed one of the most turbulent, traumatic times the game has seen. Having recovered from the horrific hooliganism disease which infected the game in the seventies and eighties, we went through a spell in the nineties which now appears to be the calm before the fast approaching storm. Players, administrators, sponsors and business partners alike are combining to propel football from one calamity to the next.
Its hard to know where to start when listing the issues which have cropped up over the last couple of years. I guess FIFA is a good place to start. What were they thinking of when they decided that next years world cup would be co-hosted by Korea and Japan? Talk about avoiding the tough decisions! Two countries reasonably close in geographic location but worlds apart in culture, history and language. We’ve had arguments about the start date, the opening match, the final, the format – even about whose name appears first on the tickets. And on top of that the world cup is scheduled during the rainy season.
After that decision we had the wonderful World Cup that was France 98 – but that ended in controversy with allegations that sponsors Nike demanded that Ronaldo played in the final despite suffering an epileptic fit only hours before kick off. Exactly who is running the game? Brazil were never going to win the trophy with only 10 fit players against a team of such high quality as France.
We then progressed to the FA’s (surely the most revered of ALL committees?) appalling decision to rebuild Wembley. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for r&m jobs – a screw tightened here, a bit of paint there etc – but to pull down the Twin Towers? Are you kidding? It’s sacrilege. The most famous stadium of any kind in the world including the Maracana, the MCG, Wimbledon and Lords. Somehow Abide With Me wasn’t quite the same in Cardiff. And now we find that plans to redevelop the stadium have stalled after admitting that the FA had been unable to raise enough money for the new stadium from the private sector. Blessing in disguise methinks.
In the last month, we have had the collapse of ISL, FIFA’s marketing company which owns the rights to the next two world cups. You would think with FIFA’s backing they would be a safe enough company, and you would think that FIFA would have in fact checked that out. The fall out from that of course was the cancellation of the World Club Championship. That may mean nothing to the Real Madrids and Bayern Munchen’s of the world but to teams like Wollongong Wolves or Hearts of Oak the revenue stream is priceless.
Players aren’t innocent parties either. Dutch superstars Edgar Davids & Frank De Boer have both tested positive for using banned drugs. If these are the two who have been caught how many others are involved? Is this the tip of the iceberg? Is drug use prevalent throughout the sport? or just throughout the Dutch national team?
Bosman & Bosman II have resulted in freedom of contract which has sent players wages absolutely skyrocketing. Roy Keane for example is reportedly on £50 000 per WEEK. How can clubs afford this? Most can’t. Rumour has it that more than half the clubs in the premiership are struggling financially and some are looking bankruptcy in the face. Real Madrid are supposedly technically bankrupt and in Italy it’s the sugar-daddys – the Berlusconi’s and the like – which are keeping the top clubs alive. If you haven’t got a sugar daddy you either can’t compete or you will end up folding.
And the worst thing of all? A look at the ladder in the Conmebol qualifiers sees Brazil struggling and in fourth spot. A world cup without Brazil? Its unthinkable. Who will we support after Dugdales Dynamoes are eliminated? In fact if Brazil don’t qualify why bother having it? The romance will be over.
Its enough to make you take up rugby. After all, rugby’s just a game.