Why the game I fell in love with has been ruined by greed | Simon Carter

You might have missed the news, but a professional football club was wound up in the High Court last week. And all because Macclesfield Town had accrued debts of £500,000.
While Macclesfield are wound up, Gareth Bale is earning the same amount of money a week that would have saved the Cheshire club from oblivion. Picture: AP Photo/Manu Fernandez.While Macclesfield are wound up, Gareth Bale is earning the same amount of money a week that would have saved the Cheshire club from oblivion. Picture: AP Photo/Manu Fernandez.
While Macclesfield are wound up, Gareth Bale is earning the same amount of money a week that would have saved the Cheshire club from oblivion. Picture: AP Photo/Manu Fernandez.

If you’d been glued to Sky Sports that day, chances are the news would have passed you by. That’s because the station was wetting themselves over the possibility of Gareth Bale returning to Tottenham - if the Londoners were happy to pay half of his weekly salary at Real Madrid

... a salary which ranges from £500,000 to £650,000 A WEEK depending on which paper you believe. You don’t have to be a student of irony to appreciate one footballer’s weekly wage could have saved Macclesfield.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Across north London, Arsenal FC’s media team were busy paying homage to star striker Pierre Aubameyang after he signed a new three-year contract worth around £350,000 A WEEK.

I like using capitals - sorry, I LIKE USING CAPITALS - because it helps get the point across I’m trying to make. Which is this - I love football but hate the Premier League and the obscene wealth that surrounds it. I have hated the Premier League for many years, and now I hate it more.

One of many tweets Arsenal posted about Aubameyang’s new deal had the words ‘That smile. That damned smile’ underneath a picture of him grinning like a cat that’s got all the cream in western Europe. I guess I’d be grinning if I had a £350,000 a week contract in my pocket.

I wonder whether the 55 backroom and office staff Arsenal last month said they were making redundant due to the pandemic would be grinning as much? Possibly not. Or any of the staff some Premier League clubs furloughed earlier this year?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

I wonder whether the Macclesfield Town fans are grinning today? Ok, there’s not so many of them - they have 26,000 Twitter followers compared to Arsenal’s 16.3 million - but that’s not the point. The point is the Macclesfield fans care for their club every bit as much as Arsenal’s care about theirs, probably even more so.

If you don't care about Macclesfield’s winding up, you’re not a football fan.

There was a chomping news in the background of all Arsenal’s Aubameyang videos last week. The same noise can be heard when Bale’s agent was in conversation with Tottenham officials.

That noise was football eating itself. Again.

This time last year, Bury spiralled out of business. We said they weren’t the first and they wouldn’t be the last. They weren’t. Macclesfield won’t be the last either. But do Sky Sports or the legion of armchair Premier League fans they have created care in the slightest? Of course they don’t.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This isn’t the game I fell in love with as a kid. Not any more, not at the highest level. It’s not the game I grew up watching, where unglamorous provincial clubs won major honours - Nottingham Forest twice won the European Cup, Wimbledon and Coventry the FA Cup, Oxford and Luton the League Cup.

Back in the late 70s and 80s, when I was growing up, football was marred by hooliganism and crumbling facilities. I remember Valley Parade burning, I remember watching Heysel on television. I know what life was like on the terraces, I grew up on them. I don’t possess a sepia-tinted view of football. Today’s stadia are better, safer, than they used to be. But in many ways, football was better then. It was more equal, more fun, before Rupert Murdoch changed it forever.

Of course, it’s not Gareth Bale’s fault that Bury were wound up, it’s not Pierre Aubameyang’s fault Macclesfield couldn’t pay their bills.

I’m not one of those who believe the Premier League clubs should always bail out the smaller professional outfits. After all, I wouldn’t suggest Tesco or Sainsbury’s give money to the corner shops just down the road from them struggling to make ends meet. Bury and Macclesfield have only themselves to blame, lest we forget.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Their demise, at a time when our elite clubs are paying obscene wages - while shedding backroom staff - should be a wake-up call that needs to be heard and taken seriously. Yet I know, and all of us who love football deep down know as well, that it won’t be. We are too far down the yellow brick road for any real change to occur.

So the smaller clubs - at EFL and non-league level - will continue to be wound up, and media teams employed by Premier League clubs will continue to peddle material insulting to the average man and woman in the street. Armchair fans will continue to tweet about Gareth Bale and Macclesfield fans will be left with their memories.

Memories of a better time, before professional football was ruined by greed.

It was ruined by sheer avarice a long time ago, as any self-respecting Pompey fan knows all too well.

RIP Macclesfield. RIP Bury. And RIP Pele’s beautiful game, the game I fell in love with before our top clubs sold the sport’s soul and before Sky decided to forget football existed prior to 1992 ...

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.