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Wednesday, 8 February 2012

George remains the scapegoat for football's crooked ways

George Graham - note the blazer and tie - Arsenal Class

So Harry Redknapp is officially innocent. I have to say I am seriously surprised. The main question with regards to the case must be this: "If you have nothing to hide, and are not trying to conceal something from someone, why was your Monaco bank account in the name of your dog?" British justice, as everywhere else in the World, can be very odd, but there you go. There's nothing more to say about any criminal aspect, but questions should (but won't, as the FA is toothless) remain with regards to the football aspects surrounding the money involved. By this I mean the fact that Redknapp (and he is far from alone in this, it seems) was paid part of a transfer fee to sell players.
Back in 1995 Arsenal used the "bung" case against George Graham as the excuse they needed to end his glorious reign over the Club. George was off in the Summer anyway, but Arsenal were heading for relegation and the Club needed a reason to get rid of their most successful boss since the 1930's. It was ironic that the arch-disciplinarian, a man who was classy in everything he did, a man who knew who he represented (to quote Bertie Mee), should be caught with his hands in the till. What has become clear from Redknapp's trial is that the "bung" is now woven in to the individual contracts of club officials. I have heard Barry Hearn on TV this evening explaining that he has the same deal with his Manager at Leyton Orient. It seems that "legalised bungs" are now prevalent in football. I have to imagine that this is a direct legacy of the treatment of George and his long ban from the game.
I just don't understand how a Manager can be paid to SELL his Club's best players. Surely, if a man is being rewarded for selling then he will do his utmost to do just that, rather than concentrating on winning instead. As sad is it may be that is simply human nature - we are all greedy, deep down. Of course George was done over for making money on players he bought, rather than sold, but I find it very difficult to imagine that this practise is not still ongoing. Nevertheless the fact remains that George is the only person ever to have been found guilty of it. Had he not admitted his wrongdoing he would almost certainly have got away with it (and I do not seek to excuse what George did - it was wholly repugnant as he was effectively taking money that should have belonged to Arsenal Football Club).
Amongst all of this shadiness is the fact that football is a very dark business. There can be no doubt that the game is corrupt to its core. The business with George in the mid-90's merely skirted around the edges of a wider issue. Football was bent then, and it is bent now. George Graham was made a scapegoat and that suited the FA and its new Premier League. Certain other Manager's seriously got away with it, but the media didn't really care as they had a target to focus on. George was their lamb to the slaughter while others were free to fight another day, and win a few more trophies (George recommended two players from the same agent who paid him, to a certain Manager at another Club - did he not receive similar payments? I would find it hard to believe otherwise). The FA was happy as justice was seen to have been carried out and a clear message sent. The events of the last two weeks, in a court of law, appear to have shown that the message was interpreted within football as an invitation to "legalise" a practise that remains banned in the English game. Everyone involved gets paid something, but only the supporters suffer - just ask Portsmouth FC die-hards.
I would like to call on the FA to stamp out this way of conducting transfers. What does this now mean for supporters who pay to watch their team? How many fans are out there thinking that the Manager of their Club is trying to push them forward, get them promoted, get them to Wembley, win the League etc when, in fact, they are simply looking for the next big transfer deal out of the Club so that they can be paid handsomely? Maybe I'm in a small minority, but I see this as a terribly frightening turn of events for football. What is the point in supporting a team if the Manager is being incentivised to sell players, rather than be successful on the pitch? After all, I thought football was about winning matches, not selling players.


  1. I seem to remember that at the time it was promised other high profile managers would be made example of... didnt happen and apparently you can get a copy of the report into the Graham case.. that has gone missing .....