1/ Florentino Pérez
Crime: Made players bigger than clubs
“I’ll bring the world’s biggest superstar to the Bernabeu each summer,” promised Real Madrid chairman Pérez in 2000. The result? The start of what Steve McManaman termed “the Disneyfication of Real Madrid”. First came Figo (£38m), then Zidane (£44m), then Ronaldo (£26m), Beckham (£25m) and Robinho (£19m). The problem? These ‘Galacticos’ were all attackers; superstars deemed more important than a balanced team. Need proof? “We will not miss Makelele,” scoffed Pérez after the defensive midfielder was shipped to Chelsea for asking for a pay rise. They’ve made it to the quarter-finals of the Champions League only once since.
2/ Vladimir Romanov
Crime: Mad foreign owner
Think Abramovich is odd? Then you’ve never heard of Vladimir Romanov: poet, decorated Russian nuclear submarine captain, and Lithuania’s Strictly Come Dancing champion. Oh, and barmy owner of Heart of Midlothian since February 2005. His three year reign has seen seven managers, including Graham Rix, a sex offender; players galore (at one time Hearts had 63 players under contract); controversy (wages not paid, players threatened with being sold if they didn’t win, allegations Vlad picked the team); and fines thanks to his penchant for incredulous rants. Did it put him off? Did it hell. “The Scottish league is only an instrument in the hands of the mafia and they are working really well,” he screamed in August. Hearts also have the worst credit rating in Scottish football.
3/ Lord Justice Taylor
Crime: Bankrupted clubs
Hillsborough was a tragedy and grounds needed updating. But all-seater stadiums were a debt-inducing ball and chain. Ticket prices rocketed, crowds dwindled, small clubs took out crippling loans, and Darlington and Partick Thistle went into administration. And Tory MP David Evans saw it coming. “Big clubs will be able to afford the proposals,” he said, “but, as sure as day follows night, smaller clubs will go bankrupt. Football has pressed the destruct button.”
4/ Alan Ball
Crime: Wore white boots
Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue – we can see a rainbow… and the contents of your average Sunday League team’s boot bags. Depressing.
5/ Pete Winkelman
Crime: Turned clubs into franchises
As any fule kno, American sport is rubbish due to their complete lack of understanding of history and community – summed up by their having ‘franchises’ rather than teams. So what in the name of God made Winkelman -– who looks like a geeky Status Quo reject – think that shifting Wimbledon FC to Milton Keynes and giving them the horrific moniker ‘MK Dons’ was a good idea? And why did the FA let him do it? And, most of all, how the hell can Winkelman say: “We’re still the Dons”? Er, no you’re not, Pete. That’s why the Dons fans are watching AFC Wimbledon play in the Conference South.
6/ Jimmy Hill
Crime: Abolished minimum wage
Once upon a time, footballers had their salaries capped at £20 per week. Then in 1960 PFA secretary Jimmy Hill stuck his sizeable chin in and the pay for kicking a ball went up, up and away until players could gamble hundreds of thousands of pounds without batting an eyelid. How far? In 2006 the average yearly take home read: Premier League, £676,000; Championship, £195,750; League one, £67,850; League Two, £49,600. Currently top of the tree? Chelsea’s Frank Lampard with a basic (pre-bonus) £140,000 per week, or £7.28 million per year.
7/ The FA
Crime: Stifled British youth development
Arsenal’s youth team? Fantastic. But how come so few are British? That’ll be the FA’s ludicrous rule that states club academies can only sign boys that live within 90 minutes of their grounds. A statute that means the big clubs shop abroad (eg Fabregas from Barcelona), Sunderland’s Roy Keane is “forced to scout the sea for good fish”, and a kid from west Cornwall may as well take up cow-tipping.
8/ RS Charleroi
Crime: Made clubs more important than countries
Chances are you didn’t catch November 2004’s friendly between Morocco and Burkina Faso – but your nation will be affected by the repercussions. Morocco midfielder Abdelmajid Oulmers was stretchered off. He wouldn’t play for eight months, an injury his Belgian club RS Charleroi boldly claimed cost them the league (they’d finished fifth). They took FIFA to court claiming compensation, and the G14 (see No.20) jumped on the bandwagon – insisting clubs should be compensated for releasing their assets (that’s ‘players’). And FIFA and UEFA agreed – clubs were more important than countries, and should receive a fee for their players playing in international tournaments. How patriotic.
9/ Pini Zahavi
Crime: The first super-agent
It’s no surprise that the rise of agents has almost perfectly mirrored the growth in player power. But, this former Israeli journalist isn’t just any agent – he’s a ‘super-agent’. Or: a slippery, money-grabbing bastard. By introducing Abramovich to Chelsea and Andre Gaydamak to Portsmouth, Zahavi’s been central to turning the Premier League into the Russian oligarchs’ plaything. Add in allegations of illegal tapping-up (such as Ashley Cole and Sven-Göran Eriksson) and, by selling Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano to West Ham, the disastrous introduction of third-party ownership. But the worst part: it’s earned him £65 million.
10/ Rupert Murdoch
Crime: Created haves and have nots
As Scarface’s Tony Montana said: “You gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power.” He was talking about Miami’s drug market; but he predicted the Premier League. Since snatching the rights in 1992, Murdoch’s BSkyB has changed our ball-shaped world forever. He says he’s “saved the game” – ploughing nearly £4 billion into top clubs’ coffers. It’s made the Premier League the richest, most talked about league in the world, but it’s also created a huge financial gulf between top-flight teams and other clubs (see box, right), and left teams at the media mogul’s beck and call. “The fixture list isn’t fair,” admitted Sir Alex Ferguson after Manchester United were given two days to prepare for a game last season. “But if you shake hands with the devil you can’t complain. The game is now subject to television’s control.”
11/ Andy Webster
Crime: Made contracts meaningless
Why so bad? Well, the Webster ruling – or Bosman 2.0 – allows players under 28 to buy themselves out of a contract (no matter how long) after three years, and players who are 28 or over to walk away after two years (Webster went from Hearts to Wigan). “A Pyrrhic victory for players and agents who toy with rescinding contracts before they have been fulfilled,” scowled FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Players like? Well, if he fancies, Cristiano Ronaldo can pay £10 million and leave Man United for Real Madrid in 2010.
12/ Francis Lee
Crime: Football’s first diver
Diving, simulation, play-acting: a modern blight of namby-pamby foreigners, yes? Er, no. Embarrassingly, it was invented by our own – and Man City’s – porky penalty-winner Francis Lee. His tumbles won his side 15 spot kicks in the 1971-72 season, and earned him the hilarious nickname Lee Won Pen after Grandstand’s video-printer listed ‘Lee (one pen)’ on an almost weekly basis. “People talk about present-day players diving, but Franny was brilliant at it,” mused Norman Hunter, once famously sent off along with Lee for trading blows post dive accusation. “He’d run straight at you with the ball, knock it past you and then go down.”
13/ World Cup Willie
Crime: The first mascot
Note to Chairman: a man dressed as a lion waving moronically does not count as entertainment.
14/ Jean-Marc Bosman
Crime: Ended player loyalty
Death of devotion? Don’t blame it on Sky Sports and Murdoch, blame it on Bosman. After RFC Liege refused to let him go because Dunkerque wouldn’t pay their desired transfer fee, the out-of-contract Belgian footballer argued restraint of trade in the European Court of Justice. And, sadly, won. Thus, the ‘Bosman Ruling’ came into effect, allowing out-of-contract footballers to move for free, and ending quotas on the number of EU nationals that could play in a team. In other words, the law that allowed players to stick two fingers up at your club, and Premier League teams to average 17 foreigners per club. “Transfer slavery ruined my life, so I have no regrets,” said Bosman. “But there have been negatives. Players now sign big contracts and if they are on the bench, they don’t care.”
15/ Jack Warner
Crime: Back scratching
As FIFA Vice-President and president of CONACAF (the Caribbean equivalent of UEFA) since 1990, Austin ‘Jack’ Warner knows the game inside out. Only problem is in his case the ‘game’ isn’t football, it’s self-serving bureaucracy. In 2004, when Trinidad – his home country – played a friendly in Scotland, he asked the Scottish FA to make the cheque for the fixture payable to him, not the Trinidadian FA. Then, shortly after calling the courtship from England’s 2018 World Cup bid “an irritant” in a BBC interview, he about-turned and declared England’s “time had come”. What changed his mind? No idea. Although England playing a lucrative friendly on the island might have helped…
16/ Pierre Van Hooijdonk
Crime: Striking striker
“Pierre, there’s only one Pierre,” used to sing Celtic fans. Thank God. The bucktoothed Dutch forward left Celtic for Nottingham Forest after claiming £7,000 a week might be “good enough for the homeless”, but “not for an international striker”. He then continued to win friends by going on strike for 11 games after Forest didn’t allow him to leave. The cherry on the top? Four years after he did leave Forest, with them languishing in the lower divisions due to being relegated the season he went on strike, he issued a writ against the club for, among other things, an unpaid ‘loyalty’ bonus. Arsehole.
17/ Bill Archer & David Bellotti
Crime: Displaced supporters
In 1993 Bill Archer buys a controlling stake in Brighton & Hove Albion for £56.25. No, we haven’t missed an ‘m’ off – it really was just under £60. He makes David Bellotti Chief Executive. In 1995 they sell the club’s ground for £7.4 million without consulting the fans. In 1997 ‘home advantage’ is turned into a 70-mile trek to Gillingham. In 2002 Archer sells shares for £1 million. In 2008 Brighton remain homeless. And fans still sing: “Build a bonfire, build a bonfire, put Bill Archer on the top, stick Bellotti in the middle and we’ll burn the fucking lot.” Illegal, perhaps. But understandable.
18/ Tim Lovejoy
Crime: Being a ‘nouveau fan’
You know what we mean. The uncritical positivity towards ‘the game’; the shameless starshagging that’d make Hello! magazine blanch; the third-rate books; the lumpen adherence to the lowest common denominator in music and opinion; and the desperate, forced ‘bloke’ demeanour. If it wasn’t for his detached hunted look – like when he’s feigning interest in blueberries on Something For The Weekend – we’d really put the boot in.
19/ Posh Spice
Crime: Queen of the WAGS
“Does Posh Spice take it up the arse?” sang Man City fans. How wrong they were: in reality it was Victoria and her perma-tanned WAG army who were violating the tailpipes of their men (literally in the case of Mrs Stefan Postma). Following Mrs David Beckham’s lead the WAGs have come and they have conquered. “It’s a sad state of affairs,” lamented Roy Keane. “Footballers’ priorities have changed. They are now dictated to by their wives and girlfriends.” Can you imagine Chopper Harris in a sarong or shunning a club because their wife doesn’t like the city’s shopping? Course not.
20/ The G14
Crime: Forming an impenetrable cartel
Shit floats to the top, as the saying goes. And in football, they make sure they stay there. Formed in 2000, the G14 was supposed to “provide a unified voice” for Europe’s top clubs. In reality? An elitist, competition-suffocating, money-chugging unholy alliance almost as powerful as FIFA – throwing its weight around to safeguard its own superiority and, of course, the lion’s share of TV rights. And it worked: no club from outside this privileged band has ever won the Champions League since its inception in 1992/1993. It disbanded in January 2008. No one cried.
21/ Richard Scudamore
Crime: The 39th game
In Febuary 2008 the Premier League big cheese, who always backs the mega-rich clubs, had a brainwave: a 39th game for each Premier League club… abroad. “It’s an evolutionary idea,” he claimed. It is if you consider exploitation of Middle and Far Eastern football fans evolutionary. We asked Darwin. He didn’t.
22/ Sir Alf Ramsey/Sir Geoff Hurst
Crime: Raised expectations
Did not play. Did not play. Did not play. Knocked out at group stage. Quarter-finalists. Lost group stage play-off. Quarter-finalists. Winners. Quarter-finalists. Did not qualify. Did not qualify. Lost at second group stage. Quarter-finalists. Semi-finalists. Lost in last 16. Quarter-finalists. Quarter-finalists. Newsflash: England won’t win the World Cup again.
23/ Peter Ridsdale
Crime: Gambled away his club’s future
In the good old days, chairmen were kindly old millionaires running clubs for purely philanthropic reasons. Now is the age of the Peter Ridsdale – the club owner with no business acumen whatsoever who gambles accruing debts against future Champions league income… and loses. The facts of his bid to make Leeds England’s second team are startling – even during the descent into financial oblivion, they were still shelling out £70,000 a year on private jets, £600,000 on company cars and £20 a month on goldfish for his personal office. And then there was midfielder Seth Johnson, who arrived at Leeds in 2001 hoping to double his £7,000 weekly wages. Enter Ridsdale’s keen negotiating skills: “Right, I’m sorry, but I can only offer you £30,000 a week.” Johnson’s agent utters some exclamation of disbelief. “Alright,” sighs Ridsdale. “Thirty-seven thousand, then.”
24/ Peter Kenyon
Crime: Commercialised the game
The walking personification of football’s transformation from beautiful sport to a beastly, brand-based business. After helping Man United become a global name, the ‘lifelong’ United fan upped sticks to Chelsea. A role he took to faster than a Man United player at an all-you-can-rape buffet. After overseeing an above-inflation ticket price rise at a club run by a multi-billionaire, he – not the captain or the manager – led Chelsea up to collect their 2008 Champions League runners-up medals.
Old School Rules
How a return to the values of the ’20s could be what football needs
Avoid intra-team strife over pay: in 1920, the Association of Football Players’ and Trainers’ Union (later the PFA) set a maximum wage of £9 a week. With win bonuses such as ‘an orange’ or ‘a side of ham’. Robbie Savage would love it.
Magic sponge? How about magic cigarettes and booze – to subdue those flaring tempers and increase product placement revenues. ‘Wayne Rooney loves the smooth, toasted taste of Benson & Hedges’; ‘Ryan Giggs drinks Guinness’ etc.
Goalkeeper Bert Trautmann broke his neck in the 1956 FA Cup Final… and still played on. Because he had to: subs were banned until 1965. And he didn’t wear a nancy little hat afterwards (we’re looking at you, Petr Cech).
Say goodbye to rainswept, hatchet-faced ‘cheer’ leaders – and hello to Acker Bilk’s Paramount Jazz Band, and His Electrifying Brand Of Mildly Innuendo-Laden Ragtime Be-bop.
“Ladies and gentlemen – thanks to lax health and safety, today’s gate attendance is 203,076.” And they’re all carrying rattles. Try decking someone with that in the post-match car park tear-up.
No more garish, logo-branded breathable fabrics: the ’20s kit meant huge cotton pantaloons and mud-collecting boots. So everyone looked like a player from Subbuteo: The Somme Edition.
A plod on a massive white horse stood in the crowd. Just try throwing a sharpened coin now, ruffian. Or eating that handful of sugar lumps.