Football needs a long-term, unified vision if it wants to score PR goals

Let me first declare an interest. My son, a neighbour and I have stand seats at Crystal Palace which we have supported since I kissed good-bye to Halifax Town, Alastair Campbell’s Burnley and Rugby League and came to the effete south in 1965. Plans are afoot for my grandson to be inducted into Selhurst Park’s rituals. I therefore have views on the Football League’s ’new PR offensive’, as this newspaper calls it.

Let me first declare an interest. My son, a neighbour and I have

stand seats at Crystal Palace which we have supported since I kissed

good-bye to Halifax Town, Alastair Campbell’s Burnley and Rugby League

and came to the effete south in 1965. Plans are afoot for my grandson to

be inducted into Selhurst Park’s rituals. I therefore have views on the

Football League’s ’new PR offensive’, as this newspaper calls it.



The FL seems to be going about it the right way. It has commissioned a

management consultancy report on its modernisation before engaging a

new, or more accurately, another PR company to sell it. I would be

happier if I knew what Deloitte Touche had come up with and if there

were fewer PR fingers in the FL pie. England’s football industry seems

to be marinated in PROs, which hints at a lack of confidence.



It has much to be worried about. Mercifully - but no thanks to soccer

itself - it is now relatively free of hooliganism. This has migrated to

the pitch where referees allow fracas, utter pettinesss and intimidation

and gross abuse of themselves to go unpunished. My faith in soccer

management will be restored only when, as in rugby, the captain alone is

allowed (politely) to speak to the referee. So, firmer refs and more

player discipline, please.



It would also help if players were less prone to dally with Max

Clifford’s shameless, gold digging hussies, to populate night clubs

until dawn and have so much trouble with these establishments’ other

mindless customers.



Whether we like it or not, one of soccer’s problems is the players’

image - trendy, overpaid, self-indulgent louts. This is grossly unfair

to many professionals but Gazza, like George Best before him, has much

to answer for.



A good employer would protect players from themselves by insisting on

certain standards, the safe investment of a large proportion of their

fabulous earnings and their proper education and training for a job

outside football. You can tinker with the rules, structure, facilities

and grounds as much as you like, but any self-respecting PRO must tell

the football authorities that unless they get the player and the fan

bits right they might as well save their money. They are currently

wrong. Fans are being ripped off.



English soccer is also destroying its seed corn as the top clubs, awash

with TV gold, distance themselves from the nation’s soccer

infrastructure - does anyone understand how the myriad of leagues relate

to each other?



- and import expensive foreign players wholesale. Is soccer run by a

bunch of short-term spivs or are they secretly facing up to the logic of

this mobile age - British, European and ultimately World Leagues? In

short, the FL’s two PR worries are image and vision - or should be.



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