Ian Holloway: parachute pain

With so much power vested in owners at the top of English football, its clubs below are putting themselves at risk by chasing the dream. But with this imbalance, says our columnist, how will we ensure everyone’s survival?


I’ ve played and managed at every level of English football, including the Premier League – and it’s been an honour and a joy to have spent my life doing that. But I’m also worried about this wonderful game, because some people at the top have too much power they’re trying to wield for their own means.

What they don’t realise – or at least didn’t before last season – is that this game still belongs to the people and always will. Even if you can’t play it, you can become part of something as long as you live. Some owners are trying to make clubs their businesses, for personal profit, but they’ll always be about their communitie­s first.

We saw last year what powerful people are capable of with those plans for the Super League, and you have to wonder where they’re going next. They’ll try something like it again, and I don’t trust them in the slightest. If I had any power, I’d be doing what I could to make sure they can’t fleece what isn’t theirs to fleece, just because they own something at this particular moment in time. They’re nothing more than custodians.

I do believe that the Premier League is the best in the world, but that’s only because the rich are getting richer. There’s too big a divide between leagues, because the distributi­on of money at the top of the game is a huge problem. Parachute payments try to equal things out, and the clubs that get relegated earn some money for the next three years. But they also encourage overspendi­ng in the Championsh­ip, which we’re seeing so often now. And if you don’t get back up in three years, what are you going to do after that? Everything is geared towards being all out or bust, and that can’t be the way to go. What about if you’re a club that doesn’t get parachute payments? You can’t bridge that gap. If you’re a corner shop, you’re trying to get by with your own income; trying to engage your local community wherever you can. But your budget isn’t that of a major supermarke­t, who are also all trying to compete with each other.

If the money was distribute­d more fairly in English football, we surely wouldn’t be seeing these disaster situations every season. It could go towards making the game more secure for the rest of its life, and I’ll tell you why Premier League clubs should care about that – because they haven’t always been in these positions and might not be again one day. I’d think about creating some serious laws and legislatio­n after what some of these owners have tried to do recently, in doing their best to change the very fabric of our game; removing the element of competitio­n to guarantee themselves more money each year. The only way to stop this cycle is to stop the greedy from making all the decisions.

Football isn’t just a sport – it’s much bigger than that. You might support our wonderful swimmer Adam Peaty in the Olympics, but you’ll struggle to feel a part of what he’s doing. In our game you’re part of it every minute of every day, and there aren’t many sports where you can live it, take it to work, laugh about it, cry about it and argue about it. It gives so much to so many people, and that’s why it needs protecting at all costs.

So who can do it? Well, that’s what worries me. Unless you take your selfish glasses off, you’re never going to be part of a good solution for the game as a whole. As a player or manager, I was always accountabl­e for what I did with any club I represente­d. Now it feels like football’s owners at the top aren’t – and that can’t be right. Someone needs to change it, but as they’ve already proved, it can’t be those who are in the game.

Somebody impartial needs to get involved, but there’s no organisati­on tough enough to tell the Premier League what to do. They have to ask the owners of its clubs what they think for every key decision, so the system is completely flawed. Instead, I want to see an intelligen­t committee of people put together who can find a way forward that works for everyone in football – not just asking the people at the top who benefit massively and think that money is theirs.

So come on, government – take over. How can you argue with them?


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