By Jon Fox
As a lifelong Arsenal fan now in my sixties, who has been regularly attending since 1958, I have seen the good, sublime, indifferent and plain awful fare served up over almost six full decades.
When I started going, attendance in the North Bank cost just two shillings, well affordable from my pocket money. The thin programme was just 6d and though the team was mostly mid table or just above, the fare was good value for money.
Top players in those days earned what was regarded as a good salary of £30-£60 p.w and Johnny Haynes of Fulham and England was made the very first British footballer to earn £100 p. w, a small fortune for the average working man.
Jimmy Hill of Fulham and later Coventry City Chairman and Match of the Day presenter, had been instrumental in getting the players to earn far more by challenging and defeating in court the maximum wage. This was generally regarded as progress and freedom for footballers whose retention at that time were held by the clubs even after their contracts expired.
George Eastham, whom Arsenal bought from Newcastle United, challenged this unfair retention of players in the High Court in the early sixties and won his case, thus freeing footballers whose contracts had run out to be free to negotiate contracts with a new club without penalty.
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These two landmark developments changed the face of football completely and set in train the swinging pendulum in favour of players and agents power which is now so very complete and, I suggest, damaging to football and to it’s integrity and ethical running in todays world.
This long and increasing swing of the financial pendulum of power bled control from the clubs, certain of them run unethically by local businessmen, who regarded players as pieces of meat to be traded, but the majority of whom were owned by real fans as chairman who had the games welfare at heart and cared passionately for the health of our national sport.
These were the days before hooligans began to deface the games reputation; when opposing fans freely mingled without fighting and the nastiness and viciousness so common since the seventies, along with the growth of wages began to change the way football was run for ever.
The common working man could then afford ticket prices but now struggles with increasing difficulty to afford Premier League prices, money which lines the pockets of avaricious football agents and increasingly obscenely wealthy top level footballers together with corporate owners whose shares are vastly enhanced, making many of these owners wealthy beyond belief.
In conclusion, I believe the game of Premier League football is faster, technically far improved and more exciting than in decades but the business and administration of that league is little short of a national disgrace and one in which money, more money and yet more obscene money calls all the shots.