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16 September 2017

I must have spent £20,000 on TV subscriptions since the Premier League began

I have continued to fork out knowing only too well I am being taken advantage of.

By Hunter Davies

Since the Premiership began 25 years ago, I have blamed myself for the worst of the madnesses. Oh, there are loads. Not all of them my fault. Why are they such shite at taking free kicks? And corners? What do they do all week in training? I would sort them out, no question. Like all fans, I am a total expert and know what the manager should do.

The madness for which I take the blame is the madness of money, the obscene amounts now floating around, being gorged upon by those lucky enough to receive it.

It does not personally upset me that Harry Kane earns so much – he does not compared with stars at Man City, Man United and Chelsea. They don’t worry me either; those at the top in the City, the law, universities and media also get enormous fees. Footballers have relatively short careers and their salaries are just another reflection of the capitalist system. What does start me frothing is the size of transfer fees. How can Pogba be worth nearly £100 million, or Neymar £200 million?

Then I calm down and think: all my fault. Obviously, not totally mine, but shared with fans worldwide. If we had not been so daft and craven we would not have willingly handed over more money each year on season tickets and TV subscriptions. You can tell yourself your £1,000 season ticket is helping your club, but who are you helping by paying so much to Sky or BT? I must have spent £20,000 on TV subs since the Prem began, just to watch football.

What an eejit, so in love with football, and my team, that I have continued to fork out knowing only too well I am being taken advantage of. If all fans like me refused to go to a game, or watch one on telly, for just one season, the clubs would soon appreciate us more and change their ways. Oh, yes.

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Shirt sponsors depend on fans to buy their junk. Giving money to satellite TV companies means they can pay clubs fortunes for the rights to show games, which clubs then spend madly on players, assuming it will never dry up.

Hence all these years I have been stripping naked and flaying myself with ancient satellite dishes, hoping for absolution, before continuing my wicked ways. Well, it turns out this explanation for the mad money in football is bollocks. Everything has changed. I, and all the fans, are not to blame.

Since 1885, when professionalism arrived, rich individuals have always owned clubs, sometimes out of a duty to put something back, sometimes in recent decades to make a fast buck. Now foreign countries, or investment agencies backed by their governments, are increasingly becoming involved in leading football clubs, and apparently neither to make a fast buck nor out of duty.

The Gulf Arabs have been at Man City for some time. A Qatari investment group is behind Paris Saint-Germain and the purchase of Neymar. Qatar is the main sponsor of Barcelona and for the first time ever, Barça have a shirt sponsor, Qatar Airways. Qatar also has football interests in other European countries, such as Belgium, as well as in South America and Africa. The Arabs have now been joined by the Chinese, who were trying to buy into Liverpool a while back but now seem to have taken over the main clubs in the West Midlands – West Brom, Wolves, Birmingham and Aston Villa.

Why are these countries doing this? Because they can. They have money to burn. But even more because they want prestige before profit – to look good around the globe, attract friends, make fans believe they are lovely people, especially if they pour money into our particular club. Qatar hopes that by the time the World Cup arrives in 2022, its world image will be up there with Marie Curie hospices.

So I will now stop blaming myself. In fact, the opposite. It is because of me and all the fans who have helped create such a popular, entertaining, exciting product, loved around the world that this new money is coming in. So hurrah for us! 

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