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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Football in the dock
Tom Bower has exposed what goes on behind the scenes in the less salubrious areas of football, greed, corruption, toothless football authorities and the pressing need for firm Government intervention are tackled by the author. As a fan of the great game, the issues that Bower has raised are of great concern and need addressing.
Banned directors in other arenas or...
Published on 8 Mar 2003

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting topic but tends to drag on in places
The likes of Harry Redknapp, Ken Bates, Brian Clough, Peter Reid, George Graham and Terry Venables all suffer at Bower's hands with detailed chapters exposing their willingness to use the cheap foreign players to make themselves a quick buck. In many cases managers are shown to have purchased players on the advice of an agent without any knowledge of the players ability...
Published on 11 July 2007 by Jay


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Football in the dock, 8 Mar 2003
By A Customer
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Tom Bower has exposed what goes on behind the scenes in the less salubrious areas of football, greed, corruption, toothless football authorities and the pressing need for firm Government intervention are tackled by the author. As a fan of the great game, the issues that Bower has raised are of great concern and need addressing.
Banned directors in other arenas or former criminals are capable to, if not own a football club are able to play a part in a club's administration. The chapter on Terry Venables reign at Spurs is an illuminating read of a period most Spurs fans would see as one of their worst periods in recent history. That the abrupt and direct Alan Sugar comes out well in the chapters is apparent largely due to his frustration at Venables "wheeler dealing". A real eye-opener, particularly the brown envelopes behind the scenes of the Teddy Sherringham transfer from Nottingham Forest.
Likewise, the chapter on Ken Bates, chairman, owner, tyrant of Chelsea football club is also revealing. Bower writes about Bates spotty track record as a businessman. Few would be aware of Bates West Indian business almost leading to local insurrection or his relationship with less than savoury business associates.
The battle of egos of Premiership League executives is amazing, you get the impression some of them would mug their grannies to earn a few pennies more. The same executives not only negotiate mega TV deals, transfers via less than trustworthy agents but also rip off fans through high priced match tickets and merchandising. Rather than work for the benefit of the game, the self-interest of fighting their corner - for the benefit of their club - is well illustrated by Bower. What of the fans?
The football Task force led by David Mellor, was led up a series of blind alleys and football as an industry was left almost intact, with minor reforms promised. That the game has escaped reform as a major business, employer and entertainment industry in the UK defies belief, though with the political infighting within Government circles didn't help towards the tough action required.
With the collapse of ITV Digital last year, a great number of Nationwide football clubs have had to face the financial consequences. Ipswich, Leicester, Derby, Watford, York, Barnsley have either gone into or have been on the brink of Administration. Whilst ITV Digital was the cause of most of the problems, some were self-induced; it would be heartbreaking for fans that have helped to save their beloved club to find out that others have "profited" from their activities.
If the football authorities do not ban, bar or adequately punish those who take bungs, falsify accounts or sell the ground from clubs against FA rules, then the Government should act. Voluntary regulation didn't work in the City and now the FSA a much more powerful body acts on behalf of the Government to regulate the key players in the market. Football, needs a similarly powerful regulator, in particular to look after the interests of fans.
Lets hope that there is some action by football authorities, government and most importantly the fans to make sure that our game is clean of the charlatans that threaten to destroy the great game.
Whilst the book is written in the form of an investigative best seller, rather than an academic tome, the author has done football a huge favour. Bower quotes some (not all) of his sources, as a mild criticism without linked footnotes it is difficult to track whom said what, which detracts from reading the book, hence the award of 4 stars.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting topic but tends to drag on in places, 11 July 2007
This review is from: Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed and the Souring of British Football (Paperback)
The likes of Harry Redknapp, Ken Bates, Brian Clough, Peter Reid, George Graham and Terry Venables all suffer at Bower's hands with detailed chapters exposing their willingness to use the cheap foreign players to make themselves a quick buck. In many cases managers are shown to have purchased players on the advice of an agent without any knowledge of the players ability. The chairmen were either too weak to do anything or were in on the deal themselves. Throughout it is the agents such as Dennis Roach and Rune Hauge who contrive to manipulate transfers to provide them with large fees.

One striking theme throughout the book is that it is not the foreign managers such as Wenger or Houllier who are bringing our game into disrepute, but rather the old school of English managers caught up in what is now inherent in the game.

To sum up, a good book however it tends to drag on a bit and get a bit repetitive. For that , I would rather blame the publisher than the author who could have laid out the book better.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars confirms what we already suspect?, 11 Mar 2007
By 
J. Mellor "stayleyvegas" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Non fiction book about the bung culture and corruption in English Football. Now 4 years old but the points raised are probably as valid now as they were then. The author has brought together many articles over the years which together with his own extensive research ensures a very enjoyable read.

He does an absolute number on Terry Venables and Ken Bates as well as numerous agents and the background, history and details of their dealings over the years are eye opening The fact the content was passed by the publishers lawyers and everything verified made me wonder why I had not seen even a small percentage of what he says in the papers at some point. There are a couple of chapters which held little interest namely about the rebuilding of Wembley and the politics involved in the FA and Premier League but nevertheless showed good research and he has obviously got into the inner circle somehow.

Reading this I wanted to become a football agent because the stories offered about agents making millions simply by inserting themselves into deals they have nothing to do with is mind blowing. It beggars belief that the clubs, players, chairman and everyone else involved allow this to happen and it raises the question that it is only allowed to happen because of the back-handers that are implied to follow.

However, other than publicly available information relating to bung takers (ie George Graham) he does not offer up any proof as such although reading between the lines the reader can make their own mind up.

Every now and again, we hear of rumours and see the likes of the recent Panorama programme and I think the vast majority of the population believe that bungs, back-handers and brown envelopes are common in the game today but football itself appears to close ranks when anyone gets too close. Unfortunately, the author appears to have got too close here and the elusive proof was out of his grasp. Still worth a read though because as usual, it is the fan's that suffer and until the football authorities allow outsiders to police the game and transfers are more transparent then the general public will surely continue to believe that the whole set up is corrupt.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars insightful, 21 Mar 2003
By A Customer
Like other readers I applaud as groundbreaking this book. As a lifetime season ticket holder at one of our country's smaller clubs I know my club has never had the money to indulge the whims described by Mr Bower but as a football fan I knew it was happening if not why. Now I do. Money, money and money. That is all these people know. Mr Bower declaims it need not be so. I wonder. As a football fan I deplore such greed but as a human being I know greed is omniscient. Can anything be done? Mr Bower profers possible solutions with the aid of his colleague Davd Mellor and some have validity. He is right to urge caution and to say it will be a long haul. If anyone doubts we should care this book puts them right.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Score-draw, 23 Aug 2004
Bower's book reveals football to be full of overweening egos, prissy little men who think themselves big because they can bluster better than others, bullies and cheats. It does this not through the cogency of the writing - which is patchy and fitful, it has to be admitted -- but simply because he had the courage to put down in simple prose accessible by non-followers of football as well as by devotees of the game, what goes on. His publisher's legal bills must have been huge to ensure that the book escaped libel actions and that his research was well-founded. The careers of the managers, chairmen and administrators he discusses seem to be founded entirely upon lying, cheating and dissembling
As a viewer only of football matches when there is nothing else on the television and who never reads match reports, I must confess to being totally bemused as to how any business marshalling this much cash,energy and devotion (together with being responsible for the death of so many trees for conversion into newsprint) can be so badly run. But that is the whole point of Bower's book: you don't have to be a fan to appreciate the skulduggery. It is simply an astonishing story of corporate greed, incompetence and ego. The writing could have been better, with a cleaner tying up of occasional loose ends, but to complain about the size of the cast of characters misses the point -- apparently everyone involved in the higher reaches of the game is at it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid, 20 April 2006
Bower's detailed and articulate account of how football is governed and who makes the important decisions should frighten football fans everwhere.

For too long football supporters have been treated as stupid and fickle. Obviously adult men and women spending ridiculous amounts of money buying replica kits appears to support the aforementioned notion. However, whenever football fans criticise the behaviour of managers and chairmen they are often met with the cry "well, you don't really know what's going on!"

Thanks to Bower, football supporters have been enlightened. Though many will argue that they knew already what was going on. Throughout the book Bower undertakes a painstaking study of the peculiarities of transfers. There is lots of detail, but those not football minded should stick with it as the reward is worth it. The machinations behind the bid for the 2006 World Cup and the patent refusal of the FA to rein in the Premier League are harrowing accounts.

Most of us knew that football has ignored, and at times encourage corrupt practices. Yet, because of the power of the clubs and players and agents most football journalists have been reluctant to tackle these issues. Bower has tackled them and left the football authorities requiring serious treatment.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars hard hitting, 25 Feb 2003
By A Customer
This is a hard hitting look at the world of football. Mr Bower does not pull any punches. He takes your breath away with his description of how much money people make. Managers and agent make many thousands of euros (Mr Bower is obviously a Europhil!) from transfers. Mr Bower makes no bones about liking the game per se and confesses he has never kicked a ball in anger himself and prefers gentler pursiits such as golf. I don't think you need to be a football nut to expose the sport. It probably helps if you are like Bower and don't even like the game. I do not agree with his conclusion though that even he could manage a club. Come off it, I say. It's not only about taking bungs! As for his suggestion that the game could be cleaned up if all transfers were administered by a government agency, I don't agree.. And in his ideas for improving the game as a spectacle I dispute that enlarging the goals is the way forward.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars sloppy, 8 Jun 2003
By 
Jon Driscoll (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
It is great that this book has been written and it is definitely worth reading. It highlights, albeit slightly vaguely, the corruption that seems rife in football largely as a result of TV paying too much money for rights.
What is very frustrating about this book is the sloppiness in terms of the clear lack of knowledge of the sport displayed by Tom Bower. Why the publishers didn't provide him with an editor who knows how to spell the names of prominent footballers and even fellow journalists is a mystery. It clearly weakens the book's credibility. You constantly ask yourself, if he is slapdash about the spelling of (for example) John Aloisi's name then are his figures to be trusted? Surely the vast majority of the people who will read this book are football fans who will find the factual sloppiness irksome.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Broken Dreams? - Fantasy Football more like..., 21 July 2004
By A Customer
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Having read some of Mr Bower's earlier exposes, I had rather hoped that he would do to the world of football what he had earlier done to such doyens of the seedy world of business as Robert Maxwell, Tiny Rowlands and even Richard Branson. The result, sadly, is rather underwhelming.
First, the good points. Bower is excellent at making sense of the myriad of scandal and financial turmoil that has dogged the game. I wouldn't say that he has simplified it, but he certainly removed the spin from the reality. As an outsider to the game he views the way football is run as a business dispaionately and is particularly good at exposing the largely non-sensical world of agents, who grab 5% plus of every transfer fee going - even when they've done little or no work. Why, one ponders, can club chairmen bot just call each other to sort out transfers like they used to?
Yet it is Bower's outsider status that most undermines the book. He clearly had little interest of the game before he wrote it, and developed little love of what happened on the pitch while writing it.
Yes, football can be a seedy world - but so is practically every big business. Lots of money has unquestionably been wasted by clubs, but it is too by politicians, bankers, bureacrats and so on on a daily basis. Footballs woes are never placed in any sort of external context; nor does Bower once make the link between the unbridled joy a goal or a win can bring, and what has passed off the pitch. David Dein, the Arsenal vice-Chairman, for instance, takes heavy criticism; but if my club chairman had frittered away a couple of million on agents fees and produced a team like Arsenals - well, frankly, I wouldn't care in the slightest.
His lack of knowledge about the football itself is abundently obvious and occasionally hilarious. Leeds United apparently bought Rio Ferdinand from West Ham after he had 'humiliated' Leeds in a 0-0 draw at Upton Park. Come again? There are plenty of assertions just like this, which bear no relation to anything any right-minded fan or journalist would state about a performance.
The text is also replete with factual and spelling errors. Everton's Duncan Ferguson apparently went to prison in 1998 for 'maliciously biting' an opponent. Oh yeah? Similar mistakes crop up every couple of pages.
Bower also sinks into gross generalisations of a whole variety of characters; and the complete disdain he shows to other individuals undermines any criticism that follows. How, for instance, can he be dispassionate assessing Ken Bates' business affairs when (without any sort of foundation or accusation) he intimates that Bates lied about his own upbringing. Who do we trust?
I don't think the book deserves to be trashed; but equally, I certainly don't believe it was worthy of any of its critical or commercial adulation, and CERTAINLY NOT the Sports Book of the Year Award. How a man, who obviously knows little about football as a game and apparently cares even less, could win such a prize defies belief.
Ultimately, only if you're interested in the murky world of sports business, and football in particular, it's a worthwhile read - but do so with extreme reservations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside the boardrooms, 10 Oct 2010
By 
Paul Tapner (poole dorset england) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Football in England has changed a lot since the advent of the premiership. And the amount of money that has flowed into the game since has left the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. And many of those who've tried to become rich getting poorer as a result.

But Football still remains, it would seem, a world where connections are all. Where who you know can really help. And where a network of connections will exclude outsiders and want to keep doing things their way. Regardless of how legal those practises actually are.

In this book, which runs to three hundred and seventy pages of writing plus notes and an index, the writer looks into the world of English football. And exposes many of these sharp practises. Otherwise known as the 'bung culture' where extra money will be paid to those who help transfers go through.

Divided into thirteen chapters plus an introduction and a postscript it first sets the scene as to what was happening in football in march 2002, then looks at how government initiatives to clean up the game floundered. It also investigates many of the major players in the football world such as Ken Bates and David Dein and Harry Redknapp and Terry Venables. None of whom come out smelling of roses.

There are chapters about agents and how they work, and the football association and how some of their grand schemes such as the bid for the 2006 world cup went wrong.

With photos in the middle of the people being discussed a full and fascinating picture emerges of a world that likes to do things it's way and where some people will go for all the money that they can.

Originally published in 2002 the short afterword updates events so it goes up to 2003.

This is a fascinating and illuminating read for football fans. And even if you hate the game you might just find it very interesting anyhow.

There is an amazon listing for a 2007 edition but I am not aware if that has been updated. New editions of this at regular intervals would be welcome, because the story has certainly continued since.
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