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Customer Review

8 of 11 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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This review is from: Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed And The Souring of British Football (Paperback)
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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