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Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed And The Souring of British Football Paperback – 6 Oct 2003
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TV has transformed football beyond all recognition but, according to investigative biographer and historian Tom Bower, where there's brass there's muck. Broken Dreams is Bower's controversial account of how some of the sport's most high-profile managers and chairmen have been getting their snouts in the trough at the expense of their clubs and the game.
Focussing on the likes of Terry Venables, Brian Clough, Ken Bates and Harry Redknapp--and a huge cast of FA officials, club bigwigs and super-agents--Bower draws together threads from existing sources, with newly acquired information from over 200 interviews, weaving a compelling tale of vanity, greed and corruption at the heart of the football establishment.
Bower argues that the increasingly uneven struggle between the regulatory body, the FA, and the bullies of the gold-rush frontier, the Premier League chairmen, is at the heart of football's problem--the failure of the former to respond to the mounting evidence of dodgy dealing and corruption, and the ruthless efficiency with which the latter have exercised their financial clout. The result is a free rein for the murkier ambitions of some of the most publicly respected individuals in the game today.
It's hard to believe that the general thrust of Bower's account will come as a shock to anyone who's followed the sport over the last 20 years--though if nothing else he completely destroys the shrewd wheeler-dealer image of former West Ham boss Redknapp. What Bower brilliantly succeeds in doing is applying a forensic rigour to the task of sifting the facts from a mound of rumour and conjecture, and doing so fearlessly. --Alex Hankin --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
'A devastating book, an indictment of football that all fans should read and understand' -- The Times
'All fans should read this expose of football's financial secrets . . . a devastating book' -- Observer
'An astonishing job of investigation . . . At times he even seems to know what goes on in people's bank accounts' -- Daily Telegraph
'You really must read Broken Dreams. Tom Bower exposes the ineptitude, complacency, corruption and greed that permeate the game' -- Sunday Times
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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.
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.
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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