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3.9 out of 5 stars
25
Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed And The Souring of British Football
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on 23 January 2014
A friend said to me: "If you think The Secret Footballer was shocking, you should Read Broken Dreams". And so I did. Now my view of certain people in the English game has been changed forever. Controversial as it may be, Broken Dreams is an eyeopener to some of the shenanigans going on in English football. It is not nice, but the book makes you think - and that is not a bad thing.
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on 17 April 2016
excellent book
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on 1 March 2017
An interesting and worrying read.
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on 18 March 2016
Excellent book. Tom Bower pays brilliant attention to detail as he fearlessly unravels the corruption that has besotted football completely.
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on 21 July 2004
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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on 8 March 2003
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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on 11 March 2007
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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on 8 November 2010
The author exposes a lot of the financial shenanigans that are sadly prevalent in football.
He is very good writer and most of the research seems top notch.
It is amazing just how much money goes to Agents seemingly for not doing very much. In an industry where it is very difficult to provide a true and fair price of the assets ( top football stars) it is probably very difficult not to have rampant dishonesty and a culture of bungs.

The bits on Harry Redknap are good. He is never really directly accused of anything specific but his vast wealth is disclosed and compared to the relatively much smaller amounts that he was actually earning.

It can get a bit repetitive as many of the incidents are pretty similar to each other . At the end I couldn't help but feel that the football authorise can't be bothered about dealing with all this as they are highly compromised . Mangers, players, football scouts chief execs of clubs etc have all seen their salaries vastly increase. It is the loyal fans that are suffering. The vast increase in the costs of match tickets seems to be mostly going to enrich all of these people involved in this culture of greed.
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on 23 August 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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on 11 July 2007
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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