They say that nothing changes if nothing changes so will this pandemic do some good for the game we love? It is said that the most dangerous phrase in the English language is to say, “We’ve always done it this way.” Change for change’s sake is also not a great idea but changes may be forced upon football as a direct result of this plague, and some of them might be helpful.
Ipswich Town boss Paul Lambert thinks that the balance of power may finally shift and the big fish might have to accept that they are taking a huge chunk out of the football cake. Speaking to The Guardian newspaper he said boldly, “I would certainly expect that to happen in the divisions below the Premier League, where the financial implications of Covid-19 are hitting particularly hard. We should see the reversal of a power balance that has swung the wrong way for too long, switching it back in favour of the clubs.”
And he has a point. Lower league clubs – including Ipswich are going to find the going particularly tough when the dust finally settles on this stop-start season. I fear that many just won’t be able to cope; and unless the Premier League or the Government intervene, a lot will go to the wall. Some of the smaller clubs in both League One and League Two were struggling even before the Coronavirus hit and in the case of Bury Town, financial shortfalls caused insolvency. Bolton Wanderers almost went the same way so, imagine for one moment, how many clubs are suffering now when there is no revenue coming through the door.
Lambert continued, “Players and agents will have to lower their expectations, and we will see fewer instances of football clubs being held to ransom over deals and contracts,” and what a breath of fresh air that would be! Agents are perhaps the most despised element of modern football and these under-qualified avarice individuals have brought the beautiful game to its knees. I would like to think karma might deliver its final verdict on their performance in future times.
There has to be a greater sense of equality in English football. The greed machine has steamrollered over that level playing field and now in England, the pitch is seriously lopsided. It cannot go on like this. It will be the death of football as we know it if nothing changes. And Lambert has a view on this as well. “People compare this to 2008 but the difference feels like the scale by which club owners have seen their own businesses decimated. Given owners are going to be hit in the long term, I really think it could be another 10 years before we get back to a financial level similar to now.”
Lambert sees more benefits too from this self-imposed lockdown. “Recruitment will change and that may well see more youth players becoming involved. At Ipswich, we have a talented group from U15s and U16s upwards. I know that if we can’t go out and spend a certain amount, we can bring these guys in and develop them. The supporters can relate to that. Mass gatherings look like the very last port of call but I think a positive knock-on effect will ultimately be that fans and players are brought closer together, and the atmosphere in most stadiums could improve.”
I genuinely hope he is right. Football needs to change and Covid-19 might hasten it. And I will end with another quote that I will direct towards those very big fish in a very small pond. Best selling author Rob Liano once remarked, ” You must embrace change before change erases you.”
Be warned Premier big boys. Be warned!