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Month: November 2008

Match Of The Week: FA Cup Second Round – Histon 1-0 Leeds United

Three times they have been the champions of England. FA Cup winners thirty-six years ago. Leeds United’s mere presence in the early rounds of the FA Cup is a powerful symbol of how far from grace they have fallen in recent times. In contrast, ten years ago Histon were a village club playing in the Eastern Counties League. Their rise towards the top of the Blue Square Premier hasn’t been without concerns over their long-term sustainability, but FA Cup days aren’t for worrying about reality. This afternoon, on a pitch that was almost completely unplayable, Histon more than matched a Leeds United team that doesn’t, on current form, look terribly likely to make a serious challenge for promotion this season. ITV’s coverage of the match focussed, perhaps predictability, upon the fairytale element to Histon’s story, but this season has been seen more than its fair share of controversy for the club. Rumours started to circulate concerning the club’s financial stability after goalkeeping coach Lance Key was made redundant, and crowds have fallen as the economic circumstances have deteriorated. There was talk that they would have to enter into administration which were quashed by the club itself, but still the suspicion remains that pushing for a place in the Football League with a part-time squad may come at a cost that is simply too high to be worth it. Last...

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Tax Returns

It’s probably safe to assume that Donal Macintyre isn’t that much of a football fan. Not because he gives the impression of being someone that hates football, even though his previous dalliance with the game was an expose of the “Chelsea Headhunters” for the BBC. I say this because, if he was familiar with the peculiar way in which football finances work, he would have known that very few people within the surprised at the fact that football clubs sinking into a mire of debt are getting millions of pounds worth of tax money written off as they enter into Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs) to save off the threat of liquidation. Macintyre’s “shock” revelation isn’t that much of a shock at all. More than £25m has been written off by HMRC (for our foreign viewers, that’s the taxman) over the last eight years. No part of this is a shock. A CVA is a legally binding agreement between an insolvent company and its creditors to pay off a proportion of its debts and stave off closure. Creditors receive a guarantee of a proportion of their money back – money that would be lost if the company closes. The company gets a guarantee of no further legal action from creditors and the opportunity to get some breathing space to improve its cashflow and get its house in order. Forty-two football...

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France, England & The Future Of European Football

France and England have a complex relationship. Both are considerably more like each other than either would like to admit and, even after thirty-five years of European integration, any attempts by the French to dictate European political policy are likely to be greeted with honks of derision in the British press. This is exactly what has happened with (what now seems likely to be) a failed attempted by EU sports ministers to inject a little control and regulation into the way that European football legislates itself. As France began its presidency of the EU, French ministers called for a Europe-wide regulator of football finances. They would also like to see a ban on the transfer of players under the age of eighteen, to try and counter a trade in young African players which they regard as bordering on child employment trafficking. In France, an organisation called La Direction Nationale de Contrôle de Gestion (DNCG) oversees the financial running of football clubs. It places strict rules on the ability of French clubs to get into debt. French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his ministers are of the opinion that clubs getting massively into debt in order to sustain massive wage bills is a form of cheating, and UEFA’s Michel Platini is inclined to agree, although he has stopped short of offering support for the French plans to introduce a version of...

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Review: 1966 Uncovered by Peter Robinson et al

Some events in human history, a sage once noted, are so great that even those that weren’t  born at the time can remember what they were doing at the time. A large number of these events come, perhaps unsurprisingly, from the 1960s, when satellite technology first tentatively fired live television images around the world. Whether the 1966 World Cup Finals fall into this category is open to question, but there can be little debate over the long term significance of the tournament. Quite asides from the small issue of the albatross around the neck of the England team that the final result brought, there are the images. If there’s one thing that the 1966 World Cup finals has got, it’s iconic images. There’s that shot of Bobby Moore holding the trophy aloft. Then there’s that shot of Roger Hunt turning away as the ball almost certainly doesn’t cross the line. And a million more besides. There have been a million books on the subject but “1966 Uncovered” is different, claiming to tell “The Unseen Story Of The World Cup In England” and, if the book is anything to go by, what is remembered in the national consciousness as the sporting equivalent of an Austin Powers actually had more in common with the immediate post-war austerity period. The players land at airports that are shrouded in good old British mist...

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Scenes From Football History – 1982/83: How Fulham Blew It

From the mid-1960s on, football grew massively as a passive spectator sport. The realisation that football could evolve as a spectator sport for people that weren’t even at the match was a revolution in terms of the perception of the game. By 1983, moves for live televising of league football for the first time were already well in motion. By the end of 1983, the first Football League match to be shown on live television would have come to pass. Within a decade, the game would have been through its biggest crises and come out the other side towards a future that would both save the game and sell its soul down the river. The final season before this revolution – the last season, in many respects, of “old football” – was a strange one. Liverpool won the First Division by eleven points, and this came with a slump in their last few matches, after the title had already been won. At the time, the television set up was fairly simple. On Saturdays, each ITV region sent their Outside Broadcast Unit to a match and, in the evening, showed a regional show featuring their local match and highlights of matches from two other regions. On Sunday afternoons, the BBC’s “Match Of The Day” showed highlights from two matches. With Liverpool running away with the First Division championship, the television...

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