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Bloomer's column: Limitation of transfer fees

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-08-17 11:54:45

Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
— Steve Bloomer | 04/01/1924 —

Quite the most important administration event in football of recent months has been the announcement by the League Management Committee of their intention not to take any further steps in regard to the limitation of transfer fees, as they consider that there is no great desire on the part of the clubs for any such limitation. The committee further points out that the matters lies with themselves. I cannot help thinking that the Management Committee have not carried out the work and wishes of the League clubs. It will be remembered that at the last annual meeting a resolution was passed asking the Management Committee to enquire into the whole transfer system, and to make such recommendations as their enquiries led them to consider would be for the good of the game.
It looked to me as though the clubs would not tackle the problem themselves, but were willing to accept and to follow the advice of the Management Committee. This being so, I cannot see why the Management Committee should have taken the trouble of asking the clubs for their opinion in the matter. This request was made by circular, and only brought the replies which the clubs had made when they voted on this very subject at the last two annual meetings. This information was already in the hands of not only the Management Committee, but all the football world. The clubs and the football world expected the Management Committee to enquire deeper than this.
It was expected of them that they would delve into an intricate problem, and find the many anomalies which exists in the system. The players expected that the Management Committee would give consideration to their claim that the players should take a greater percentage of transfer fees. All these things together with the countless ramifications of a system which has allowed the power of money to enter into the game in a manner which no true sportsman can take or endorse are not to be considered.
The Management Committee says the clubs do not wish any interference. No one denies that most clubs — and mostly the poorer clubs — do not object to receiving huge fees for players, and taking the biggest slice of the money so received. But the football public and the players and the clubs which object to the power of wealth being unlimited in a national sport have sound rights in the matter.
I sincerely hope that there will be clubs which have the principle deeply enough at heart to bring the matter again before the next annual meeting. Only constant argument and reiteration will now have any effect. I cannot for the life of me understand why our football authorities can reconcile the payment of huge transfer fees with the fact that the F.A. will not allow poorer clubs to sell their ground rights in a Cup-tie. Some people will say that the League is not ruled by the same gentlemen as are on the F.A. Council. That is only true to a certain extent: in both counsels you find the same high authorities holding sway!
The F.A. declares that money has been known to "buy success in a Cup-tie." That being their declaration they have stopped the system whereby a team which has the luck of the draw could sell its ground right. The power of the purse has been curtailed there. I, for my part, declare that League games can be won by the power of the purse. I do not think Sunderland will disagree with me here, nor will Newcastle, Everton, Bolton Wanderers, and a few more of the big clubs with money to spare and to spend. Yet these same clubs may all be against the huge prices which have been prevalent in the transfer world of late.
They may but be doing what the other clubs say has to be done. The poor clubs argues that they regard their best players as assets. That is perfectly true: they are assets, but the greatest asset any club can have is a following of good, faithful, constant supporters. These men keep the clubs going, not big transfer fees. Just think what happens when a transfer is completed. The club which has paid a big price for a player has a largely increased gate, simply because there are thousands of people who go to see the newcomer in the hope that he is going to turn a weakness in the side into a strong point.
The club which sells the player has, for many weeks after allowing a player to go elsewhere, to put up with a much smaller following. They receive a lump sum for their player, but they lose it in installments at every home match. Nor can I wonder at this. Clubs which will sell their best players must be ready to lose the patronage of enthusiasts in the district. Football enthusiasts, wherever they be, have a right to expect the best football: what is good for one locality is good enough for another. There can be no football TOO GOOD for the supporters of a poor club.
I would like to see the poorer clubs come to a realization that League football is a national institution, and that if they cannot keep up with the pace which such a competition demands then they should not stand in the way of other clubs. The League should never make its standards those of the poorer clubs, or rather, of those clubs which do not provide the best football. If football is to be improved and if progress is to be made the League must strive after the ideal. Because Third Division clubs do not wish for limitation of transfer fees — simply because it would remove for them an outside chance of finding a good player and selling him at a huge profit — is no reason why the better class clubs should have a millstone hung around their necks.
I could quote numerous cases where some of our leading football legislators have lectured club supporters on their responsibilities. They have been told that they are the back-bone of the club, and that unless their support is given freely and constantly the clubs must go down. Yet never a word about the responsibility of the club to its supporters. Sell a favourite player — let an idol of the crowd go elsewhere, but roll up in your thousands to see the reserve man fill his shoes!
I have been in for over thirty years, and so long as I can remember there has been another cry of the players — that they do not receive full recognition of their talents. There are maximum wages and unlimited transfer fees. There is never a mention of unlimited wages — payment according to ability — or of sharing the unlimited fees in a fair and just manner with the players that have made that fee worth the paying. No, all along it is the clubs that take the money — not the rich clubs, mind you, but the poorer clubs.
The rich clubs buy because for them it is a good investment. They quickly get the money back in bigger gates. The poorer clubs sell because they believe it is the only way in which they can keep their heads above water. And the player — well. I never yet knew a player to refuse £500 when he knew perfectly well that he hadn't a ghost of a chance of receiving anything more. Don't blame the players and the men in the street for the transfer system: they are not the inventors.