Monday 22 July 2019

Declan Lynch: 'Big Money meets Big Football meets Big Law'

Cartoon by Jim Cogan
Cartoon by Jim Cogan
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

It was only through football that I came to understand how the money-men destroyed the world. As a Liverpool fan, I didn't have to wait until the Great Crash of 2008 to become acquainted with the notion that you can be a very rich person without necessarily having any money, as such.

Indeed, a lot of football people were starting to see their clubs being bought by rich people who had no money - I mean, they might have money, up to a point, but in general they preferred to keep it for themselves, rather than lavishing it recklessly on the buying of football clubs.

For that they would employ magical vehicles with names like the "leveraged buy-out", they might borrow the money to buy the club, and then have the club repay those borrowings from its own earnings which, if it was a Premier League club, would be substantial.

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So there we were in about 2005, realising that this was how Big Football was working, and starting to realise that this was how Big Money was working too - all our lives we thought that if you wanted to buy something that cost, say, €500m, you might have to possess something in the region, of, say, €500m? Ah, what fools we were.

Soon it would be universally known that in fields far beyond football, the rich-guys-with-no-money were creating this vast illusion of wealth, where none in fact existed. This would not end well.

Now we are seeing a new symbiosis between the worst aspects of Big Money and Big Football, and at Wembley last week, it revealed itself in ways that were not intended.

Manchester City, owned by the limitlessly wealthy potentates of the UAE, destroyed Watford in the FA Cup Final. It confirmed what most of us knew already, that City are much better than almost everyone else, but something about the one-off nature of the Cup Final seemed to crystallise it in a most unlovely way. And as the lack of the competitive element started to make the match meaningless, we realised that this is how the world works - that as everything trickles up to the oligarchs, the essential energies of society will cease to function.

Now we've got rich-guys-with-money, indeed the problem with the rich guys who own City is not just that they are considerably richer than the rich guys who own Liverpool or Spurs, they are limitlessly rich as only oil-rich countries can be, they are ludicrously, crushingly rich. And still… still they're in trouble with UEFA, accused of breaking rules in relation to Financial Fair Play.

Imagine having all that money and still being accused of our old friend, "irregularities"? Imagine that...

Well, in truth, you don't need much of an imagination to see people of astronomical wealth and power having an unhappy relationship with the rules, but in City's case, there are accusations of a darker kind, of "sportswashing" - that the club is now effectively a PR operation working on behalf of a regime which abuses human rights without even thinking about it.

Which perhaps places in perspective, the right to watch the FA Cup Final between two teams, both of which have some chance at least of winning.

Yet that used to be an inalienable right, so for it simply to disappear last Saturday at Wembley made us aware that such things can happen even when everyone is watching. And as UEFA try to calculate if they can afford to ban City from the Champions League for a year, and face some gigantic imbroglio with Big Law, they must be relieved that City are somehow not playing in the Champions League Final next Saturday.

Maybe City themselves are not entirely unhappy not to be there, because each new display of their grandeur seems to draw attention only to the destructive nature of their infinite revenues, and the supreme cleverness with which they have deployed them in the game, UEFA investigations notwithstanding - from which we can deduce that football is so important, it actually becomes controversial when one organisation becomes too dominant. In most other areas of life, it is just accepted as a natural force, like the weather.

One is reminded of the fact that football of the American kind is considered so important, it is rigged like some socialist experiment, with the worst NFL teams of the season getting the pick of the young players for next season. Again in every other area of American life, the endless triumph of the already rich is regarded as a holy thing, whereas in sport it is understood that some form of equality needs to be cultivated for the greater good.

So the final in Madrid next Saturday will indeed be a football match of the ancient kind, in which both teams have quite a good chance of winning. Both of them are by any sane standard fantastically rich, but roughly in the same neighbourhood.

And like fantastically rich organisations in any sphere, there is moral turpitude to be found in them - personally I am opposed to Liverpool taking money from the Victor Chandler betting corporation, especially as so many Liverpool fans are Irish, officially ranked among the worst punters in the world.

But I feel this stops short of the UAE doing well out of the war in Yemen - that has no place in our game.

Well actually, it has.

Deliverance can come in many different guises

Dermot Morgan as Father Ted

When a new CD from those ace pickers, the Blue Light Smugglers, landed on my desk, I was transported to another time, another place — to the place from which the Smugglers take their name indeed, the Blue Light pub in Barnaculla.

With their Monday night residency up there in that lovely old tavern in the Dublin Mountains, the acoustic trio are just yards away from the site of a seminal event in Irish rock’n’roll history, the car park where, in 1989, Adam Clayton was busted for the possession of cannabis.

The fuzz were going to do the man for the intention to supply, but they settled for the lesser charge of possession of 19 grammes of cannabis, which the court was told could make “150 cigarettes”.

To which Judge Windle in the Dundrum courtroom quipped that people are allowed to bring 200 cigarettes through customs, but not cannabis. On this would hinge the question of whether Adam would receive a drugs conviction which could greatly damage his chances of entering the United States again, and thus the question of the future of Irish rock’n’roll itself.

It was the Windle Show that day in Dundrum. In a celebrated piece by Liam Fay in Hot Press, the judge was quoted thus: “I don’t know anything about these singing groups… but I understand they have some influence on children, youths, and — how long do they listen to this stuff? — until they’re about 30, I suppose”.

And did his great legal mind engage in a moment of inconsistency when he suggested that not only did he not like U2’s music, he didn’t even know who they were?

It was the lawyers who saved Irish rock’n’roll that day, the prosecution and the defence reaching a deal whereby Adam would be given the Probation Act, in return for “a very large contribution” of £25,000 to the Women’s Aid Refuge Centre. In court, when the number was stated, Paul McGuinness nodded his assent.

For me, the Blue Light has a different resonance, for it was there that Dermot Morgan brought me on a Saturday afternoon some time in the late 1980s, to do an interview — which, like many interviews at that time, would extend long into the evening.

It was not a good time for Dermot. He was in dispute with RTE, of course, and there was this sense that here was an obviously talented man who simply couldn’t find a way to develop the career that he should be having.

I recall at the time that Paul Hogan had emerged from Australia with a series that was being shown on the BBC, and I thought Dermot was better than Hogan, but just hadn’t found a way to open that door. What neither of us knew, that day in the Blue Light, was that two friends of mine, Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan, would open that door for him by writing Father Ted — indeed, they didn’t know it at the time either.

But it tells us that sometimes, deliverance is closer than you think.

Corbs and the cosmic joke played on Britain by the vengeful gods

It always eventually comes back to Jeremy Corbyn.

The official Brexiteers who have now destroyed Theresa May, as they destroy everything else, at least represent a major strain in British life — one that has always been something of a public menace, a conglomeration of the worst people in Britain. They’ve always been there, mainly in the Conservative Party, but they have always been up against some form of effective opposition, either from other Tories who have read a few books, or from that large entity known as the Labour Party.

Labour has had some disgraceful men in it too, but broadly speaking, it represented an internationalist frame of mind, and it would obviously stand against this garbage they call Brexit, which could ruin the lives of millions of working people.

And then came Corbs.

The Brexiteers must have seen him coming, because with the arrival of Corbs, this massive void opened up, where a decent opposition used to be.

Corbs is the appalling stroke of bad luck which has emboldened all those bad actors, the cosmic joke played on Britain by the vengeful gods. All his life, Corbs had had terrible opinions about the EU and about most other things too, but it was understood by all, including himself, that there could never be any circumstances in which these opinions would ever be tested on actual human beings.

It just gave him and other unhappy people like him something to do, as they blathered about a working class of which they had no knowledge.

And then insanely, he found himself in this position in which he and his handlers, with their boring, stupid objections on the EU formed during the 1970s, have given a free run to the most dangerous far-right movement seen in Britain since the 1930s.

It always comes back to Corbs.

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