Saturday 24 February 2018

In football - There's no business like dough business

'Perhaps the micro-fus about Phil Neville's comments concerning Tomas Rosicky was a reminder that so many say so little that anything beyond the bland becomes noteworthy'

Dion Fanning

The super-rich have had another bad week with the Greeks raising some profound objections to how the world has been run while elsewhere things have become perilous indeed for the merely wealthy.

Maybe the most staggering aspect of the news that Danny Murphy was one of those former footballers facing a £2.5m tax bill was the statement in one report that he was earning six figures annually from the BBC in his role as a pundit.

This may be his most noticeable achievement in this field. Murphy should not be singled out as he's not the only one who manages to say nothing as an analyst. It is a trend that must have been embraced within the BBC if the presence of Jermaine Jenas on the screens has any significance although, if his analytical contributions are an indication, it probably has no significance.

Perhaps the micro-fuss about Phil Neville's comments concerning Tomas Rosicky was a reminder that so many say so little that anything beyond the bland becomes noteworthy.

When Alan Hansen retired from Match of the Day, some were mocked for pointing out how good Hansen was at one time and how he would be missed. The endless trains of the anonymous which have followed him have enhanced his stature.

In time, Hansen will be viewed as a Charles Wheeler figure, a man of wisdom and sense who has seen it all. These days even the occasional appearance of Mark Lawrenson can seem like a visit from Jacob Bronowski, so brimming is he with gravitas and character behind his high collars. Lawro, in his melancholic downtrodden way, looks as if he is embarking on a mission to entertain, a real song and dance man who has a hangdog look because of his laments about what has happened to the business he calls show.

Murphy's reported six-figure BBC contract should be some help as he deals with his tax affairs but other unnamed footballers are said to be facing bankruptcy following their investment in an alleged tax avoidance scheme which they believed was a legitimate investment.

Footballers haven't always been as lucky with the quality of their advice. I remember hearing a story about a world-famous footballer whose career had ended in the Premier League era.

He was annoyed that he had lost a mobile phone and the cost the replacement was going to be more money wasted. "That's another grand down the drain," he said, speaking in the days when a handset might cost £50 if those matters weren't in the hands of an agent who made sure he took care of all his client's needs.

The financial advice to a Premier League footballer these days is unlikely to involve such unsophisticated hustles but there have always been people prepared to offer footballers direction in how to invest their money, even if the advice was not much better than an outrageous mark-up on the price of a mobile phone. Naturally, great wealth hasn't protected them from the dangers.

The nostalgists pine for the days when footballers travelled on the bus to games alongside fans but perhaps they will settle for seeing the players of their youth forced to turn up at grounds in some sort of ambassadorial role for the rest of their lives because they still need to find a way to pay the alimony having made some unwise investments in the derivatives markets.

One man who has been a force for good for Premier League footballers is Tony Fernandes, a wealth creator in the Premier League, a man who has made many dreams come true for many footballers.

Fernandes' appearance on the first episode of the BBC programme The Super-Rich and Us was an uplifting example of how one man has allowed his money to be a force for good. Fernandes was filmed walking out onto the Loftus Road pitch, the "hallowed turf" as the presenter called it, unaware that it was often a place where Junior Hoilett played so maybe it has seen more hallowed days.

Tony made a gag about the cost of the hallowed turf before explaining why he had put some of his fortune into a football club. "When you buy a Lear jet or a massive yacht, it's something for yourself or occasional parties," he said, making it clear that this was different to life at Loftus Road where the players only have the occasional Christmas party.

"QPR," he went on ". . . the feelings I can't describe." Tony continued, saying he'd rather be at Loftus Road than sitting on a "massive boat in the middle of the sea". Once again, and this was the point of the programme, we were forced to reflect sadly on the great inequality in our world.

Life, Tony explained, is about experiences and there are many downtrodden supporters at Loftus Road who have spent the recent past watching men like Hoilett, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jose Bosingwa who would understand what he means. For them the promise of a massive boat in the middle of the sea with the occasional party would be a welcome and even necessary escape from the experience that is supporting QPR.

They, too, would have feelings they can't describe after a lifetime walking down South Africa Road, even if some of them tried to describe these feelings to a couple of the players after QPR's recent defeat at Burnley.

Like these supporters, Fernandes is lost in the feelings he can't describe when he considers QPR. The club has been more restrained in the transfer window this month having, as Harry Redknapp helpfully explained a couple of weeks ago, "done their dough" a few years ago.

There are those who will have done their dough despite earning millions in the Premier League era. They will have enjoyed the occasional party on the massive yachts and felt feelings they can't describe, including one that it was going to last forever.

It didn't but life is about experiences.

dfanning@independent.ie

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