Opinion

Don’t be greedy. Level the playing field

"There should be a commitment to move 10 per cent from the Premier League's massive wad, at source, into grassroots sport"

Old Trafford

We missed a bit.

Or maybe they did.

Ahead of the last general election, the Labour party had a very good idea. They said that if elected they’d levy a five per cent charge on the TV revenue of the Premier League. That would then be reinvested into grassroots sport.

But that was way back in 2015, when elections were still relatively rare and manifestos didn’t have to be conceived on the back of an envelope on a weekend off.

Last week’s manifesto launches didn’t make quite such clear demands of football’s elite.

Labour scuffed around the issue, talking about fan representation at clubs and holding the league bosses to account over the five per cent. Tories focused on Brexit, which I suppose was a way of committing to take British clubs out of Europe early, something the clubs are already very strong on themselves.

The Premier League earns a staggering amount of money from TV deals. Including overseas rights, they will coin in around £8.5bn over the next three seasons. They bargain for the clubs collectively then distribute amongst them.

The League have argued they already donate a huge amount to grassroots sport. In reaction to Labour they said they already surpass the five per cent suggested. It’s hard to get absolute clarity on that figure. Is it five per cent of the British TV money? Is it an encouragement to clubs to work out how much they give individually?

Whichever way it comes, it’s not enough – nowhere near. There should be a commitment to move 10 per cent from the massive wad, at source, into grassroots sport. It shouldn’t be called a tax – as this may cause some to balk, and also cause problems around overseas payments – rather a future fund. It would mean that over the next three years £850m could be syphoned into areas that REALLY need it. And not just football, though there is a need. All sports.

The money may well be coming from football, but football is all-pervasive. It sucks the oxygen and interest from a host of other sports.

I still find it obscene that wheelchair rugby is getting absolutely no funding ahead of the next Olympics. Nothing. While rowing is getting £32m.

Football is all-pervasive. It sucks the oxygen and interest from a host of other sports

With money from the richest league in the world, wheelchair rugby could get all the funding they need. In fact, they could get more. They could go into communities and offer a chance for people with disabilities to get involved with sport in ways that may be impossible now. You could make this claim for many other sports.

At present, because local authorities value the benefit of sport, limited resources are being moved from other places, places they wrongly see as lesser value. Like libraries. Think how the football money could help spread the burden.

I love Manchester United. I cry when I’m at Old Trafford (pictured) and This is the One, by The Stone Roses, plays just as the team runs out. I romanticise the past, I look for poetry in movement and the joy games bring.

But I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the vast wealth they accrue. I’m aware of the arguments. They’re a business and they’re paying market rates to get the best. But come on – don’t tell me they couldn’t do without a small amount. Don’t tell me Wayne Rooney would flounce out if offered £225,000 rather than £250,000 a week.

This isn’t about charity, or misdirected anger at super-rich footballers. It’s about finding a way to do the right thing to build for years to come.

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