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Has Wayne Rooney Killed Football?

Stoke City v Manchester United , Premier League 24/10/2010  Stoke City fans hold up banners aimed at Man United striker Wayne Rooney Photo Marc Atkins Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Has football finally jumped off the cliff?

In a week where we were treated to an utterly enthralling Champions League game at the San Siro and the emotional scoring return to the Emirates of Eduardo, the biggest stories were one player’s greed and the near collapse of a team that won the FA Cup three seasons ago.

Whilst Portsmouth where thankfully saved after Sacha Gaydamak saw sense regarding his repayments, the Wayne Rooney saga has left yet another stain on modern football and left me seriously considering what the future might hold for the game that we all hold so dear.

For years we have heard grumblings from fans about ticket prices and player behaviour but the last 18 months and the issues they have brought up must rank as some of the most disturbing times that the sport in Britain has ever known.

Even ignoring all the clubs in dire financial positions in the Football League and just looking at the EPL we are left with a disturbing picture. Leveraged buyouts followed by protests and high court hearings, billionaire owners nearly forcing the closure of Portsmouth and countless distasteful player contract negotiations and outbursts.

This great sport was once the people’s game. It was part of the ebb and flow of people’s weeks. Whilst there are many who still follow home and away, there are less and less ordinary folk able to do this. The increase in corporate boxes is one sign of where football is heading, and personally it is not a good one.

The players who played the game were people who the fans could relate to and whilst I am not suggesting that we need to return to those days, something needs to change otherwise the bubble is going to burst. Unfortunately the people in charge of the game can not or will not see this. UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Scheme does not go far enough. The FA has little power over the Premier League and the League itself has become too full of money to notice anything else.

Even the sensible suggestions of how to right the wrongs are thrown out of the window based on the fact that they would jeopardise the financial might of the EPL. A salary cap would be a fine first step on the road to a brighter future but it would mean players deserting the league and heading for the riches of Spain and Italy. The only way it would be palatable for the money men is if the rest of Europe followed suit and the chances of that are similar to the chances of me playing for England.

The game is tainted and it forces us all to consider the question that has been bugging me for the last month or so. If we had a choice, would we accept losing some of the top players to other leagues if it meant ours was a fairer, more sustainable one? Would you sacrifice the likes of Rooney and Yaya Toure for a league where each club spent the same amount on wages or at least had them strictly tied to their expenditure?

It is time for some radical thinking if we are going to save the game for successive generations. There are people now watching the game who honestly believe football started in 1992 and that footballers have always been overpaid and billionaires have always seen clubs as playthings. That in the wonderful words of Ian Holloway is “wrong.” What are we gong to do about it?

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  1. Matt Duncan

    October 26, 2010 at 9:14 am


    I am not just blaming Rooney, I am putting him forward as an example of what is wrong. I appreciate that there are any number of examples that I could use but this is the most relevant one for now.

    • Simon Burke

      October 26, 2010 at 9:25 am

      That’s why your title is wrong Matt. You open yourself up to that when in it you blame the death of football on one man.

  2. Mike

    October 26, 2010 at 9:07 am

    What is galling about Rooney is that he’s had the worst nine-month stretch on record for a star footballer: Two goals since March I believe; zero at the World Cup; horridly bad timing with his ankle injury; cheats on his hot wife with prostitutes (ugh); tries to bully cash-strapped United for better players, in essence telling his teammates they’re shit; and finally his agent pouts and says Rooney is out unless Man. U. ponies up lots of dough.
    So what happens? He more than doubles his salary.
    Only in America, as they say.

  3. Danny

    October 26, 2010 at 6:55 am

    I totally agree that over paid players are killing this beautiful game, but it’s just not fair to put all the blame on Rooney.

  4. Robbo

    October 26, 2010 at 4:18 am

    Completely agree with Joe’s comment, the Premier league is one of the world top leagues since it can attract the some of the worlds most talented players with ridiculous sums of money. Sure many players come to the Premier league for the prestige of it all, but without the sky high wages English football would not be able to stay amongst the worlds elite football leagues such as La liga and Serie A. I personally enjoy watching English football compete with these leagues instead of those such as the MLS.

    • Fernando

      October 26, 2010 at 11:19 am

      The dominance of any league is always cyclical. For a long period of time Italy was able to attract the best players in the world with sky high wages and inflated transfer fees. Then the bubble burst at the turn of the new century and England began to rake in the Sky money and use it to formulate a new monopoly.

      There will be a time when everyone goes back to Italy. Don’t forget Barca and Madrid aren’t exactly well run organizations themselves.

  5. Dave

    October 26, 2010 at 3:39 am

    I think the term is “Jumped the shark.”

    Also, and not to split hairs but isn’t the Frank Riebery scandal FAR worse? I mean that is an underage girl.

    As far as the contract stuff, it’s the free market. If Man U couldn’t afford it then they wouldn’t sign him, and if they can’t then shame on them and they deserve what they get. Let Real Madrid sign them. Sooner or later the market corrects itself.

    Also I don’t get this slobbering over the bossman. Screw Man U. The players only get a small period of their life to play and the process run their bodies into the ground so a bunch of fans can pretend they are part of it all and rich old guys can sit in their ivory towers smoking cigars watching their property run and kick the ball to the delight of the plebs that line their pockets. The Romans never left people.

    And naturally since we’d all trade out mothers to do it we tend to slag the players when they don’t have the right attitude, or perform or get a record contract. Rooney deserves to squeeze every single penny out of Man U he can because quite frankly Man U would have no qualms about transferring him or releasing him if he somehow never performed. It’s dog eat dog and Man U is the bigger dog. We should celebrate Rooney winning one for us little people. He’s the employee regardless of salary and he stuck it to the man. Good for him.

    Most of us are just jealous we can’t leverage our unappreciative bosses for fair compensation the way athletes or actors do. Also when was the last time someone threw a fit that Tom Cruise makes as much for one (crappy) film most athletes do in a year?

    You all are whack. The good ole days were never that good. They (the players of ye olden times when men were men *eye roll*) were indentured servants who made crap and limped around in the twilight of their lives only to be forgotten by most, broke and only comforted with memories of the old days or some job they can do off their celebrity. Now the tables are turned and greedy billionaires are forced to share the pie with the the workers and you all complain about it?

    Stop feeling people and start thinking. Rooney (regardless of his prickery) is *US*- the employee the working class stiff, and Man U is the man, the corporation and as Bill Hicks once said the man don’t give a *%$@ about you.

    The difference is Man U will be around in 30 years doing the same thing probably with different billionaires in their luxury boxes watching their play things play while Wayne Rooney takes 30 minutes to get going in the morning or has to take pain killers when it rains and he knees are killing him (gee does it rain much in England?). But at least he will have been fairly compensated and if he had smart people still wealthy unlike the ” ye olden days” players from times gone by…


  6. Joe

    October 25, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    I’m sorry but I just don’t get this wistful crooning for the “good ole days”. What exactly was different before big money other than some vague feeling you have about the “purity” of the game? Hindsight is 20/20. You might also remember the extreme hooliganism, or the hundreds killed in trampling incidents, or any number of horrible things that we wish we could forget.

    There’s great football played in dozens of countries, and we can follow it all with the advances in internet and television. I can watch EPL in the morning, La Liga in the afternoon, go to an MLS game in the evening, and catch an Australian game after midnight. What do I have to be wistful for?

    • C Dub

      October 26, 2010 at 3:37 am

      Sounds exactly like how I spend my saturdays and sundays. Well everything but the Australian part. I gotta draw the line somewhere. Oh wait, that’s the wife talking. Damn! HEY GAFFER…Maybe you can set up a poll to see how many people watch that exact scenario….EPL in the a.m., La Liga/Serie A in the afternoon and go to an MLS game at night, etc. etc.
      It would be interesting to know how many other football fans out there have what my wife calls the “sickness”. Thanks alot!

      • Joe

        October 26, 2010 at 7:50 am

        Yea I was actually making up the A-League part. Just trying to make a point about how much soccer is available out there on any given Saturday.

  7. SJ1621

    October 25, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Wayne Rooney is not the only one. After watching the World Cup, I say more dives by the overpaid players. I feel that all the overpaid players are ruining the game. What happen to the good, clean football that I fell in love with and play to this day. The big named players need to set an example for the young ones who are interested in the game. So lets stop the diving and get back to football that we see teenagers playing on the weekend in the park.

  8. RVPFan

    October 25, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    “Has Wayne Rooney Killed Football?” NO. Absolutely Not. Wayne Rooney is a brilliant striker. He improves United’s front line when he plays to his potential. He is a deadly striker and a potent one at that. So he makes the game more interesting and watchable. However, his antics lately has been nothing sort of ambivalent to die-hard United supporters. His smacks of arrogance downplays the love that United fans have towards the club. He makes those that came before him at United, (Cantona, Gibbs, Keane), to name a few who fought hard to win trophies, “ambition less”. So he has, in a way, killed United’s perseverance.
    Having said all that, he is in line with mercenaries in our beautiful game today in that he needs more money to play and that is understandable based one what some of the clubs are offering for players that have less talents than him. This is what our sports have come to. We can’t blame Rooeny now, can we?

  9. Myron

    October 25, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Yes, I may be biased towards United, and no I don’t agree with giving Rooney a big contract. I am an avid Chicago Fire supporter (though my primary love is for United), but I hate the MLS and the way the league is setup. I don’t think there is a league out there that does it right. I think leagues should have salary caps, but most leagues don’t implement them correctly and you still end up having teams that seem to dominate despite that. Even if a salary cap is implemented you will still have owners that don’t want to spend money and fans will complain. What I don’t like is teams that can spend limitless amounts of personal money in a short period of time to try and buy results, (City). As a fan, believe me, you wouldn’t want to have most if any salary caps implemented in one league and not in all leagues.

    • Joe

      October 25, 2010 at 11:40 pm

      I agree that the MLS system is far from perfect. I especially hate the conference set-up when it doesn’t mean anything come playoff time. But I do think it’s nice that fans of any team can go into a year thinking they have a shot at the MLS Cup. Can a fan of Wolverhampton, Stoke, Birmingham, Blackburn, Sunderland, etc etc really believe that they can witn the EPL?

  10. Matt Duncan

    October 25, 2010 at 5:29 pm


    I very much agree with what you say. I don’t get to watch much MLS but I appreciate the way it is run and would happily see a move towards this type of administration in the EPL. It won’t happen but we can all have our dreams.

  11. john sexton

    October 25, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    no he hasnt, football has been destroyed by money for a long time now, rooney is just a reminder of what this once great game has become. city and chelsea are just examples of this.

  12. Gary

    October 25, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    I find it amusing how quickly folks are ready to take up the banner of regulation and reform in the realm of sports entertainment but find the concept alien in the greater realm of geopolitics and economics.
    Football fans: Socialist in the stands, neo-conservative/neo-liberal everywhere else.
    You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

  13. Football Souvenirs

    October 25, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Quite how United are going to pay Rooney’s wages is beyond me, surely they would have been better off selling him for £50million than paying these wages?

  14. Joe

    October 25, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    People cry and moan over how money is ruining the game, yet scoff haughtily when anyone mentions MLS or other small leagues. MLS teams have a salary cap of just over 3 million. New York Red Bulls just completed a worst-to-first turnaround in one year. DC United, a traditional power, was dead last this year. Yet all you “real” soccer fans will deride the quality of play instead of celebrating the competitive parity.

    You can’t have it both ways. Either you have top-flight talent that will command top-flight dollars, or you have a league where any team can win but the talent pool is less attractive.

    Someone surely will bring up the NFL as an example of world-class talent combined with strict caps, revenue sharing and league parity, but that is not comparable because American Football is not a global sport. The second you start making stricter rules, another country with looser rules will get all the talent. Can you blame the top players for wanting to make as much money as possible? They generate millions more than they earn when you think of TV ratings, ticket sales, and merchandise.

    • jose

      October 25, 2010 at 6:49 pm

      dude, that’s what i been saying for years about mls. i love the idea that when the season starts anyone can win the mls cup, ohh except chivas u.s.a. lmao.

  15. Simon Burke

    October 25, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    The title of your article is daft but the sentiment within it isn’t bad. Footballers at the top end are overpaid but that’s down to those that run clubs and the game itself – by allowing the City’s and Chelsea’s to have money unrelated to football, the authorities have further divorced the sport from reality. If City didn’t exist (and perhaps Chelsea) Rooney would never have been able to get his huge rise. United had to compete with the ridiculous money those clubs can offer.
    Football has been going this way for sometime now and its very depressing.
    (Sorry City and Chelsea fans – i am not having a dig at you but the money behind the clubs and the effects its having).

    • Fernando

      October 25, 2010 at 1:44 pm

      I think this comment smacks of ignorance in due part b/c it ignores Manchester United’s near dominance of spending before Chelsea and Man City arrived with their new funded cash.

      Chelsea haven’t gone on a spending spree since the Mourinho days. The early spending was to stabilize a core of players which have been together for over five years now.

      When United overspent for Berbatov, which club exactly were United outbidding against? Wasn’t Chelsea and it wasn’t City.

      • dhtetse

        October 25, 2010 at 2:19 pm

        Andy Cole = record
        Christiano Ronaldo= i believe it was a record for a foreigner
        Rio ferdinand= record for under 20
        Wayne Rooney= record
        Juan Sebastian Veron= record
        Hargreaves= no record but over spent
        Berbatov= overspent

        So don’t blame chelsea or city they are just an after effect of the monopoly that United have been running. I’m not a fan of them but i highly respect them for the things they have accomplished, it’s just their fans who act high and mighty.

        • UpTheBlues

          October 25, 2010 at 5:21 pm

          Completely agree w/ Fernando and dhtetse.

          • Simon Burke

            October 26, 2010 at 9:23 am

            I am not a United fan 🙂 I only appear so because the club was
            held to ransom this week.

            United’s money though is tied to their business – rather than a person who has come in and pumped money into the club.

            What most people forget in this argument is wages – Chelsea havent spent.. as much.. in the last couple of years but they are still able to afford huge wages. They are paying above their means, much like City are.

        • Dave C

          October 26, 2010 at 4:14 pm

          dhtetse- I think Rio was a record for a defender, but he certainly wasn’t under 20 [yrs old] when he moved to Man Utd.

      • johnt

        October 27, 2010 at 12:03 pm

        City put a bid in for Berbatov on the deadline day that United bought him. I don’t know how you can compare United’s spending to Chelsea and City. United’s success started in the early 90’s when Fergie built a team very shrewd buys such as Schmeichel, irwin, kanchelskis, cantona, sharpe, hughes. in the following years as we know he brought giggs, beckham, scholes, the nevillies, butt through. it wasnt until after he’d won numerous titles that he bought big with the likes of v nistelrooy, veron, ferdinand etc but those players were at the club for years and years so he got good value, not like city for instance who sign a player and if he turned out to be a flop, shipped him out and spent another fortune. it just annoys me when fergie is labelled as a big money spender because surely after all the success he has had he is entitled to spend big, not like these sugar daddies who are the real culprits killing football

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