Craig Salmon's soapbox - football needs to work as one to remain strong

I remember a few years ago, pub landlords and bar managers in my home town sought the help of the council to bring about a change in the drinking culture.

Thursday, 30th April 2020, 11:45 am
Match action from Chorley's clash against FC Halifax Town at Victory Park from this season Photo: Stefan Willoughby

Worried about the harm the new ‘open all hours’ licencing laws – introduced by the Labour Government of the time in 2005 – were having on the town centre night-time economy, the pub trade asked their local councillors to intervene.

Keen to see a return to the old-style closing time hours of 11pm, with the option of a 2am extension which would, it was hoped, bring about a boost in nightlife vibrancy – and profits – a group of pub landlords joined together to implore the council to pass a by-law.

However, the local council responded by asking the pubs to simply police themselves and reach a joint agreement over closing times.

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Unfortunately, concerns that some traders would stay rogue and remain open long into the night – thus breaking the agreement – a consensus could not be reached among the local industry and the status quo remained in place.

A case of self-interest winning the day over the greater good?

A similar scenario could be described in football where the self-interests of clubs comes way ahead of what is best for the wider game.

The race for promotion, success, titles and cup victories has led to spiralling player wages and eye-watering transfer fees – and let’s not forget the agents and their remuneration.

It’s a situation which has cost once-proud clubs their existence –Bury anybody? – while other clubs have been driven to the brink, like Bolton.

Let’s not forget the sobering detail for all PNE fans. Last season the club spent more – a lot more – on wages than income generated, 143% in fact.

A perfect illustration of the vital contribution owner Trevor Hemmings continues to make.

The fact is football is a strange phenomenon.

The club which you support from basically birth is part of your identity for life and Hemmings perhaps feels it’s his duty to help keep the ‘proud’ in Preston and ensure they continue to be a force to be reckoned with.

Ken Wright – chairman of part-time Chorley, who operate in the National League – which is the top flight of non-league football – last week described wages in the Premier League as immoral.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe footballers at the highest level should be handsomely rewarded.

They are icons to many and have worked hard to get to where they are. In many ways, you can’t really blame them for taking what’s on offer.

But when you hear stories about weekly wages being in their hundreds of thousands per week, then I think the numbers have gone too far.

Wright suggested the coronavirus pandemic – which has brought the football season to a shuddering halt – may cause a re-set within the game financially.

I think the beauty of football certainly in this country is its pyramid system and the strength of it.

How many other countries can boast four professional divisions , plus a vast semi-professional non-league and amateur structure?

The Premier League should perhaps remember it has a formidable foundation underneath it which needs protecting.

The notion of playing games behind closed doors has been mooted to get this season finished.

But imagine that? No atmosphere, no singing, cheers or boos. A perfect illustration of just how important the supporters are to the game.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see in future grounds packed to the rafters because admission charges were reasonable, the pies were priced at a quid or so and children’s merchandise did not cost parents an arm and a leg.