Search for your sports books:


Read Review
<back to archive

Tom Bower: Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed and the Souring of British Football

Release date: 06th October, 2003
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

List Price: 6.99
Our Price: 5.59
You Save: 1.4 (20%)
Buy Now

The award for the 2003 Sports Book of the Year will be made in London tomorrow and not surprisingly, this updated version of Tom Bower's thorough investigation into football's top flight finances is the favourite to lift the £15,000 first prize.

The press release accompanying the book proclaims that, "Football is a sport for those able to survive a recurring but familiar nightmare", a comment which could apply to fans burdened with supporting a team going through a bad spell. Here it is meant to apply to the sullied state of football's finances and to the motley collection of owners, agents, managers and players who have siphoned off literally millions from the beautiful game, often in cash.

Bower sets about the task of identifying these less-than-loveable rogues, providing a remarkable amount of financial detail en route as befits a distinguished journalist, but this does not mean that the narrative is ponderous, nor too intricate. Such is its style and pace that, for example, summarising the intricacies of Ken Bates' financial wranglings on the British Virgin Isles prior to acquiring Chelsea for £1 reads more like an 'unputdownable' thriller.

Nor could Bower be accused of being over-selective when it comes to pointing the finger at those at the heart of football's financial shenanigans. Managers too are shown to have extremely sticky fingers and are criticised accordingly. High profile coaches such as Terry Venables and George Graham both joined the ranks of the unemployed as a result of sailing too close to a wind powered by greed; based upon the evidence presented here, neither man would have had any need to sign on the dole.

Similarly, and unlike many before him, Bower does not shy away from referring to Brian Clough's fondness for 'a bung'. When Clough's Nottingham Forest bought Alf-Inge Haarland from Bryne in Norway for example, the agreed fee was £2.15m, yet the sum which reached Norway was £50,000 short. Similar circumstances surrounded Teddy Sheringham's transfer from Nottingham Forest to Spurs when a brown paper bag containing tens of thousands of pounds changed hands in a motorway service station.

On one level, this work is academic in its coverage - providing cross references, details of source material and a comprehensive index. On another, Bower peppers the text with a series of one liners which are testament to his descriptive talent. Referring to the BBC's Greg Dyke as "an uncouth populist" or calling Ken Bates "a fearless pirate" adds both levity and accuracy.

Some of the information in certain sections of this book has already appeared elsewhere. In particular, the chapter devoted to the behind-the-scenes battles raging among Premier League chairmen as Sky was about to win the right to broadcast live football armed with a cheque for £305m was covered by David Conn in "The Football Business" some years ago.

Nevertheless, Bower delivers more of a strategic overview of events as David Dein of Arsenal, prompted by Dyke, continually urged chairmen to accept ITV's bid. Meanwhile, Sky's canny chief, Sam Chisholm, decided to target Will Wyatt, deputy managing director of the BBC with a proposal which allowed the BBC to screen highlights. The rest, of course, is history, but the Machiavellian-style approach of several chairmen accurately portrayed here serves to show the type of people who run our biggest football clubs in their true light.

In that respect, the football business is no different from any other, although the leeway afforded to some of the industry's employees such as Clough would not be tolerated in other sectors of industry. What Bower proves beyond doubt is that football is still a relatively untamed business - one where anything goes.

<back to archive


SBOTM Current Top 10

Get It On: How the ?70s Rocked Football By Jon Spurling
Read Review Buy Now
Time on Rock By Anna Fleming
Read Review Buy Now
41-Love: A Memoir By Scarlett Thomas
Read Review Buy Now
Anatomy of a Football Scout by Jon Cotterill
Camara Brasileira
Read Review Buy Now
Sweat: A History of Physical Exercise By Bill Hayes
Bloomsbury Sport
Read Review Buy Now
52 Ways to Walk By Annabel Streets
Bloomsbury Sport
Read Review Buy Now
Fit And Proper People By Martin Calladine & James Cave
Pitch Publishing
Read Review Buy Now
God is Dead The Rise & Fall of Frank Vandenbrouke By Andy McGrath
Bantam Books
Read Review Buy Now
Butler to the World How Britain Became the Servant of Oligarchs, Tax Dodgers, Kleptocrats and Criminals By Oliver Bullough
Profile Books
Read Review Buy Now
A Delicate Game Brain Injury, Sport and Sacrifice By Hana Walker-Brown
Read Review Buy Now

© 2004-2022 Sharks Media Limited.