“The Beautiful Game?” by David Conn

There is no mention of Birmingham City FC in this book but it contains much that explains the current plight of the club I support.  The book explains how the clubs that were started in workplaces, schools and churches evolved into professional teams and why ticket prices have risen so much that many people can no longer afford to go and watch what used to be called the people’s game.It explores the reasons why so many clubs have been insolvent at a time when there is so much money in the game. It is well researched and well written by a fan who loves the game.   It’s a must-read for anyone who cares about football and wants to understand what has gone wrong with football in Britain.

David Conn writes about avarice, incompetence and disasters but he also writes about the passion and devotion of supporters.  So the book is both depressing and inspiring.  For example, the chapter on Bradford City FC includes an account of the fire which consumed the wooden stand and 56 lives, the club’s rise to the Premiership and their plummet down to the bottom of the League. The title of the chapter is Six Weeks of Madness, which is how the chairman described the summer of 2000 when, having narrowly escaped relegation, he spent big in order to consolidate their position in the Premiership.  The gamble didn’t pay off, they were relegated with some players on huge salaries and long term contracts, and this led to administration.  Like so many other clubs they had been dazzled by the bright lights of the Premiership and hadn’t devoted sufficient thought to the financial consequences of relegation.  This all sounds horribly familiar to me, as a Birmingham City fan. I just hope we don’t end up plunging down to Division Two, as Bradford did.

The Beautiful Game? Searching for the Soul of Football by David Conn was first published in 2004.