Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Revolution So Sweet and Sour; Football

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Revolution So Sweet and Sour; Football

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID BOND

ACCORDING to a new BBC series, they are the "visionaries" who transformed the game.

A small band of entrepreneurs who dragged football out of the dark days of the 1980s into the promised land of the Premiership.

Tonight The Men Who Changed the Game will highlight the work of boardroom "revolutionaries" like Arsenal's David Dein, Chelsea's Ken Bates and Manchester United's Martin Edwards.

It shows how they helped found the breakaway Premier League in 1992 and secured the [pound]300 million television deal with Rupert Mur-doch's BSkyB which fuelled the football boom of the last decade.

Although the money allowed clubs to modernise their stadiums and boost their balance sheets, the windfall also allowed men like Dein and Edwards to pocket small fortunes on the back of fans.

With the Premiership selling their exclusive live rights to Sky for [pound]1.1 billion last July, the bubble does not look like it's about to burst. But for every success story, there's a sob story. For every Ringo Starr there's a Pete Best.

With money and power concentrated in the hands of England's top 20 clubs, the rest of the professional game was left facing a battle for survival. The changes which swept through football following the formation of the Pre-miership has been accompanied by a growing gulf between the haves and the have nots.

Even clubs which helped found the new League were left feeling the pinch.

Crystal Palace, whose former chairman Ron Noades was instrumental in selling the game to Sky nine years ago, have just emerged from administration.

Luton, another club who nearly went out of business last year, were also instrumental in the breakaway but have never actually played in the Premiership.

They signed up to the League in May 1992, but were relegated on the final day of the season just weeks later.

Former chairman David Kohler remembers how his team needed three points against Notts County to book their ticket on the gravy train. Leading 1-0 they lost 2-1.

In November 1998, with the club struggling in Division Two and at the centre of a bitter boardroom struggle, Kohler quit following a hate campaign from fans which culminated in a shocking petrol bomb attack. …

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