Player Power not always good for the game

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Football's reputation is at an all-time low. In an era where player power has become an ugly facet of the modern game, increasingly distorted by exorbitant wages and the clout that comes with it, I can't help but wonder what ever happened to the concept that no player is bigger than a club?

In the past month we have seen Luis Suarez and John Terry's respective racism storms come under increasing scrutiny from the world's media, whilst the return of Carlos Tevez to Manchester City has only added to the collective angst directed towards the Premier League and those that are a part of it.

It has taken four months for Liverpool to reprimand Suarez publicly - and that is only because he refused to shake the hand of Patrice Evra in last weekend's eventful clash at Old Trafford.

And even though Terry has been stripped of the England captaincy pending his trial for allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, Chelsea continue to stand by their captain.

As players have become more powerful, so the influence of managers has decreased - something that Sir Alex Ferguson, who celebrated 25 years at the Manchester United helm in October - believes has to be addressed for the good of the future.

"When I first started out in management 37 years ago there were no agents," he explained. "There was no freedom of contract either, so players were totally tied to their clubs.

"A change in that sense was inevitable, though I think that now the scales tipped completely in the other direction and I'm not sure it's good for the game."

With pressure on managers greater than ever in today's accelerated, results-driven business, the likelihood of Ferguson's reign ever being repeated elsewhere is almost inconceivable.

"This is a results industry and if a manager loses four or five games in a row then his job is under threat," he added. "But at United that scenario simply isn't possible.

"I'm in charge of all footballing matters, including our scouting network and youth teams. In that sense I'm very fortunate, because I can make quick decisions on who to bring in next to strengthen the squad and where to get them from."

Andre Villas-Boas is the latest high-profile manager whose job is on the line, thanks to an apparent player revolt at Stamford Bridge. The Portuguese tactician only arrived in west London in June, and was brought in as a long-term appointment to build a successful future.

The problem at Chelsea is the power balance is all wrong, and has been for some time. Roman Abramovich has injected close to £1billion into the club since assuming control in 2003, and so feels he is entitled to run things however he chooses.

But while a billionaire's whim may be a vital asset in amassing a fortune, such short-term vision is incompatible with the longevity in planning required for a football club to stay at the top. Player power has contributed to that imbalance, and as managers have come and gone, the same dressing room leaders remained, and their influence has continued to grow.

Going back to the Carlos Tevez saga – it’s an issue that epitomises everything that is wrong with football's current climate - the Argentine's recent comments about being "treated like a dog" shows a complete lack of respect for his club and his manager. The fact that there isn't even a whiff of remorse for his self-imposed exile only makes matters worse.

Manchester City and Roberto Mancini drew plaudits for their strong-arm tactics with Tevez, who has alienated his manager, gone on strike, instigated legal proceedings and consequently blamed everyone other than himself for what has happened during an eventful few months.

The club’s reputation was further enhanced by their willingness to negotiate a cut-price deal to sell the South American in January, even though Tevez priced himself out of a move thanks to his astronomical wage demands.

It would have been a moral victory if Tevez was left out in the cold at the Etihad Stadium until the end of the current campaign, but City's u-turn to allow him back into the first-team fold has wiped them of any credibility.

Clubs invest millions of pounds in their community programmes and act with severity when fans step out of line. Now it's time to do the same with their undisciplined players.

Premier League

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