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Zone Owner ⭐
Staff member
Oct 25, 2006
In today's Mail on Sunday by Chris Powell.

Overpaid, out of touch and irresponsible: PFA chairman Chris Powell gives his damning verdict on the worst of today's millionaire footballers.

After almost a quarter of a century as a professional footballer, Chris Powell will this afternoon say goodbye to the only job he has ever known.

When Leicester, his eighth and final club, face Middlesbrough in the final match of the regular Championship season, Powell, the 40-year-old chairman of the players' union, will make the 774th and - barring a playoff injury crisis - the last appearance of a career which has seen him find friends wherever he has gone.

While new horizons beckon, his commitment to his trade remains undiminished. 'I still get the same buzz from training and I've worked hard to maintain myself,' says Powell, who began as a trainee with Crystal Palace in 1987. 'The average career of a footballer lasts eight years, so I've had three of them, one after the other. I must have timed my tackles well.

'It's been amazing, from England caps to the chairmanship of the Professional Footballers' Association and playing at some wonderful clubs. I'll always be linked to Charlton and I love the place dearly but I've learned something from everywhere I've been.

'I'll always look at everything I do through the eyes of the 12-year-old Chris Powell, who first fell in love with the game. My Mum always says, "The little boy from Tooting did all right, didn't he?" And she's right, I did.'

Powell remains, unashamedly, one of football's enthusiasts. But his love of the game is tempered by anxiety over the excesses of some of those involved at the highest level and by concern for the future. His fears are forged on the back of his enduring career and his stewardship of the PFA. And, ignoring the rose-tinted view of many in football, Powell argues, with honesty and passion, that the game is in crisis - and that at the heart of that crisis is money.

'This is a one-off generation of footballers,' he says. 'If you're a Premier League player at the height of your powers and in the middle of your career right now, you're getting paid more money than any footballer ever will be. It won't last - it can't.'
Powell believes the main casualty of the wealth enjoyed by the privileged few is the reputation and public perception of the whole profession.

Having played through an era in which footballers moved from the back pages to the front with increasing regularity, the changes he has witnessed concern him.

His time at the PFA may be coming to an end, but Powell remains dedicated to representing the interests of the lower league players, while accepting that the actions and excesses of some in the Premier League have unfairly tarnished them.

'When people say to me, "It's not the game I used to enjoy, the players aren't in touch with the common man and they don't care", I don't like hearing it,' he says.

'I understand why they say it, though. I don't expect players to carry their boots to the ground on the bus or go down the pub after a game and buy everyone a drink but they need to remember that they're lucky.
Tom Hicks and George Gillett

Money can't buy you love: As Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have discovered

'The humility and integrity of the game are being lost. We have players earning six times the national yearly wage every single week, without living up to their responsibilities. It's no wonder people have fallen out of love with footballers, and that's a serious problem for the game. The appearance of the WAGs and all that sort of stuff tipped the balance the wrong way it can be tipped back.'

Powell believes the problem extends beyond the excesses of some of Premier League's multi-millionaire players. He believes owners, too, have a duty to behave in a responsible manner, spending only what they afford to spend and not gambling the very existence of their clubs.

Football, Powell argues, may have become big business to some but at heart it remains a game. 'We should never forget that,' he says. 'It's the game in the world. Not a brand but a game. Nobody ever heard a crowd chanting "We're the greatest brand the world has ever seen" and they never will. People who call football a brand don't understand what it's all about.'

As Powell points out, football's financial lunacy may rest largely in its upper echelons but the damage is felt throughout the game. 'There are millions earned in one league and dozens of clubs lower down struggling,' he says.

'The way some clubs have run their finances is shocking. We've got a Premier League club in administration and a couple more to come. Leeds should have been the warning about chasing dreams and not looking at the bills. Instead, we've got people playing with clubs' futures and using phrases like "We'll be OK if we stay up". It's too important for that. I think some people have bought clubs because it's fashionable and that's a recipe for disaster.'

He believes that the answers rest with those in power who have been too quick to celebrate excess and too slow to check recklessness.
'We need the authorities to be forceful,' he says. 'We're seeing too many people owed money and I don't mean the players or their agents. It's a disgrace that local schools and the St John Ambulance have been waiting for money from Portsmouth, while others have been paid. When you see situations like that, it's not hard to understand why the public treat football with scorn.'

It is a culture he finds hard to understand and harder still to commend. He says: 'Some clubs are run like a series of big bets - put it all on red; if it comes up, you're rich, if it doesn't, you're broke. How do you learn from your mistakes if you make the stakes so big that one of them bankrupts you? Complete madness.

'Football isn't a business or a brand, it's part of our culture. When the businessmen who bankrupted your club are finished, they move on to another project but what do you do? What does a fan do? If you're a proper fan, you can't change clubs, can you?

'Historic clubs are moving closer to the brink all the time. If they were historic buildings, someone would be arrested for wrecking them. Because they're football clubs, we let them get on with it. It's wrong.'

Born while England were still World Cup holders, Powell's Leicester swansong has allowed him to prepare for a future career in management - a prospect helped in huge measure by his current boss, Nigel Pearson.

He says: 'It's been invaluable, like an apprenticeship. I get involved in everything behind the scenes and it's been a fantastic experience. If someone came in and asked me to manage a team now, I know I could do it.'

Few would bet against him. If the departure of Powell the player is, on many levels, a loss to the game, the arrival of Powell the manager seems destined to bring many, much-needed benefits.