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banner Tuesday, 20 February, 2001, 13:09 GMT
The Men who Changed Football
Martin Edwards controlled the biggest club of all
Martin Edwards controlled the biggest club of all
The Men who Changed Football part one
BBC Two Tuesday 13 March 2100GMT

A new documentary tells how a handful of astute business men transformed English football in to a multi-million pound industry through backroom deals and clandestine pacts.

The Men who Changed Football charts football's rise from working-class game to money-spinning industry in which big clubs prosper and smaller clubs struggle for survival.

Merchandising, TV deals, and corporate boxes have made the top clubs rich and in return, they have raised levels of entertainment by importing glamorous international stars.

Arsenal's David Dein was one of the first to demand change
Arsenal's David Dein wanted changes to be made
In programme one, the series looks at football in the 1980s when the game was plagued by entrenched violence and dangerous stadia.

David Mellor remembers how the atmosphere at certain grounds was particularly distasteful.

He said: "I had to run the gauntlet of right wing propaganda. I'm talking about the far right here.

"As you walked into the ground every black player attracted the most dreadful jungle, monkey noises, bananas you know, all that stuff."

As the disasters of 1985, the Luton Millwall riot, the Bradford fire, and the Heysel tragedy, sent shockwaves through the country, plans were already afoot in some quarters to drag football kicking and screaming into the modern age.

Irving Scholar at Tottenham Hotspur and David Dein at Arsenal, were two of the men determined to change the face of football.

David Dein said: "I was voted to join the board and became vice chairman (of Arsenal) in October of 1993, and I still had my old business at the time and decided that I felt football was really a sleeping giant and had a long way to go.

"Particularly after spending time in the States and seeing how the Americans operated their sport, particularly American football and baseball and basketball.

"I felt we were light years behind and we had so much more to give as an attraction."

BBC director general Greg Dyke headed up ITV Sport
BBC director general Greg Dyke headed up ITV Sport
Greg Dyke, then head of ITV Sport, also had a vision, and was poised to strike deals which would revolutionise the way the game was televised.

But then came the Hillsborough disaster, and at once, everything had to change.

Chelsea chairman Ken Bates remembers the time well, and how financial instability was difficult to avoid.

He said: "The clubs sold their best players to pay off debts which meant that the club was that much weaker and then another bad season so if you like it was like a whirlpool, we were being sucked down.

"My philosophy at Oldham and at Chelsea as well is that you have to generate enough money so that irrespective of how the team is doing you're not forced into panic measures by destroying your team, you have to think long term."

In programme two, the series looks at how on the outside, football was riding high on the successes of England's performance in Italia 90, but underneath, clubs were struggling with the bills for building all-seater stadia following the Taylor Report.

Television rights were an obvious source, and a secret dinner between Greg Dyke, and the so-called "Big Five" football clubs, sowed the seeds of a Premier League.

In programme three, the makers look at the bigger picture since 1996.

How, since business success has been achieved, questions have been raised about the power wielded by players and their agents.

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