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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 January, 2005, 18:20 GMT
The not so beautiful game
By Simon Austin

The Beautiful Game: Searching for the Soul of Football by David Conn
A fantastic book, superbly researched and well written

You could be forgiven for thinking English football is in the rudest of health.

The top clubs make millions every season, its biggest stars are richer and more famous than ever and they play in front of huge crowds at state-of-the-art stadia.

But in his outstanding book, "The Beautiful Game: Searching for the Soul of Football", David Conn scratches beneath the shiny surface of the Premiership to reveal a very different picture.

He sets out to ask why, when the Premiership has become wealthier every season, 36 of the Football League's 72 clubs have been insolvent at some point since 1992.

And in doing so, he uncovers an astonishing tale of greed, incompetence and acquiescence.

Conn, an investigative journalist for The Independent newspaper, tells the astonishing stories of some of the clubs that have gone to the wall.

He leaves no stone unturned as he examines the unsavoury business practises and people who have taken clubs for all they are worth.

The ¿rich benefactor¿ who arrived at a club promising to save it and turned out to owe millions is just one of many examples Conn details.

The author speaks to the fans, players, managers and chairmen at the centre of these stories.

And although the message is often depressing, he writes with great flair and humour.

At the heart of the book is a powerful message, of how football can become a great power for good if only it is reorganised to distribute its wealth in a fairer and more constructive way.

It's a compelling story and one guaranteed to make you look at the "beautiful game" in a very different way.

The Beautiful Game: Searching for the Soul of Football by David Conn Yellow Jersey Press, £12, ISBN 0-224-06435-5

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