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Why Bother Playing Football Matches? Just Count the Money Instead.

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Can the news that Manchester City have sacked manager Roberto Mancini have come as a surprise to anyone? The coverage following Wigan's momentous victory on Saturday was dominated by speculation regarding the future of the two Robertos rather that sideshow that had just taken place on the Wembley pitch. In short, Mancini, deliverer of City's first Premiership title, was destined for the chop, while Martinez, bringer of Latics' first major piece of silverware, was heading to Everton.

Apparently.

Football journalists never let the facts get in the way of a story, so they will be pleased they got this one half-right. Martinez's departure, regardless of what happens in terms of Wigan's Premiership survival, seems much less likely.

This is the man who who showed little desire previously to take control of the two other members of the erstwhile 'Big Five' languishing outside the Top Four. Next term Wigan can look forward to European competition, something David Moyes failed to deliver with Everton's best team in a generation.

This kind of speculation occurs because the football media are obsessed with money and believe that everyone else is too. Achievement is now measured exclusively in pounds sterling. Witness the fact that the comparative cost of the two sides in Saturday's final was trotted out by every news outlet and, with victory fresh, that Martinez, Dave Whelan and an assortment of players were asked repeatedly whether they'd swap their success for Premiership survival. (In the next breath the same journalists were bemoaning the fact that the FA Cup has lost its value).

Next week, we will see the Championship play-off between Watford and Crystal Palace billed as a £60m/£75m/£90m match "worth far more than the FA Cup". Elsewhere qualification for the Champions' League will quantified in terms of gross revenue.

With that in mind, why wouldn't Martinez move where the money is? Or are we to believe the man simply interested in football rather than finance?

The oligarchs running the biggest clubs would find that hard to understand. They are accustomed to being able to buy whatever they want. This Premiership 'elite' resemble punters in a Montecarlo Casino, chucking £100m on black every evening; sacking the man who placed the bet for them if they lose and applauding their own brilliance when their number inevitably comes up.

There is so little to choose between the sports pages and financial pages, one would be forgiven for thinking that money's all that matters The media is culpable in this, but the FA, noble guardian of the game, is doing very little to disabuse us of that fact either.

Tucking the FA Cup Final neatly away at 5.15pm on the penultimate weekend of the season was by no means the most ignominious decision this august body has taken recently.

Every football fan, who professes to love the sport should spare a thought for Doncaster Belles and heed this chilling tale which suggests a deeply unpleasant future in which money really is all that matters.

Doncaster Belles are one of the leading lights of Women's football. Founder members of the Women's Premier League in 1991, Belles won the inaugural title with a 100 percent record. They have remained in the division ever since: a constant feature. Or at least they were until 26th April, when they were summarily demoted after just one game of the current season.

Doncaster's ejection from the Women's Super League has nothing to do matters on the pitch. They weren't relegated. In fact Belles have never finished bottom of the league; that dubious accolade has gone to Liverpool for the past two seasons.

Inevitably it has everything to do with money, yet this is not the familiar story of a badly run club falling into administration because of its owner's hubris. Completely solvent, Belles are well-run, their ground is the best in the league with crowds well above the average.

No, the reason Belles won't be in the top division next year is because the FA don't want them there. Their place has been given to Manchester City instead: a team that has never played at the top level before, but one you may have heard of. Instead, Belles will play in a newly formed second division.

There were no reasons provided. The announcement, handled typically with all the class of sacking by text message, was made via a terse press release listing the teams in the two divisions, with a note stating that no further comment would be made.

Belles could win the league and they would still be relegated. To put this decision into context, it's like bouncing Manchester United into the Championship, but providing no explanation for the decision.

Manager John Buckley was understandably dismayed, "The timing of the FA's decision is embarrassing. It's completely unprofessional... I've struggled to come to terms with it ... My players are complete professionals and will still battle to the end, it's just devastating for them and I'm pretty sure this decision has just come down to money."

It's hard to disagree.

Here's an idea for the FA. Why not finish the league and then penalise the team that finishes bottom by dropping them into the lower division? I appreciate it's a radical idea, after all there's a chance one of the wealthy clubs might not survive, but it might make the game more interesting. We could call it 'relegation'.

It's time we remembered what clubs are playing for. Arsenal, Spurs, Man City, Liverpool and Everton have won nothing again. Chelsea could also wind up potless. Wigan will probably get relegated, but what will people remember in 10 years time? The fact they avoided relegation in 2013 or the fact that they won the cup? Do Everton fans look back on the side that finished fourth in 2005 with the same affection as the side that won the FA Cup in '95? There can only ever be one winner. The rest can count the money.


Project Sunshine: How The Sun Can Help Science to Fuel and Feed The World by Steve McKevitt and Tony Ryan is published by Icon Books, priced £16.99.


If you enjoyed this article, you'll probably like Everything Now, also written by Steve McKevitt and published by Route Publishing, priced £8.99.


If you're not sure, you can always download the podcast first A Drink with Steve McKevitt it's free as well