Recent dealings are so refreshing

In 1977 Pelé entitled his autobiography My Life and the Beautiful Game. The phrase 'beautiful game' has now entered common parlance as summing up all that is good about our national sport.

In 1977 Pelé entitled his autobiography My Life and the Beautiful Game. The phrase 'beautiful game' has now entered common parlance as summing up all that is good about our national sport.

But in the intervening years, with Sky's millions distorting fair competition and the financial gap between the Premier League and the Football League becoming an almost unbridgeable chasm, the nature of the industry seems to have changed forever. In 2004, David Conn wrote his damning indictment of the current state of the game: The Beautiful Game? Searching for the Soul of Football, a book that scratches below the shiny surface of the Premiership to lay bare a story of greed and incompetence throughout the industry.

The halcyon days of football being a game played by people on wages not too dissimilar from those earned by most supporters, were consigned to the dustbin of history long, long ago. January 1961 saw the country's footballers, led by Jimmy Hill, threatening a players' strike over the abolition of the maximum wage. Hill insisted the England squad would strike if the wage cap of £20 per week were not lifted, which it duly was.

In those days, the average wage in England was around £10 per week. Given that the average weekly wage today is just over £400 per week, it is the equivalent of Ronaldhinho, Andrei Shevchenko, David Beckham et al earning a thoroughly respectable £40,000 per year - rather than figures in the millions that most of us can only dream about.


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If you read the popular press, you could be forgiven for believing that today's football world is a gaudy, money-orientated business, revolving around superstar players (and, in the case of the England squad, their wives and girlfriends), and having less to do with local communities than with fast cars and immoral agents.

Certainly the many millions of pounds swilling round at Chelsea have not helped the situation. When selling players, it seems that there is one price for Premier League clubs, and quite another one for Chelsea. There is seemingly no limit to Roman Abramovich's appetite to spend whatever it takes, with Chelsea recording losses last year of £140m, the biggest in football history, and comfortably dwarfing their previous year's losses of £88million.

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And with a number of agents recently being charged with breaches of Football Association rules, ordinary supporters could be forgiven for thinking that there are simply no good guys left in the world of football.

Against this background then, it is extremely heartening to have reported that Lee Croft signed for us despite being offered more money by other clubs. But the story does not stop there. The way in which Robert Green's transfer has been handled is a credit to all those involved.

Negotiations started early last week with Charlton Athletic over a potential swap deal involving their goalkeeper Stephan Andersen plus cash in return for Robert Green. I met with Stephan and his agent last Sunday in London to tell them about Norwich City and discuss Stephan's salary expectations. And despite negotiations that lasted several days, between Charlton, Stephan's agent, and ourselves, no agreement could be reached.

When it became clear, on Monday afternoon, that the move would break down for financial reasons, that gave West Ham the opportunity they needed to come in and agree a quick and straightforward deal. And by Tuesday evening, all terms had been agreed, with the results of Robert's medical coming through yesterday, and Robert's transfer being completed by lunchtime.

All fairly routine stuff, you might think. But for so many people to have been involved, for everyone to have behaved in an ethical and businesslike manner - that is rare indeed in today's ruthless world of football business.

I would like to put on record the club's sincere thanks to Robert for his massive contribution to Norwich City Football Club. I am sure that no one begrudges him his move back to the Premier League. He is a model professional, a credit to his profession and, frankly, a thoroughly likeable man. Robert, our very best wishes go with you for your England career and your time at West Ham.

But, I would also like to publicly thank Charlton, West Ham, Robert Green and his agent Andy Evans, for their straightforward, open and fundamentally decent way of behaving at all times throughout the transfer process.

At a time when there are so many things wrong with our national game, to be able to deal in such an honest way with so many different people at what is typically a fairly fraught time, is unusual indeed. The old Norfolk saying "people in Norfolk do things different" perhaps applies equally to Norwich City Football Club - in the nicest possible way of course!

On The Ball, City!

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