Paul Eastwood, Derbyshire

Paul Eastwood, from Derbyshire, explains what many members of the footballing authorities and media seem to have forgotten when it comes to the proposed PFA players' strike - that it will only be the supporters who eventually suffer, whatever the outcome...

Sweet PFA

Listening to PFA Chairman Barry Horne on the radio the other week, I realised the ignorance and naivety of the PFA and/or the players, with regards to the intelligence of supporters.

He claimed that the vast majority of the public understood the reasons for and, in not so many words, 'backed' their possible strike action.

He seemed to think that the public are easily influenced by comments such as those made by some journalists, and gave the impression that people who didn't understand thought it was because the players themselves wanted more money.

Well, I have news for Messrs Horne, Taylor et al - we do understand that it is not because the players want an increase, and having carried out a survey across various fan websites, I can quite confidently say that we, the supporters, who ultimately pay their wages, DO NOT and WOULD NOT support strike action.

Much has been said about the reasons for the dispute. The contention relates to a reduction of the percentage of the £1.6bn from the television deal, which is to be given to the PFA. I don't think anyone doubts the good intentions of the PFA, and understand that ex-players may need help in some shape or form, however, there are issues that need to be addressed before players strike.

I will try to address the main issues but understand that my points will need to be relatively brief otherwise I could end up writing pages and pages on the subject. Before I begin, though, I would like to stress that I am not against helping former players, and I understand that they do a good job in these circumstances.

Firstly, the PFA use their funds to help prematurely retired players, be it through injury, ability or whatever. Whilst I have little problem with this, should the average supporter be forced to quit work prematurely, they would normally receive some benefit, i.e. a disability allowance, unless they have taken out their own insurance.

As far as I am aware, unions may help to some extent but not always financially. To do so would not be cost effective and their union would not be able to support such financial help indefinitely. The same applies to medical treatment. Should I need to have treatment or an operation outside the NHS, I would need to fund that myself either paying through the nose or in the form of private health care plans.

Secondly, regarding education for players. We have perfectly (arguably) good educational establishments in this country so there should be no reason to fund educational courses outside the country. Clubs, players and the PFA would be better encouraging the younger players to continue their education whilst they are still aiming to play professional football.

Pupils should be made aware of all pitfalls of a career in professional football and they should be encouraged not to just think of the 'big bucks' top players can earn. This is a basic issue not just restricted to football. For example, lorry/bus drivers who can no longer drive would need to change career. Adults should not need to be led by the hand into a new career.

Next comes the dispute over the 'gentleman's agreement' regarding television rights. This apparently goes back some 46 years when players 'waived' their television appearance fees and instead the money would go to the PFA.

Sadly, as the players themselves know, a 'gentleman's agreement' means nothing in this day and age. We often hear of agents, clubs and players themselves reneging on agreements and even contracts.

Perhaps it is time for an all round change, i.e. the way the PFA is funded. Without doubt the most obvious and effective method would be to pay a percentage subscription rather than an across the board £75, or whatever the figure is.

It makes no sense that a young player in Division 3 should be paying the same subscription fee as a top player in the Premiership.

It may be argued that Premiership players hold the most influence in any negotiations and that, in view of the current agreement, they are therefore contributing more indirectly due to the percentage of television appearance fees waived, but that still does not detract from the fact that they are earning vast salaries which, 9 times out of  10, adds up to them earning more per week than the average person does in a year.

Even players in the lower Leagues earn as much as, if not more than, the average fan. As a result, it would seem that the fans have little sympathy for the players.

When the FA/Premiership sold the television rights to Sky, thus removing the vast majority of football from terrestrial television, where were the PFA or players raising concerns for the fans then?

Where were the PFA or players when pay-per-view was introduced? Where are they when clubs increase ticket prices in order to pay the ever-increasing inflation busting wages of the players and agents' fees?

Never has the phrase 'looking after number 1' been more apt.

Ultimately, it is the fans that suffer. They, or should I say we, have to pay increasingly high prices for match/season tickets, subscription to satellite/cable companies and sometimes pay-per-view fees on top in order to watch football.

We travel the length and breadth of the country in order to watch them irrespective of whether or not they perform well. Whichever way you put it, it is supporters and the public who are funding these television deals - NOT Sky, ITV Digital or whoever.