For English football, the 1980s were a horrendous era. The Heysel and Hillsborough disasters took place in 1985 and 1989, leading to 135 deaths and a five-year ban from European football.
In this crucial period, one of the most controversial figures in British politics, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, gave her full support to the banning of English teams from the European arena. She famously said, "We have to get the game cleaned up from this hooliganism at home and then perhaps we shall be able to go overseas again."
Hooliganism in English football never returned to the stadiums ever after, and Thatcher is still regarded as the prime minister who cleaned the stadiums of hooligans. Regardless of the efficiency or morality of her methods, Thatcher did one thing right: She acknowledged the problem, and rather than trying to save clubs and hooligans, she chose to get rid of the problem forever.
The reason why I argue that Turkish football needs a Margaret Thatcher relies on this brave approach. Today, although Turkish football is losing the battle against hooliganism and poor financial administration, no one seems to be bothered by it. For instance, in the next few days Fenerbahçe, one of the biggest clubs in Turkey, could be banned from the European arena due to their enormous debt. Under normal circumstances, this should have led to a radical policy change, but Turkish football has never witnessed normal circumstances in its history.
Today, almost all newspapers and columnists are talking about new alleged transfers of Fenerbahçe and other Turkish clubs, although almost all of them have to sell before they buy. As I wrote in my last piece, ideally, transfers are only made when there is a great opportunity to boost sportive or financial performance. But that is certainly not the case for Turkish football. The country has become a penultimate stop before the Gulf countries for expired players. The teams do not invest the little money they have on young talents, but on old players who want to taste the delicious low tax rates in Turkish football. When I read that Kolarov or Ben Arfa may come to Fenerbahçe, a team on the verge of bankruptcy, I simply cannot believe my eyes.
Hence, it is now crystal clear that Turkish teams are happy with the situation even if they are bankrupt, as the state is always on hand to save the day. For the sake of the country and football, the state should withdraw their support for these shrewd businessmen in Turkish football and make them suffer the consequences of their decisions. As Thatcher said, we have to get the game cleaned up from shrewd businessmen if we want to have a sustainable and strong football economy. Of course, this cleaning will be painful, and there may be some backlash from the fans. But Turkish people have shown their support for doing the right thing in the hardest of times in history, and if the process can be done transparently, I still believe we have a chance to put Turkish football back on a much better track.
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