Terry Venables, the young coach of London's Crystal Palace soccer club, is almost certain to turn down a million-dollar offer from the New York Cosmos, and instead accept a contract worth less than half as much from Palace. The Cosmos would pay him $250,000 a year for four years. Palace has offered him $80,000 a year, which would still make him the highest-paid club coach in England.
American baseball, football, and baseball coaches would doubtless turn up their noses at such paltry sums. So would some European coaches. Italian and Spanish club coaches can earn in excess of $200,000 a year. Soccer players themselves are far more richly rewarded in Europe than in Britain -- partly through help from sponsorship, partly because the standard of living there is higher, but also because in England massive transfer fees eat up so much of the money.
Recently, for example, Tony Woodcock, the Nottingham Forest and England striker, was sold to Cologne, of the West German soccer league, for some $1.3 million. Had he been sold to an English club he would have cost the buyer twice as much. Forest had to sell him to Germany because his contract was due to run out at the end of the season, and European rules are such that they'd have been obliged to take barely a third of what, Cologne paid them.
But once in Germany, Woodcock found himself earning $250,000 a year, about six times as much as he was making in Nottingham. Kevin Keegan, European footballer of the year (who is coveted by the Washington Diplomats), now in his third season with Hamburg, is estimated to be earning almost twice as much as Woodcock, when endorsements and publicity are taken into account.
A really successful English footballer with a leading club would probably have a basic salary of about $1,000 a week. In addition, he could earn substantial bonuses for winning games, and for a high position in the league championship. His largest problem is the very heavy tax rates in Britain.
That the Cosmos should try for Venables is no surprise, expecially when you remember how closely and shrewdly the Ertegun brothers follow international soccer. That Venables should prefer to stay with Palace is equally predictable. In the first place, he clearly wants to reap the fruits of his labors. Since taking over a club which had run into hard times under the mercurial Coach Malcolm Allison, he has rebuilt the team. He placed great emphasis on devloping young players and on a scouting scheme which has competed ruthlessly for the service of the best prospects in the London area. Venable, from the East End of London, is a quintessential Cockney, wry, droll, wise, alert, ambitious. He was a successful inside forward and wing-half who played for England at every level.
He wears several different hats. He now owns three pubs. The third of them, the Laurel and Hardy, has just opened in east London. He writes thirllers about a private eye called Hazell with a novelist, Gordon Williams. These have been made into successful television series. He is an excellent coach in the British sense of imparting technique and awareness; he organizes his tactics with flair and intelligence; and he handles players and the press well. He is a member of the football association hierarchy under the chief Coach Ron Greenwood, helping to look after the England under-21 team.
Clearly, there is much left for him to do in London with a Crystal Palace team promoted to Division One only last season, but already good enough to beat the best. Their recent 1-0 victory over the European Cup holders, Nottingham Forest, at home, was most impressive.
Venables, moreover, being no fool, will have a pretty good idea of what cocaching the Cosmos means or could mean. "No one," said one local expert in New York last summer, "can coach Cosmos." This seems true, though it is equally true that the club has yet to hire a major figure. None of its coaches so far has achieved major stature in his own country. Gordon Bradley's whole career as a coach has been spent in the United States and Ken Furphy and Eddie Firmani's attainments in England were extremely modest. As for Julio Mazzei, he was never strictly a coach in Brazil at all, but essentially a specialist in physical preparation.
There is the question of Giorgio Chinaglia, whose close friendship with Steve Ross, the head of Warner Communications, has resulted in Giorgio becoming the gray eminenece of the club. It was largely at his insigation that Clive Toye, then president, and Bradley departed. Many believe that he will in due course be president of the club.
In the meantime, the Cosmos would do well to give Chinaglia official status, prehaps by making him player-coach. Why not? If his powers are virtually those of a player-coach, which they are, wouldn't it be better to have the whole thing out in the open? As matters stand, any coach who goes to Cosmos, however illustrious, is going to have to trim his sails.