Highs & lows of Gordon Taylor’s reign at the PFA

Gordon Taylor’s reign as chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association is to come to an end.

The 74-year-old has been in charge of the trade union for 38 years but it was announced on Wednesday that he will leave following an independent review following criticism led by chairman Ben Purkiss.

Here, Football Paradise looks at the highs and lows of the PFA under Taylor’s stewardship.

HIGHS

Growing the PFA

Taylor secured better deals for the PFA by landing more funding from the Premier League.
Taylor secured better deals for the PFA by landing more funding from the Premier League. (Phil Noble/PA)

The PFA has developed massively under Taylor and is unrecognisable from where it was when he first took over as chief executive.

The organisation now has over 60 employees – from the three in place when Taylor started – and he negotiated better deals with the Premier League, Football League and Football Association to bring in more funding.

He recently secured another three-year funding package from those organisations worth a total of £180million.

Apprenticeships

Manchester United's 'Class of 92' all came through the ranks on YTS programmes introduced by Taylor.
Manchester United’s ‘Class of 92’ all came through the ranks on YTS programmes introduced by Taylor (PA Wire)

Although the Youth Training Scheme (YTS) has been altered and rebranded over the years, there is no doubt that Taylor was the main player in establishing the programme.

The number of schoolboys entering the game rose massively under the new scheme, rolled out across the 1980s, which produced some of the biggest names in the English game over the next two decades.

Manchester United’s fabled ‘Class of 92’, including the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Neville brothers Phil and Gary, were developed on YTS schemes – as were plenty of future England internationals.

Football in the Community

Taylor and the PFA support plenty of charitable causes.
Taylor and the PFA support plenty of charitable causes. (Yui Mok/PA)

Taylor oversaw the roll-out of club community programmes after being behind an initial six-club trial.

PFA members, as per their contract, have to do seven days a year to support the local programmes, with all 92 professional English clubs involved.

Funding is also given to Kick It Out – the organisation tasked with tackling racism within the game.

LOWS

Sexual abuse scandal

Barry Bennell was sentenced to 30 years in prison after historic child sex abuse charges.
Barry Bennell was sentenced to 30 years in prison after historic child sex abuse charges. (Peter Byrne/PA)

One of the biggest scandals to rock British football, the PFA’s approach to tackling paedophilia within the game was questioned.

A 1997 Dispatches documentary reported on the crimes of Barry Bennell – the former youth coach who was jailed for 30 years in 2018 for a number of child sexual abuse charges.

Journalist Deborah Davies presented that documentary and was quoted as saying: “I wasn’t aware of any serious commitment by Gordon Taylor to investigate.”

The Football Association wrote to the PFA as they investigated the scandal last year, asking whether more could have been done to identify the crimes at the time.

Wage

There was plenty of criticism when Taylor's salary was revealed.
There was plenty of criticism when Taylor’s salary was revealed. (Steven Paston/PA)

Taylor’s salary was cause for widespread criticism when it was revealed he was paid £2.2million in 2017 – making him the highest-paid trade union boss in the world.

The Charity Commission also got involved when it was suggested some of Taylor’s wage was being subsidised by the PFA Charity – set up to support past and present players.

The revelation of the high salary led former Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan to claim that football was “losing touch with reality”, with others also speaking out.

The Astle family

Jeff Astle died in 2002 from a condition linked with heading a football.
Jeff Astle died in 2002 from a condition linked with heading a football. (PA Archive)

Taylor was criticised by the family of Jeff Astle, the former West Brom striker who died in 2002 of chronic traumatic encephalopathy – something linked to heading footballs during his era.

His wife and daughter campaigned for there to be more awareness for issues, which occurred later in life in footballers from Astle’s playing days, from heading the ball – with dementia also put down to the activity.

Compared to Taylor’s seven-figure salary, just £100,000 was invested by the PFA into head injury research – the Astle family claiming “nothing had been done” by Taylor and the PFA to aid their cause, with Jeff’s daughter Dawn last year backing the calls for an independent review.

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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