How the season began 30 years ago: TV money, transfers and Tony Cottee

A new TV deal brings about huge transfer fees, Liverpool spend big and Spurs need to sort out stadium issues. Sound familiar?

By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog

English football was on its knees in the late 1970s and early 1980s as hooliganism and crumbling stadia led to a steady decline in attendances. Rock bottom arrived in 1985 in the shape of the Bradford fire and Heysel stadium disaster. Football spent the rest of the decade taking a long look at itself and, gradually, it started to get its house in order. As the sport’s reputation improved, so did TV revenue, with domestic rights more than doubling from £5.2m in 1983 to £11m in 1988.

On the back of this new TV deal, some clubs chose to spend big in the summer of 1988. Tottenham invested £1.7m on Paul Stewart and broke the British transfer record by spending £2m on Paul Gascoigne. Everton pushed the record up to £2.2m when they brought in Tony Cottee from West Ham; they also signed Stuart McCall for £850,000 and Pat Nevin for £925,000. Not to be outdone by their local rivals, Liverpool paid a whopping £2.8m to bring Ian Rush back from Juventus. George Graham went about his business quietly at Arsenal, only adding Steve Bould to his squad for a bargain price of £390,000.

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