ONCE upon a time, football was a sport that didn't realise it was also a business. Now it is in increasing danger of becoming a business where people in positions of enormous influence forget it is a sport. Nobody should be in the least surprised that media mogul Rupert Murdoch has bought Manchester United. His track record in Australia and America suggested such a move bordered on the inevitable. The fact that Murdoch would not know a football if it hit him or that his lackey did not know the name of United's left-back has no relevance. This is not about football as sport, it is about football as business - big business. Murdoch and his minions do know about television and what sells. Football sells in Britain and around the world and his BSkyB satellite station has gone from a floundering nonentity to a position of vast influence - and profit - squarely on the back of football. The takeover is not primarily about the proposed European super league. That will not happen outside UEFA and the European body - plus FIFA - and will not deliberately undermine the national league of any country. There will be a super league but it will be a refinement of the present model which, by and large, operates successfully. And it will be run by UEFA and not Media Partners. The rantings and ravings over Murdoch's successful bid were predictable and ridiculous. Once major football clubs became listed companies, the wolf safely had his head through the door. We had one Manchester United supporters' club chappie quoting Oscar Wilde and vowing to fight the takeover bid to the bitter end. What with - supermarket savings stamps? By the end of the 4-1 drubbing of Charlton Athletic, the irresistible lure of success and what might be had muted many protests. After all, has Murdoch bought the club to see it fail? United fans, and probably Alex Ferguson, may now have more tangible dreams of securing the best players, at least partly unfettered by previous restrictions on wages and transfer fees. Forget, too, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). That perpetually grinning ham actor Tony Blair is not going to antagonise Murdoch, whose vital support through The Sun and The Times, at opposite ends of the media spectrum, partly paved the way to his electoral success. Some of Blair's minions have been doing some huffing and puffing about it but it will be a surprise, albeit pleasant, if anything goes beyond that. Ironically, there might well be a case for the OFT. Murdoch's BSkyB must negotiate a new contract with the Premier League in 2001 and he now holds the Premier League jewel in his hand, Manchester United. Normally, a Manchester United in step with and supporting the financial aims of the Premier League would surely be a major bargaining counter for that body. Come 2001, that is unlikely to be the case. Think television for a moment. BSkyB has shelled out multi-millions for the Premier League and no other British station can compete. Although at this stage, Premier League clubs are financially treated as equals, we all know - inside and outside sport and business - not all clubs or people are indeed equal. But Southampton and Derby County draw the same BSkyB basic money as Manchester United who, coincidentally, now have their own television station. Let's say that BSkyB and the Premier League cannot come to an agreement on money in 2001 because Murdoch's men drop the price considerably. What happens? Manchester United are offered either on pay-per-view or through lucrative agreements - as at present with the Premier League - to satellite and free-to-air stations throughout the world. And, of course, in Britain through BSkyB. How much, in reality, are the likes of Charlton Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday and Leicester City worth to television stations around the globe? I mean no offence or disrespect to any of these fine clubs but the sound business answer is: not a lot. The very real danger from this takeover is that, to quite an extent, the Premier League in 2001 will be at the mercy of Murdoch and his men. It is not a pleasant thought. He holds the key with the BSkyB money in one hand and now Manchester United in the other. The other scenario might then involve a European super league - because of a weakened Premier League where the huge television money tap may have been, if not turned off, partially closed. Arsenal, Double winners and seemingly set fair for further success, have acted quickly by setting up negotiations with another television concern. That may further complicate Premier League television negotiations in 2001 because Arsenal clearly possess massive clout. It is said that no player or club is bigger than the sport itself. That has always been true. But we go back to the beginning by reminding ourselves that that particular saying was first heard when football was a sport and not a business. The combination of vast television money and arguably football's most famous club in the control of one man - or one company - is a situation never before faced by those in control of British football. If it comes down to a poker-style standoff in 2001, it's not too hard to guess who holds the aces.