Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday February 8 2008
"Make money your God and it will plague you like the devil." Henry Fielding.
By now you have all heard the ludicrous suggestion of the Premier League to consider staging domestic fixtures abroad once a season (spot the oxymoron there). Others have already touched upon the obvious folly it invites to the integrity of the competition. It is safe to garner the immense sense of dissatisfaction this has provoked from the majority of supporters, both UK based and from foreign shores. What I want to get across in this meditation on this proposal (which is as much a way of getting to grips with the whole thing myself as it is a call to arms), is just how dangerous this suggestion is. Not to us, the supporters. My personal slant is that if the Premier League wishes to sanction this move, they do so without me. This will not affect my person in the slightest; I will not be traipsing across the continent to watch Arsenal play Derby County. Simply, I will not be watching or following Arsenal or any Premiership club at all, whether on my doorstep or for any "Thriller in Manilla." If Scudamore and his chums want to exclude me and my ilk from a product that I and others like me have been instrumental in building, then they can do as they will. My angle here is also not sympathetic of pampered, tired, over travelled footballers playing too many games. The threat here rests not on you, or I, or the Ronaldos, Fabregas` and Danny Mills` of this world, it rests squarely on Scudamore and his merry band of fat cats.
"A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart." Jonathan Swift.
When I heard the first murmurings of this proposal in the wake of the NFL match at Wembley, I dismissed it fairly swiftly. Another harebrained scheme, much like last year`s penalty shoot out for league fixtures suggestion, a fart in a boardroom somewhere destined to fizzle out and die as quickly as its foul stench was propelled into collective conscience. But the fact that all Premiership chairmen have unanimously agreed to explore the suggestion sets serious alarm bells ringing. I have long since discarded any notions of romance in the running of the national game; we all know money is at the heart of every decision. From the puerile and laughable mess that is international football, to inflated ticket prices. But while the game is certainly not run by the people, Scudamore and his merry band of solicitous pigs need to take their snouts out of the trough long enough to realise the game is still run for the people. Whether they wish to believe it or not, without us the game is nothing, which means no Lexus for Scudamore, Hill-Wood will be forced to smoke Hamlets, no more golden dildos for Sullivan and Gold. The Premier League has been buying my happiness for years, but, and I make no litigious promises of larceny, if they keep pushing, I will simply steal it back and reinvest it elsewhere. I`ve a feeling this particular Robin Hood will be joined by bands of thousands of merry men.
"Endless money forms the sinews of war." Cicero.
This morning, I had an e mail from a Millwall supporting friend of mine who, in reaction to the proposal, said, "You know, sometimes I`m really glad I support a crap team." Overseas interest in the Premiership has seen it flourish commercially, and the benefits have been there for all to see. Whilst jilted kick off times and prohibitive prices have soured the milk, we still have a product that works. Disenfranchised splinterings have emerged, but largely there have been enough fans like myself, who have gritted our teeth and coughed up the readies. I feel a move as dramatic as the one proposed, the Premier League will have a mass mutiny to deal with, similar to the one that Serie A still reels from. For the domestic supporters are your lifeblood. The people who buy the tickets, the programmes, the burgers, who cart their kiddies off to the club shop and buy the new club endorsed teabags. If you alienate these people, you have a serious problem on your hands. Already we are seeing decent sides such as Blackburn Rovers playing in front of decimated crowds. The Premier League is inviting a revolution, not a revolution of anger or bloodshed; there will be no riot shields in reaction to voodoo economics. The people simply will wilt away. Is it not safe to assume, Mr. Scudamore, that if you continue to dump on your own doorstep, people won`t want to come around for tea anymore?
"Numbers is hard to feel and they never have feelings/ but you push too hard, even numbers got limits/ Why did one straw break the camel's back? Here's the secret: the million other straws underneath it - it's all mathematics." Mos Def.
What this proposal will invite is a dystopian scene for the Premier League`s future, something allegorically similar to a scene from Mad Max. We are beginning to edge ever closer to the Thunderdome, to the precipice of extinction. Because when you lose the base of your product, the fans that turn up week in, week out, there is an inevitable domino effect. Clubs lose revenue, which in turn means they cannot attract the best players, which means the overseas interest they seek to cultivate disappears. That means lucrative television deals become less lucrative, the peasants have revolted and long left you. Mr. Scudamore, what does this leave you with? Low quality football games, watched in empty stadiums. Which satellite station or commercial enterprise will salivate for a piece of that pie?
"We will claim nothing, we will ask for nothing, we will take, we will occupy." Situationist graffiti seen in 1960s Paris.
Mr. Scudamore, Premier League chairmen. A revolution is at your doorstep. Invite it at your peril. Because this is a revolution that will not be telelvised.LD.
Date:Friday February 8 2008
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