Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Monday August 4 2008
In an edition of twenty questions last February, I asked the following question.
"We all know that the idea of a 39th league game held abroad is completely unworkable. The Premier League must have known that it would be hugely unpopular. It seems the authorities are purporting a ridiculous idea, knowing it will be shot down to make way for a slightly less insane plan. The question is, what is the real proposition going to be here?"
Well if reports this morning are anything to go by, the Premier League has hatched the embryonic phase of the real plan evil. Coincidentally, six months to the day that the much maligned '39th Game` plan was touted to the embarrassment and chagrin of most, the plan seems to have been 'moderated.` (Note the deliberate use of inverted commas). Now we are being fronted with the much less radical, yet no less solicitous idea of miniature tournaments being hosted during a 12 day winter break. Cities in Africa, Asia, North America and Australia would bid for the right to host five four team mini tournaments in the twelve days following the third round of the F.A. Cup. Now, being that I spent £12,000 pursuing a qualification in English Literature, it is only right that my lexicon should be in advance of your average Premier League bigwig. But am I exposing intellectual snobbery when I question the use of the word "break" in this missive? To us mere mortals, the idea of jetting off to Australia or Asia for twelve days may represent a very welcome break indeed. But for an athlete, jetting them off thousands of miles to play two games in a twelve day period, together with the necessary time zone adaptations and heavy legs, does not seem to represent much of a "break" to me. Without wishing to go all Countdown on your ass Mr. Scudamore, I think the word "bank" was probably more in tune with what you are thinking.
Scudamore`s psyche is more transparent than a Danielle Lloyd dress, that this idea is ever so slightly more palatable than interrupting the integrity of the league campaign is supposed to have us all mopping our collective brows and consenting to a lesser evil. Basically, the Premier League are insulting every single one of us by dismissing our powers of logic. (We live under the rule of politicians Mr. Scudamore; we know a filthy lie when we see one). Placing the words "winter break" and "mini tournament" within the framework of the same idea is something of an oxymoron (you see, that £12k is being put to good use). The real weight behind the idea arrives in the shape of the alleged £5m prize money for the clubs participating, which will doubtless be liberated from the pockets of "the overseas demographic" as it were. Yet this week, Manchester United played Portsmouth in Nigeria in a friendly precursor to the Community Shield, only 28,000 spectators filed into a 60,000 stadium to watch the match. The reason for the underwhelming attendance may well have been due in no small part to the ticket price band, with the equivalent of £40-£100 being charged for tickets. That represents the equivalent of 2/3 of a month`s wages for the average earner in Lagos; the mind boggles as to the prohibitive pricing that would have been imposed on the game if some imagined importance had been attached to it. There`s a lesson there for overseas supporters who believe hosting English matches abroad will give you a chance to watch your team, the prices you will be charged (assuming you are a corporate type, if you are not, you will not be getting tickets, trust me) will probably be comparable to the price for a flight to England!
This money will be earned/ extracted at the expense of indigenous leagues trying hard to build their own reputations, at the expense of players who will have to travel thousands of miles in the middle of an already jam packed calendar, thus diminishing the quality of the league overall. The idea completely discounts the prospect of the African Nations, which takes place during the month of January and how that will be surmounted. This idea also shows utter contempt for clubs in the Championship, who will watch the fiduciary gap widen further. If this idea is allowed to come to fruition, we will possibly never see a club promoted to the Premiership and survive ever again, making the league even more repetitive and predictable than it already is. We are already in a situation whereby fans of most clubs are increasingly disillusioned, whilst ticket sales at Old Trafford (despite a dramatic reduction in the season ticket waiting list since Glazer increased prices by 50%), Anfield and the Emirates may well be healthy, the likes of Ewood Park, Riverside Stadium and JJB Stadium have tumbleweed in the aisles despite the respective clubs being at zeniths in their club`s history. Monotony is not an attractive proposition and increasing the likelihood of it hardly sound business nous. But with a global economic downturn, Premier League television money and Champions League advertising all wrung dry, Scudamore and his ilk will look for newer and more innovative ways to milk the cash cow. Ultimately, it will bite him in the arse when supporters of clubs in the middle tier of a schismatic league get tired and sack it all off altogether. But there`s no point in trying to reason with the avarice of the Premier League in words, it`s the numbers that are doing all of the talking here.LD.
Date:Monday August 4 2008
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