Is football over estimating the loyalty of fans? The Liverpool game at the end of the season has now been switched from a Saturday afternoon to a Monday night so it can be shown on television. This might not be such a bad thing, except that the game’s long been sold out and many fans will have made their travel plans already. That includes various international supporter groups, Liverpool fans planning on catching trains, and your common-or-garden Fulham fan who doesn’t live in London anymore. It’s an absolute pain in the arse and the lack of consideration is staggering.
Not that the clubs can say no. Read Swiss Ramble and you’ll see that for almost every club, tv money is overwhelmingly important. Sure, matchday revenue can be a big differentiator for clubs, but without tv none of this silly circus can happen. So if one day Sky wants Tuesday morning games to suit their Asia-Pacific audience, that’s presumably what they’ll get.
What will be the sub-prime mortgage equivalent that brings down modern football? Too many clubs are spending too much money on players, in the Premier League, where the tv money allows this, and in the Championship, where the tv money encourages this (a reminder: the Championship Playoff final is worth something like £90,000,000 (minimum) by the time tv and parachute payments are factored in).
UEFA’s financial fair play rules? Global tv rights (rather than domestic)? The PFA implementing a maximum wage ‘for the greater good’ (haha)?
I am starting to wonder if it’s time for the bubble to burst. Whether its football, bankers, whatever, the argument goes that if you penalise the very wealthy (or withdraw/limit the masses of money they’re making) they’ll take their trade elsewhere and the country will lose out. To which I always think: go on then, piss off. How many footballers will go to Spain, or Germany, or Italy? Generally speaking there isn’t too much money there either. Most of us fell in love with football long before it got out of control (1985 for me, the game’s pinnacle!), and love it now almost in spite of itself. We’ll still watch.
This is not to forget the great fun we’ve had over the last few seasons, and my grumpiness is almost certainly due to the clocks going back, changing life priorities, the economy, and all sorts besides. But this is increasingly feeling like some sort of tipping point. The feelings and wallets of real fans have been taken for granted for too long, and it will be fascinating to look back on these times from the vantage of, say, 2030, by which time hopefully we’ll see a return of unhyped Saturday afternoon games between two teams with three Brians between them.
Sure, be careful what you wish for, and nostalgia is quite a trap to fall into, but, well, anyway.