Liverpool game moved. Bah humbug

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.

22 thoughts on “Liverpool game moved. Bah humbug

  1. This really eloquently sums up how I feel too. For a while I put it down to a post-Europe hangover but it’s persisted all season. I really do believe that I wouldn’t be upset if we got relegated even if the fallout from that meant we ended up back in the basement division or worse. I think you’ve rightly compare football (The Premier League, The FA, FIFA and the big clubs) with the banks. Fat cats who think that they can do what they want and get away with it because they are “stimulating” the economy and creating employment. In reality their just taking all the cream for themselves and screwing everyone else.

    Hmm. Seems I’m a bit grumpy too.

  2. I understand where you are coming from, but I cannot see where this will end. If the bubble was going to burst, then I thought it would have during the recession, but football has continued as strong as ever.

    Ironically, I think the only way for games not to be moved so much is to remove the preposterous ‘no 3 o’clock kickoffs televised’ rule. Surely then, there would be less need to move games and the clubs would (theoretically) receive more money.

    This all highlights the real problem with football – it is stuck in this anachronistic relationship with the past, embracing the less desirable aspects, such as no technology, and embracing outdated ideas, such as restricting which games can be shown on TV. I cannot help but think football needs to go one way or the other, but more realistically into the future with the rest of us.

  3. I’ve got the same grumpiness. If I could take a pill which would put an end to my FFC obsession I would.

    Fact is though that I’m still hooked despite it all. Sunday is Mothers Day. I will spend the day dutifully with my wife and daughters as of course I should. No arguments or pleas from me but they and I know that from 1.30 my mind will be at Craven Cottage.

    We usually have a meal out and see a film. If I’m lucky it won’t start till 3.30 but if I’m in the cinema early I’ll have to keep popping out for score updates.

    That’s why the football authorities can treat us as they do and it won’t change unless the football economy implodes and clubs become reliant again on the money the attending supporters bring in. I’d love that to happen but doubt it will any time soon.

  4. Perhaps not selling tickets to the games until they have passed the point where the time/date cannot be changed would be a good way of avoiding some of this inconvenience (while causing some more). The fact that the Everton match was switched so that it finished after the last train to London had set off is particularly poor. Maybe there should be some ‘supporter inconvenience’ clause written into the next TV contract… yeah right!

  5. I was going to bring a young chap (travelling down from Cambridgeshire) to his first premiership game. Not sure that is going to be possible now.

    Thanks to all those concerned for ruining a young boy’s weekend.

  6. I’m upset because I’m not even going to be able to watch this now. Why? I’ll be at work then—Monday afternoon is never a good day to duck out early. I agree with Alex L regarding allowing the 3pm kickoffs to be televised. To this Yank, that rule is beyond anachronistic, and it’s removal will probably eliminate a lot of this last minute changes.

    But this past year really has ruined all goodwill with this sport hasn’t it? The fiasco(s) of the World Cup (England’s non-goal, Tevez’s visibly offside goal); the Rooney Saga where he basically quit after playing like shit, but then gets rewarded with the biggest contract AND is allowed a month’s holiday immediately after; FIFA awarding the WC to the highest bidders and not where it should logically go; and then our rather boring, ho-hum season. (Am I forgetting anything else?)

    Last week I missed the Everton game because the weather was really nice. I’m going to miss the Blackpool game because of work, and now this Liverpool game.

    And you know what? I don’t think I care anymore.

  7. And this is to say nothing of the ’39th game’ (talk of which has also re-surfaced lately) and the England B team that will play Ghana tonight. I’m actually looking forward to seeing a few new faces, but can understand why those buying a ticket and indeed the Ghanaian team themselves might feel slightly aggreived. They’ve been reduced to little more than benefactors of the new Wembley.

    1. Surely if you buy a ticket to watch a friendly match you should expect to see not only several reserve players, but also a dire and unconvincing performance? It is like complaining that Fulham did not field a full strength side when playing Brentford in the pre-season friendly last year.

      As for the 39th game – I have come around to this idea (heresy!!!). Not sure how they could make it work, but for a team like Fulham it would provide an ever increasing revenue source and global exposure. We have already seen how our little Europa league run got us worldwide attention, the 39th game could do the same. Of course I fully understand the more purist approach that thinks this is a terrible, terrible idea.

        1. Indeed. And I would be happy to see things revert back to basics, but I just cannot see it happening. Until it does, I would rather be in the tent pissing out than outside the tent as the club dissolves. I guess I am too much of a cynic now which is a pity, because it is much easier and conducive to an enjoyable lifestyle to be an idealist!

          I have a good friend who is a Charlton fan. Over the last few years he has witnessed his team fall from grace and nestle in the lower leagues. He remains a season ticket holder, even commuting down from Uni in Nottingham, to watch Charlton play. Yet he expresses the same worries about the game as the ones expressed here, bundled with the fact that he now watches a relatively poor standard of football in an almost empty ground with youth players being poached by bigger clubs and a consistently unsure financial position that places the club at risk. I know many fans expressing a wish to return to the lower leagues, or if not a strong as that, an apathetic attitude to relegation. Whilst it would never stop me from following Fulham, I think we often need to be careful what we wish for.

          Will football ever revert back to what is was (or our idealised idea of what it was)? No. Can we try to work within the current system to change things for the better? Yes.

          This is all a moot point however, because I would welcome a collapse of the entire system if it meant a fresh and more realistic approach to football.

          1. All true, and it’s something I think about a lot.

            re. going back, I wonder. In the 1990s Italy had all the big stars. Now they’re skint and the players are over here. The recession came at a bad time for Spain (and their TV deal doesn’t help), but there’s no reason to think that the world’s best players will stay in England for ever.

            That said, I’m trying to think of where else they might go: Germany won’t go money mad I don’t imagine; France doesn’t have the same footballing culture or money; Italy badly needed the Euros to rebuild its footballing infrastructure, so what now?; Spain is the obvious one but outside the big two and Malaga there’s not much money being spread around. That leaves you with places like Russia (where there is money, but a number of teams in deep trouble), Qatar, China and the US, and none of those markets would seem to be appealing.

            So under the circumstances, Sky can arguably afford to lower its offer. It might force a market correction in salaries, but as long as there’s nowhere else for players to go they’ll probably have to lump it. The top players will find employment elsewhere, the decent ones will stick around, and within a few years we might find clubs paying affordable salaries, charging decent amounts to watch games, and fielding largely English squads. It could happen.

            1. The only problem with this is that Sky has effectively built itself around sport, particularly football. They might save money by lowering their offer, but will get hit in the long run as the superstars that sell the brand move on. It is in their best interest to propagate the ‘Premier League is the best league in the world’ myth.

              Overall though, you do have to question how much the game can keep expanding to fund the ever more ludicrous demands of the players. When the three biggest clubs in the world are in serious debt (Man Utd, Barcelona, Real Madrid) we can only hope they finally wake up and decide that enough is enough. If the top clubs started pushing for a wage cap, for example, then we might finally get somewhere.

        2. Rich, sports have become entertainment. Sadly, going to Craven Cottage is essentially no different than going to the movies.

          Now, there are ways around all this. But you need to find smaller, indie, DIY stuff to find any ability to even connect to art. Or, in football’s case, support a club like Hemel Hempstead Town F.C.

            1. Hah, true, but I was thinking of a club even smaller than that, unfortunately.

              After all, we hear how the Conference has basically become a professional league. And, although they are the extreme example, doesn’t Crawley Town have a larger budget than each club in League Two?

              1. Hemel Hempstead would be a pain to get to though!

                Toby and I went to Sutton v Tooting at the new year. It wasn’t great football but I can sort of see why people do it.

  8. This is what has happened in America as well. Television dictates when the games are played. It’s especially bad with college football. The team I grew up with, Oklahoma, can’t contractually announce their gametimes until 12 days before gameday. Oklahoma, at least, mostly plays on Saturdays. The school I attended, Texas Christian University, is moving to a new conference (don’t make me explain it), where the conference TV contract is with ESPN and they have the Big East Conference play on any day of the week from Thursday to Saturday. ESPN doesn’t mind moving a game to what suits their schedule either. If I didn’t live in Fort Worth, where TCU is located, I’d be up $hit Creek.

    That said, I’m the sucker that keeps voting with my wallet by watching college football and going to all the TCU games I can. It’s a cultural thing where I want to talk trash to people at work who went to rival schools. I find it highly entertaining, but I’m not disgusted enough with how the sausage is made to stop enjoying it, yet.

    1. That’s interesting you bring up College Football, because if there is one sport that proves airing many games simultaneously on TV does not mean dropping attendances, it’s college football. But then you run into the (absurd) issues that you specify above.

      To me this debate speaks of larger cultural issues. This may be a large over-generalization (to which I apologize about offending anyone), is that from my experiences I’d say Americans are more mobile because of their reliance on automobiles, and we thus are more willing to drive vast distances at inopportune hours because of last minute scheduling changes, than the English are. So Sky are basically adopting the American-style of sports broadcasting, but not taking into account a variety of issues.

      Liverpool to London is a four hour drive, or about 220 miles. I’ve taken round trips to NYC–about the same distance from Bmore–in a single day. In fact, it’s pretty common around here.

  9. Well it’s a cycle isnt it?

    Rich i think, and am not convinced myself, that you are looking too locally, when it’s a global game for better or worse.

    England has a vested interest in being dominant, so that their matches are displayed worldwide, that they can soak in the extra revenue for the champions league, and england gets the extra CL spots, and looks good etc.

    It’s deeply ironic, and always will be to me, that fiscally america is much more ruthlessly capitalistic in society, but our sports are decidedly socialist (we even subsidize the weaker teams, no relegation, wage caps, etc).

    Your country is for the most part liberal/socialist, in spite of Dave Cameron’s cuts, but your sports are madly and delightfully capitalistic.

    As a result, there is pressure to spend spend spend, and conquer all, or be sent to the abyss. It’s kind of a carnival, sure.

    But it doesnt seem likely to change as long as a few teams want to keep playing, conquering europe, and the alternative of being humiliated in europe, regarded as a backwater is unappealing for too many “big clubs”

    There are upsides though. Since there was no hometown team growing up for me (and I can’t really claim the Philadelphia Union since they located themselves 20 miles the wrong direction of philadelphia for me), you sort of pick people to follow. My favorite player was brian mcbride, and once he joined Fulham, it was like “ok, I’ll root for them”. It’s not the same mad unflinching support as a club would like, but i guess it’s there, and it counts for something (including if you ever visit this way a standing offer for a free drink or two on me). And as a result, you have alot of thoughtful, even tempered, loyal but not rabid fans who can look dispassionately at things..

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