Saturday, March 01, 2008

What The Premier League Thinks Of You - A Response

It has taken me the best part of twenty-four hours to fully ingest the message that I put up on here last night. At first, I thought that it must be fake. However, Tom at Pitch Invasion's source for it is impeccable, and there is no reason to think that it is anything other than genuine. We have, in England, lived with the creeping understanding that we are viewed as little more than walking open wallets by football clubs, and that is something that Premier League club fans seemed to have reconciled themselves to, but this insight into the mind-set of the man that is in charge of the Premier League seems to demonstrate that even this isn't enough for the Premier League clubs any more. Our money isn't enough for them. They have swallowed the hubris about themselves to such an extent that they seriously believe that they can take over the world.

When reading this document, it is very important that one detaches oneself from the comments made by the writer about Mr Scudamore's tone and suchlike. Whilst these are mannerisms that clearly drive the writer to distraction, they should be of little concern to us. We don't even need to worry about the editorialising of the report by its writer when there is so much other meat on the bone. The quotations contained within it contain, in isolation, an almost breathtaking contempt for and disinterest in the interests of English football supporters. You don't even have to think about how downright rude it was of him to simply ignore the very first question that he was asked in favour of a ten minute long explanation for why no-one was told that this announcement was to be made before it was, when you can simply pick and choose from more or less every quote in it that has been directly attributed to Scudamore for examples of the madness surrounding the modern game. Let's take a look at some of the juicier morsels:

"We have had to accept from the start that it won't be perfect, there can be no symmetry" - So, in effect, the Premier League simply doesn't give a damn about the fact that, after 120 years, they will be sacrificing the very principle of league football that meant that the league format was expanded across the world and is still used across the world. They don't care about this.

"We do have an international following and by serving it in this way we can control the wealth redistribution down the league" - So, to clarify, is Scudamore trying to claim there is some sort of Socialist redistribution of wealth going on here? Are Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool agreeing to this scheme to "help out" Derby County, Wigan Athletic and Fulham? It is an indicator of just how little Scudamore thinks of us if he thinks that we'll fall for a line like that. If clubs aren't making money hand over fist at the moment, considering the massive TV deals (both domestically and internationally), global marketing and exorbitant ticket prices, then perhaps they should look at a financial model that spends such massive amounts of money on wages and transfer fees before looking abroad to bring in even more money.

"It's not me that will decide and certainly not Mr Blatter - if 14 people stick their hands up that's it" - I've said on here before that I believe that I believe that the biggest clubs are headed towards open war with FIFA, and this might just prove to be opening shot. It is an extraordinarily hostile statement to make at a time when the Premier League should be trying a charm offensive on all levels abroad. I, to be absolutely honest, cannot believe that Scudamore said this. If he has, they might as well call the whole thing off, because the FA won't give any consideration to any proposal that jeopardises the World Cup bid, because to say that FIFA don't have a say in the ultimate decision is just idiotic.

"Part of the calculation the clubs have to make is to ask 'is it going to cost us'? For how many people is it going to be the tipping point. For 16 years we have been losing various segments of our supporter base. We have lost some, but we have gained a lot more. Part of our assessment of this project will be those we'll lose and those we'll gain. We'll weigh that up in the 'is this worth it?' column." - This is the section that Premier League supporters should read the most closely. Stripping it down to the basics, it is saying this: the Premier League will weigh up how much you care and how much you are worth to them. If you aren't worth enough, they will jettison your support in favour of those with more money, even if it means going abroad to do so. They've spent the last fifteen years pricing people out of football, and now it's reaching its logical conclusion. The last pretensions of giving a damn about the communities that they came from and supported them when times were leaner end here.

"We've only got 330,000 attending fans - we have to weigh that in the balance against other stakeholders" - Well, this is just bullshit. The average attendances of all Premier League clubs adds up to well over 700,000. I don't know where he has taken this figure from, but my guess is that it is the average Premier League attendance on any given full weekend of fixtures. It doesn't take into account the fact that it's not the same 330,000 people every week by any stretch of the imagination. And who are these "other stakeholders" of whom he speaks? Sponsors? Television companies? I think that we can be pretty certain that "other stakeholders" is marketing guff for "people that will pay us a truckload of money".

"Read my lips - if the local football federations do not think this is a good idea for football development in their country, we will not do it. We believe that where we are successful, football around us is successful" - Well, no. The "markets" that the Premier League are looking to exploit are markets in which the domestic leagues desperately need investment. Investment that would be considerably easier to find if hundreds of millions of pounds isn't spirited away to the Premier League.

The battle lines, therefore, are being drawn up, and the Premier League is simply not going to give up on this scheme because of opposition from supporters or FIFA. One can only speculate as to why they appear to be so confident of getting the support of national federations, but we can now, presuming that this report is not a fake, at least be certain of where their priorities are in the Brave New World. This, as I have said before, will be the tip of the iceberg. If you support a Premier League club, the question that you should surely be asking yourself is this: if this isn't the tipping point, what will be? And if it is the tipping point, are you so much in love with your club that you are prepared for your relationship with your club to become an abusive one?


Anonymous said...


Vic Crescit said...

Top analysis my man. Couldn't have put it better myself. I shall be punting a link to this piece as far and wide as I can.

Vic Crescit
VERY pissed off Gooner of 40years standing.

sp3ktor said...

Ooooooo the FSF are coming to get Richard Scudamore - he must be sooo scared.

That meeting must have been the biggest load of cock ever, the football equivalent of the People's Front of Judea versus a dead man walking, I really can't think of anything more pathetic.

Scudamore is playing his last hand - he's under pressure to deliver more. That's the thing about business - it's all about year on year growth. You got 25% growth this year - great - now do it again or you're sacked. And if Scudamore does go, he'll just be replaced by someone with equally mad ideas. Incidently it's not the first time he's used the spreading the wealth argument - saying how the EPL is very fair at distributing cash from TV revenue unlike La Liga and Serie A where clubs negotiate their own deal (but that can wait another day).

The whole plan is unworkable guff - it smacks of that episode of The Thick Of It when they make up a policy in the back of a car on the way to a press conference. The fact remains however that Pandora's Box is open and EPL Chairman are hungrily looking at new revenue streams.

So what can clubs be offered as a replacement, off the top of my head I can think eight domestic league matches played on neutral grounds - the FA Cup, League Cup and League Trophy Finals, the three play-offs and two FA Cup semi-finals. I can certainly see the playing of three of these games (League Cup Final and FA Cup semis) as viable options. Sure it will piss off the regular customers, but they'll come back - they always do.

So are the members of the FSF are going to walk away from their clubs, good on them if they do - the sad fact remains that I don't see huge swathes of empty seats at Old Trafford were the now supporters of FC United of Manchester once sat.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your summing up of Dastardly Scudamore, but it only emphasises the growing feeling that we the fans are now just units to extract money from.
The sad thing is that most of us are aware of this and go willingly to the slaughter.
I have just purchased my £50 ticket knowing that it's outrageous really - but I still do it! However there could be a tipping point and I feel that we are very near to reaching that.
Thw whole basis of immoral players wages, overpriced tickets, stupid transfer fees is built on us fans footing the bill. The whole thing could come tumbling down like a house of cards if we are pushed that final bit too far.

Anonymous said...

I was at this meeting and have to say that he and his cohorts regarded us with nothing more than disdain.

He claims to be a football fan too but he doesn't understand football fans and despite his protestations this is all about money and proving to the Premiership Chairmen ho much richer he can make them so that he can stay in his job.

papa bear said...

English fans: you need to read between the lines a bit further than you are now.
You know the 'franchise system' North America uses that you have such contempt for? It's coming to a town near you.
The Premiere League can only grow so far in the current state. If you think they haven't looked at how the NFL, a league with a considerably smaller worldwide audience, makes more than TRIPLE the money the Prem takes in every year you are nuts. He is saying all the same garbage they were telling fans of American sports many moons ago when they went to the full on franchise system.
You better hope for your sake that when it comes you aren't one of the 'lesser' clubs that isn't deemed fit for a spot in the upper echelon.

papa bear said...

I should point out, that is if the biggest clubs in Europe don't get their way first and form the much ballyhooed and Arsene Wenger supported 'European Super League' where you better be a fan of ManU, Chelsea, Liverpool or Arsenal or else you won't have a team in the 'top flight' to cheer for.

200percent said...

Papa Bear, thanks for your comments. I was having this discussion with someone the other day, but it is purely speculation so I haven't posted it up on here, but I strongly suspect that promotion and relegation will be the next things that the Premier League hold up to scrutiny and, yes, I agree that franchising will probably be mooted sooner rather than later. It'll be interesting to see whether the FA have the balls to stand up to it or not.

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