The latest TV rights deal between Sky/BT and the Premier League works out at £10m a game. At White Hart Lane, the home of Tottenham Hotspur where I was a season ticket holder for 18 years, that would be £270 per supporter each match day. But outside the directors’ box, the bench and the pitch, no one will see a penny of this extraordinary largesse. Instead ticket prices will rise once again next season, to gnashing of teeth, broadcasters will talk about the importance of match-day atmosphere as the backdrop to their seven-days-a-week transmissions, and sweet FA will change.
Lord Sugar has been on the airwaves bemoaning the deal’s impact on the England team, an easy target after last year’s World Cup in Brazil. But many of us can remember England failing to qualify for World Cups in 1974 and 1978 – and USA 94, when the Premiership was only two years old. This deal won’t help England because the reasons for its failure to match the achievements of 1966 or Italia 90 go deep.
The root cause of England’s failings is also why the broadcasters’ £5.1bn won’t benefit the sport. By selling off the Premiership the FA has turned itself into something unique: a governing body that has no control over its elite performers. Foreign owners and players who benefit from the TV millions aren’t really the problem. It’s the fact that the Premier League clubs and their squads are an independent entity, divorced in any meaningful sense from football as a sport.
The prune juice effect: why Alan Sugar is sour about the £5.1bn football rights deal
“The best league in the world”? In football, certainly the richest. But on what basis is that money dished out? The Premier League used to invest in research about the changes in class, gender, race and location of the fans. This was quietly abandoned five or six years ago.
Could it be that they didn’t like the answers: the fan base was becoming older, whiter, maler? Meanwhile, participation in 11-a-side football, the bedrock of the sport, continues to plummet. Football needs money to survive but there is no evidence that more than a token investment will reach the sporting end of the game. Instead rich clubs, rich players and their rich agents will go on getting wealthier and never mind the rest.
Are fans bothered? Provided the well-paid players deliver what is expected of them – continuing premiership status, victories over detested rivals, cup runs and trophies – the level of discontent will be low. There will be rumblings, though probably not enough to change the rotten setup that football has become.
The latest TV deal is simply the most recent in the transformation of the game into a business, which we were told was vital after the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. But there are many different versions of modernisation. Football’s is the neoliberal version – every possible part of the game has been sold off to the highest bidder, with broadcasters the highest bidders of all.
We have stadium naming rights, shirt sponsorship, corporate boxes and commercial branding of everything that moves: no children’s football team now is complete without a shirt sponsor.
But the process chips inexorably away at the values that once shaped the popular passion of being a fan, the depth and breadth of commitment that made football an attractive proposition for investors in the first place. Marx wrote: “All that is solid melts into air; all that is holy is profaned.” The profanity that modern football has become truly knows no bounds.
Some of us have voted with our feet. I cashed in my Spurs season ticket to follow non-league football a good few seasons ago and haven’t looked back. It’s raw and frankly primitive, but it doesn’t pretend to be anything that it isn’t. It’s just 11 blokes trying to put the ball in the other lot’s net: Lewes FC is fan-owned and in the Ryman Premier League. But you won’t find us on the box, Super Sunday or any other day of the week. And thank goodness for that.
Это умиротворяющее прикосновение вывело Сьюзан из оцепенения. Внезапно она вспомнила, зачем искала Стратмора, и повернулась к. - Коммандер.