HANDS up who fancies doing one extra shift of their job for a whopping ÃÂ£10,000 windfall. Just one shift. All expenses paid. One. In Dubai. Or Florida. Or Manila. Money for old rope. You can see why the cash-blinded turkeys were persuaded to vote for Christmas. I’d be there like a shot with the laptop, clicking away like crazy and no mistake.
But it is not going to happen. The Gazette are not going to pay me ten grand to do a colour piece on Boro v Everton in Pheonix – mainly because the aggressive GamÃÂ£ 39 global product placement will never happen, not as part of any normal Premier League matchday programme anyway. The political and logical objections and hurdles of sporting integrity will prevent the charade of a travelling circus. But that is not really what the Trojan Horse proposal is about.
The proposals, and the white noise of hysteria from supporters, are a smokescreen for other pernicious money making ventures in which clubs like Boro will not get to share.
After the initial jaw-dropping incredulity at the stupidity, greed and arrogance of the Premier League plans to trample over national boundaries and crush weaker football federations in pursuit of the satellite subscriptions of Man U fans from Sydney to Singapore, a more coherent opposition is starting to form. The money men at individual clubs, Riverside kingpin Keith Lamb included, are doing their best to spin it as a boon for the game and for their threadbare coffers – that is their primary job after all – but no one is buying it.
Fans were swift to mashall the arguments and organise an impressive internet campaign to concentrate their fire through the Football Supporters Federation’s razor sharp ‘No To GamÃÂ£ 39‘ platform, the intended host federations have rightly declined to capitulate to the sporting imperialism of the Murdoch machine, FIFA have frowned sternly like a foot-tapping parent foiling a sneaky dip in the biscuit barrel and even the former airline chief who drew up the controversial expansion plan has now admitted that the hostile reaction has left it holed below the waterline.
And the plan looks dead and buried after unlikely hero Sepp Blatter waded in to slap down the Premier League, clearly feeling they were muscling in on his monopoly of loopy marketing schemes and outlandish unworkable policies dreamt up on the hoof.
But for me this has never been about a realistic proposal. It has been a neat stepover designed to bamboozle supporters, intending to wind them up so they lose sight of the ball. For me this is a political prestdigitation. The end game here is not a round of games with low bums on seats potential, basement battlers and humdrum outfit halfway up the table. This is not about serving up Wigan v Boro or Bolton v Portsmouth for the delight of Beckham barmy Bangkok.
No, the end game here is a brand building roadshow that can take Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal into new markets, building exciting new revenue streams by promoting in the flesh teams that for billions exist only through internet streaming and PPV.
Take this gem from Bernie Ecdclestone today. The man who has made Formula One a global 200mph advertising hoarding (and who coincidentally has just taken a slice of QPR) believes that while boring, boring Boro may be hard to sell – no matter what Keith Lamb says – he would have no problem marketing the big boys.
Ã¢ÂÂThe current idea the Premier League is putting forward isnÃ¢ÂÂt very good. They probably wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt find it very easy to convince someone in Singapore to have Wigan playing somebody over there. I canÃ¢ÂÂt see a promoter going for that. But if somebody said to me today Ã¢ÂÂwhat would you do?Ã¢ÂÂ, IÃ¢ÂÂd have the top four clubs who are known worldwide and IÃ¢ÂÂd want them playing six matches against each other in a mini-league.
Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂd run it completely separately and export it to whoever wanted to buy it. Nothing to do with anything. Not sharing the money with any of the rest of the league or anything like that.I would be very happy to enter into a contract with those four clubs to run in six events if I could put the events where I wanted to put them.Ã¢Â?
That is somewhere closer to the truth. What we have is the classic political manouvere of proposing a draconian and radical measure that goes beyond the pale and provokes an outrage before climbing down and settling for a reasonable compromise. Like proposing 90 days detention without charge before settling for 28, smiling that you have smashed all existing legal constraints and precedent to go beyond the established norm of seven days.
A reasonable compromise? Well how about the Premier League promise to scrap the notion of an extra round of games and the idea of competitive games abroad? How about instead they go for a gap in fixtures – let’s make it around Christmas to chime with calls for a Winter Break and win brownie points with FIFA and UEFA for synchronising the international calendar? How about they allow those clubs who want to go and play a non-competitive game abroad do so? And what if they gave the clubs that didn’t a slice of the TV rights cash raised by the extra game?
What could be more reasonable?
It would be a win-win-win situation: the fans are pacified by not having to traipse to Tashkent to keep up their 100% competitive game attendance record; sporting integrity (as if that can exist in a cash distorted league) is maintained; the Boro’s of this world get enhanced TV revenue without any hassle; UEFA get their winter break to answer charges of burn-out; the big four get to do low risk gigs in emerging markets; the TV companies get glamour games to shift advertising in hot house economies… you know it makes sense.
Yes, we must oppose GamÃÂ£ 39, but let us also be aware of the machinations going on behind the smoke and mirrors. Let us be wary of any ‘reasonable compromise’ that hands even more of our game – and the money – over to the PLC FCs and the circus ringmasters.