Well, we’re in the thick of it now: a top of the table melée with the only anomaly being Southampton’s incredible run of form under Pochettino pushing Manchester City below the salt; meanwhile World Cup qualifiers are in full swing and friendlies are getting tetchier, and all the while the summer of 2014 is looming in the background. Players are not only worrying about prospective injuries, “I cannot get sick right now!”, but increasingly champing at the bit for first team football. Kevin de Bruyne, earlier in the season so chuffed to be part of an elite team with a world class manager, is now chatting to German newspapers about a loan move away in January because he’s not happy with his form for Belgium.
And in the background BT have once again upped the cash stakes in English football. Not content with pumping football TV rights up to £1bn a year (more when you count highlights deals and internet packages) BT have just shelled out £300m a year for Champions (and Eur-what?-pa) League matches.
Now, on the surface of things, this looks like a good thing: a bit of competition for Sky, clubs gets more cash and can afford better players and the quality is the best in the world TM. It’s good old school capitalism at work, and seeings as we live in London, we all love a bit of capitalism, innit?
Nevertheless, there is inevitably a flip side to this sort of thing, and in this case that flipside is called wage inflation. With each club being given an extra £15m a year to spend, you either get big fat squads with players like Kevin getting angry about lack of first team play, or you get higher wages. In fact, if you do this sort of cash bonanza every year, you get both.
But who cares how much they get paid? It makes no difference to me (if anything, it allows me to rant a bit more than I otherwise could). Well, think about it, there are all sorts of ramifications to this, from knock on effects to the strength of the national team (in case you hadn’t noticed, we’re crappy) to financial impacts further down the line. The telephone line. Let’s not forget BT are not first and foremost a football broadcaster, so where’s the £300m a year going to come from if not phone bills? Also, players earning £180k a week tend to spend that bonanza on Lamborghinis, so the “trickle down effect” quickly leaks overseas.
So what’s the solution? Wage caps? Nationalist restrictions? Pah, I can’t be bothered with any of that, if anything it’ll just create red tape, confusion and piddly fines that clubs will ignore – only lawyers and the FA will benefit, and nobody wants that. I have a better idea: basically, put a caveat in the TV rights clause that says if you want your £15m you have to make children’s season tickets free. And with the next £15m the elderly’s tickets, why not? And then people aged in their twenties, and then thirties etc. By the end of it, with no net cost to the club, the stadium is full of appreciative fans – and isn’t that the reason for a football club existing in the first place?
So there you have it: wage inflation solved as TV revenue is passed directly on to fans (who, let’s face it, are the ones who are paying by watching ads in the first place.) The best part is that with the extra spending money, we’ll will no doubt buy more balti pies and 100% acrylic scarves: it’s the trickle down effect that cuts out Lamborghinis.
As a final aside, I don’t think I’m alone in having torn loyalties over the France Ukraine game: on the one hand, France not qualifying for the World Cup is, in itself, simply hilarious; on the other, their widely publicised implosion in South Africa was one of the last tournament’s highlights. (Also, The Ukraine are one of the most boring teams to watch out there – remember?) So who will you support?