Sunday, January 21, 2007

Something's Wrong *

Good piece in this weekend’s New York Times, in the business section, of course, on David Beckham’s move in the summer to LA Galaxy. You can read the whole thing here, but try this for a taster:

“Soccer is ultimately an entertainment industry, and stars were bred in radio, films and television long before soccer became such big business. Hiring David Beckham is a lot like returning to the studio system of the 1940s, when a star would be expected to lend his talents to a string of movies, all for the same company and perhaps even the same director. But that system didn’t last in Hollywood, since actors asserted their bargaining power. And it hasn’t really worked in soccer, either.
The old North American Soccer League, which closed down in 1984, was the star system carried to an extreme. Aging magicians of the game — even Pelé, its reigning legend — were collected from around the world to play matches in football stadiums. But the opportunity to see men who were household names, at least for soccer fans, in the dusk of their careers did not create enough momentum for the league to survive. A previous attempt to bring an unquestioned star of the European game, Lothar Matthäus of Germany, to American shores ended quickly and in acrimony a few years ago.
Mr. Matthäus was offered far less money than Mr. Beckham, though, and Mr. Beckham is a different sort of commodity. He is a marketing powerhouse, and the Beckham name is known to many people who have little interest in his athletic talents. Nevertheless, his allure as a salesman may slacken once his ability on the field ebbs away.”

Not a lot of startling originality, I accept, but that is just the point. Here is a national league which has not exactly caught the imagination of the mass sporting public – football, of course, still lags way behind baseball, grid-iron, basketball and ice hockey. It may lag behind many other sports, but those are the ones which spring to mind. Hey, I may be wrong on this, so I stand to be corrected if football does not in fact lag behind any of them in terms of fans attending matches and viewing figures for televised games. But why would anyone think that one individual and ageing football player who will probably never play for their national team again can make a difference where the likes of Pele, Beckenbauer and Best have failed in the past? The obscene amounts of money being given to Beckham – "whose bonuses could exceed the entire payroll of the rest of the league" – are doomed to failure. They have to be, nothing else for it!

On a related subject, am I the only one who thinks that English football this week took another step towards its own death as a spectator sport for anyone other than the supporters of a chosen few? Well, I know I’m not the only one as JJ had this thought when I spoke to her about it last night also. The side which finishes bottom of the Premiership next season will receive nearly £30 million yes, the bottom side. This can only result in a few things, such as bigger and bigger squads, with fringe players on inflated salaries that the lower league sides cannot compete with. So all those exciting players in the Championship, League One and League Two will say goodbye to first-team football and hello to maybe the chance of sitting on the bench for a League Cup match or a meaningless end-of-season affair for a mid-table club. Best league in the world? Well, if the proliferation of cash for Premiership clubs results in a more open style of football, with teams wanting to win rather than being frightened to lose, if it means a challenge for the title from more than two or three clubs every season, if it means more success in the Champions League (two Champions League/European Cup winners in the last 20 years does not make for a successful league set-up, I would suggest), then maybe all this money will be worth it.
So what’s the point of my rant? Fuck knows, but I thought I would make it nevertheless.

*Jesus and Mary Chain



Blogger J.J said...

Like I said to you, I think it is disgusting,and if the price of failure is £30 million then please may I be a failure too? But I was also just thinking that maybe - just maybe - it will lead to more people being alienated from Premiership football and turning to the Championship and lower league sides instead to see something they can vaguely identify with rather than between massively overpaid footballers who are playing as part of ten men defences because the price of failure is only £30 million.

Oh hang on - there's a flaw in that argument somewhere isn't there?

9:25 pm  
Blogger Reidski said...

JJ - one flaw in both your and my arguments is that there were loads of goals and good games in the Premiership this weekend, but let's ignore that one. Oh, but, then again, you missed Match of the Day for some reason ;-)

11:00 pm  

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