In his regular column Wayne Farry looks at a drop in the ocean, long-suffering Wearsiders, and ill-treated multi-millionaires.
The big story this past week was no doubt the news that the Premier League™ has once again broken records with the sale of three years’ worth of football broadcasting rights from 2016 onwards. It shouldn’t really be too big of a deal, every three years the previous record gets broken and every three years everyone gets surprised. But in fairness it’s very difficult to ignore the fact the league will be receiving five thousand million pound for the next three years from domestic TV stations alone. That doesn’t even take into account the bidding from overseas stations which is to take place at a later date. There have long been calls for the Premier League to do the right thing and invest some of their billions back into the lower tiers of football and to help the normal people in football. There are campaigns up and down the country calling for money to be rightly invested into grass roots football, but to no avail as of yet. The day of the TV deal the league announced that the 20 clubs had pledged £12m towards grassroots, roughly 0.24% of the money taken in from this TV deal. The levels of greed here are absolutely astonishing, especially when you consider that every single English player to have ever played in the Premier League has in some way come through the grass roots system. How the Premier League maintains their ignorant stance on the subject is mind-boggling.
The levels of prickiness grew even higher later in the week as Richard Scudamore – Premier League chief executive and well-known sexist weirdo – did what many thought impossible and showed himself to be a bigger twat than previously thought. His twat levels before this week were remarkably high already but people truly couldn’t believe their ears when he came out and said that PL clubs shouldn’t be made responsible for their staff earning a living wage. Yes. He said that. With his mouth. The nonplussed way he responded to being asked if clubs should do anything to react to the league’s 70% rise in income suggested that Scudamore cares even less about clubs’ employees being paid properly about as much as the clubs do. Like many in positions like him, he appears to have forgotten why he’s there. Nor does he seem to realise that while obviously there would be no football without footballers, without the everyday workers – the cleaners, the waiters, the receptionists – football clubs would find it very difficult to function. A little appreciation, fiscal as well as otherwise, wouldn’t cost a lot. And with five billion more in the bank, it would be but a drop in the ocean.
In altogether happier news this weekend Bradford City continued their incredible FA Cup run with a convincing victory over Sunderland. Many have called it a “giant-killing” and I suppose it is in so much as Bradford are in a lower league but in truth, few were overly surprised with the result. The story of the match was quite a joy though, it must be said. Sunderland conceded early on through their good friend “own goal” before Bradford finished them off through a fine finish from Jon Stead, former Sunderland non-scoring striker and figure of derision at the Stadium of Light. The way things are looking for the side currently however would give the impression that his woes had more to do with the team than simply him. You really have to pity Sunderland fans. Their team’s timeline is one of relegation and promotion, followed by years of dreadful football illuminated briefly by rare escapes from the clutches of the drop. Since Gus Poyet came in last season and saved them, the football they’ve played has been some of the worst ever seen with human eyes. I mean, Escape to Victory had more convincing football scenes than some of the stuff witnessed on a Saturday down Wearside. To put a simplistic view on it, you could say that Poyet is a very limited manager, one who doesn’t have a particularly good eye for players and whose tactics are just as unimpressive. But saying that, their squad is not an awful one. Sure, there are better teams but there are certainly many worse ones, on paper at least. I wrote in this column weeks ago about Poyet owing me ninety minutes of my life, but what of the Sunderland fans who follow their team up and down the country only to be served up continual shit and be told its top flight football? In the past Gus has even had the temerity to criticise these fans for their lack of support. Hardly a fair assessment when you’re giving them something barely worthy of a smile, never mind a cheer. With the way things look for them now, and have done for a while, it’s hard to see why Poyet is still in a job. Perhaps the greatest hint is the new contract he signed not long ago and it would appear Ellis Short, much like Randy Lerner did for quite a time with Paul Lambert, is simply willing to see how things go. The present is bad enough, but the future doesn’t look much better for Sunderland fans.
Speaking of Villa, much ire came the way of the BBC after they decided to televise Leicester’s visit to Villa Park over showing Chelsea-slaying Bradford this weekend. Quite how they came to this decision is beyond me and many others. Perhaps they thought they might see Nigel Pearson get into another wee scuffle? Perhaps they felt that Aston Villa versus Leicester City couldn’t possibly be as bad as it sounded. Either way it was an incredibly odd choice. Bradford, having beaten Mourinho’s Chelsea at Stamford Bridge must be wondering what they have to do to have one of their game’s aired live, and you can understand why. Above all else though it’s the sort of peculiar decision making that makes you happy and relieved that the BBC doesn’t have more live football available. All they have is the FA Cup and they still manage to fuck that up.
Finally we take a little trip over to Madrid to peer wistfully at Cristiano Ronaldo. The Ballon d’Or winner, who just turned 30, has been the subject of much scorn and booing (and hankie-waving) from the Bernabeu faithful recently. Why, you ask? Has he suddenly become a poor player? No. Has he perhaps said something in passing that the fans took the wrong way? No. Has he maybe described them as spoilt morons unable to appreciate some of the best footballers in the world playing in their backyard? Not even close. He has though gone three games without scoring a goal. THREE. WHOLE. GAMES. OF. FOOTBALL. 270 minutes without hitting the back of the net. Sure, there was a humbling defeat by rivals Atletico and a red card against Cordoba in there too but it’s remarkable how quickly people forget how good this guy is. His brilliance – and it truly is brilliance – is essentially a double-edged sword. When you reinvent the definition of excellence you can only fall, there is nowhere else to go. Maybe it doesn’t affect him, maybe he takes solace from his trinkets and prizes and maybe, when he’s a little sad, he goes for a little walk through his personal museum to remind himself that things aren’t too bad after all. But he shouldn’t have to. The fans who Saturdays he lights up on a near weekly basis should be doing it. Because even without scoring in three consecutive games, he’s still one of the best ever, if not THE best. And people will miss him more than they realise when he’s gone. Treat your multi-millionaires better people.