Pay-Per-View Protests Fuel Fan Food Bank Funding

The ends and means all over the place, as misdirected anger results in charity.

This weekend saw the big Pay-Per-View kick-off and as expected fans were throwing their toys out of their prams all over the country about the £15 being demanded to cover such Premier League classics as Sheff Utd vs Fulham and West Brom vs Burnley.

Faux anger lined social media, the despair of having to pay the extent of £15 for live football when they already pay through their nose for 200+ Premier League matches a year, the cheek that they could just make up a price for the content they own – what do they think this is, business? Greedy bastards.

Charity Not PPV

Pay-Per-View was trending on Twitter over the weekend, with fans taking to the ‘anger outlet’ to shout things like “£15 and there’s not even a build up” and “Not even any proper build-up, punditry or post-match reaction”.

All of this anger is misdirected at the Broadcasters, at a time of heated emotions, and it’s clouding the waters. Sky and BT are hugely wealthy stakeholders within this project, but it has already been made clear that this was not their idea nor to their benefit. They were better suited to showing all the games for free. Unfortunately when people are outraged, they don’t necessarily care where their anger is directed, as long as someone is listening. Twitter is always listening, and polarising sides is the nature of social media.

BT’s Opening Statement for the Defence

Marc Allera the Chief Executive of their Consumer Division has come out in defence of BT through this period,

“We had a suggested retail price which was suggested to us by the Premier League.

We also have a cost that they’re charging us for those games. We’re certainly not making significant amounts of money out of this, we’re pretty much just covering our costs to put these games on.”

Initially, we had been advised that Broadcasters would not profit from this PPV venture and the money was only due to the two sides contesting the Premier League fixture. This information from Allera suggests the broadcasters will receive a nominal fee, in which case we can be concerned with what their operating costs are, and why they couldn’t take a bigger cut to provide pundits and commentators – although these comments still re-iterate that the main benefactor from these matches is the Premier League itself, not the broadcasters. Allera continues,

“I think the intent of the Premier League to put these games on was to get some money moving into some of the clubs and leagues that are struggling and I think that’s a good intent, and that’s reflected in the price that they’re charging us

“The vast majority of that UK£14.95 is the cost price to us of that game. Our objective is to help the Premier League and the football ecosystem. Whether it’s a few thousand or a few hundred thousand it is still money that is going back into football and we’re pleased to be playing our part in that.”

These are hugely significant comments from the Chief at BT, and ones that do not fit the on-brand message from the Premier League. Effectively what BT are stating is that the Premier League are looking to fund the football league’s deficit out of the pocket of the arm-chair fan. This is a shocking message. It’s akin to the taxpayer bailing out the banks. It’s hoped that this was not the intention of the Premier League.

Sky and BT Refuse to Declare Viewing Figures

A number of tabloid newspapers are running with headlines “Sky and BT refuse to declare PPV numbers” following the weekend’s matches. It would appear they’re all written around the same story, the above unverified tweet from John Sinnott of CNN.

It’s fair for Sky and BT not to reveal their figures, but it is in the interest of the Premier League to announce the success / failure / status of these additional matches, particularly in light of Allera’s comments that this money is intended to cover the financial deficits of the overall game, and not just the rich getting richer.

Once these figures are declared, we are of course expecting them to be low – but what is low? St. James’ Park only holds 50,000 home fans – they annually retail approx 30,000 season tickets – so surely we’re looking at a PPV figure for the Newcastle vs Man Utd match at around 45,000 participants that would have saved money by paying the £15.

Or… do we compare it to the viewing figures for the average Newcastle vs Man Utd match that is on regular Sky Super Sunday? Either way, the stats will be used to promote the author’s agenda – there’s no direct comparison that works on a fair basis here. Expect fireworks when the figures are released, with chaos the overall objective of the message shared.

Newcastle United Raise £20k for Local Food Bank

This is a really good news story, and has inspired a number of clubs across the country to use their powers for good. Organisations like NUFC Foodbank, Burnley FC in the Community and Leeds United Fans Food Bank already existed pre-lockdown football and pre PPV. Their work is to use the positive community feeling of fandom and using it to help those in need, most commonly through the uses of food banks.

NUFC Foodbank, as pictured above, regularly attended home games and raised donations through volunteers carrying buckets outside the ground. They would raise approximately £5k per match, which is a great gesture to be celebrated. So at games where fans were already spending circa £1.5m (attendance of 52,040 x £30 average ticket) in gate receipts, an additional £15k was supported to the local Food Bank.

This weekend, whilst all the social media anger was kicking off, one fan suggested taking the recommended £15 PPV fee and donating this fee to charity – perhaps even a local Food Bank – and the momentum was set. This drive culminated over the weekend at £20,000 for the West End Food Bank of Newcastle. This is an amazing effort that all fans – nee, all people, should consider. If you have, then please give.

What isn’t so pleasant, is the use of Food Banks to create propaganda about the cost of Premier League football. One should not do charitable work for the sake of raising their own agenda. One also should not believe they are giving this money having “saved it” not buying the Newcastle match. You either had this money to give, or you didn’t – it didn’t suddenly appear because we set a price of £15 on televised football. If you want to support good causes, you don’t need an excuse.

In the analysis of the success of the Charity not PPV trend, £20k is a significant figure, but whilst Newcastle United’s fans have “saved” approximately £1.5m per match in lack of ticketing, they have only seen an additional £15k of that money being donated. As explained, this is not a direct comparison of PPV money going to Food Banks. There’s an equivalent £2m a game missing from Newcastle United’s home matches and the ultimate Pay-Per-View question is how do we keep that money within the game, to fight the gate receipt losses accumulating weekly.

Premier League losing £100m per month

This is the exact reason why the Food Bank association to the argument of Pay-Per-View football is quite embarrassing and demeaning. The scale of funding within football is incomparable to almost all business and industry across the globe. The idea that raising £20k as a protest against something within football is laughable. In context, that is less than half of Gareth Bale’s hourly rate.

Sky Sports’ current Premier League packages for televised matches retails at £9.8m per match – meaning they’re confident their subscription and advertising model has a significant increase on turnover – the idea that a Pay-Per-View boycott to the sum of £20,000 isn’t going to disturb the broadcasters. Releasing the figures for Pay-Per-View matches could affect their advertising, but this boycott is more likely to drive these matches off TV than they are of becoming available for free again.

The Premier League is the dominant cause for the move to Pay-Per-View, and that has been driven by the individual Premier League clubs. As mentioned in my prior article, the Pay-Per-View objective is on resolving the deficit of gate receipts whilst fans are unable to attend. This is a maximising profit business model, but not for those distributing the product but for the manufacturers of the product – the clubs.

Personal View

I try to remain objective on matters, but I do understand that the majority of reactions to Pay-Per-View appear to be on defending the end consumer from increased costs to watching the greatest league in the world. It does impact on our already limited funds, but these questions have always been there. People have to budget for the luxuries in their life, and Premier League football is a luxury – not a necessity. I know it doesn’t always feel like that, to a lot of us, football is a religion and we want to be completely at one with it – meaning we want access to every minute for the fear of missing out. The idea that someone has seen something we haven’t does affect how ‘close to God’ we are in comparison, but we should try to step back and appreciate that we all love football, we just have differing relationships with it.

We are not constantly owed something for nothing, and it’s important for us to remember this. I never used to have 10 Premier League games a weekend available on tv, and I never want to. It’s excessive and a concern for our mental health. The fact that we’re making it a possibility to watch every one of your own team’s matches for £15 a game should be celebrated – sure, we can argue about the cost – but this is a step forward for those fans unable to turn up and complete their stadium match day rituals. That’s it.

If you don’t like a product, you have the right to share your opinion and make your business decision – but we should stop feeling angered just because a decision doesn’t match how you feel it should go. You have the right to complain, and the right to not purchase that product – you don’t have the right to tell other people they’re wrong because you disagree. We’re not all Donald Trump, and neither should we aspire to be. We’re talking about the Premier League, not the NHS.

🎵 Stop-in-the-name-of-VAR; Before I cause you harm 🎵

It’s one of the greatest, purest joys of console football. You’re chasing down an attacker… you see the linesman’s flag go up but the referee is yet to blow for the free-kick… so you Captain Crunch that mother fucker onto a stretcher, knowing you’ve already won the free-kick, and the Xbox / PS4 knows not to actually injure the player because that ‘Time and Space’ isn’t real… like the video below… CRUNCH.

Prior to this weekend, tensions and questions were rising regarding the possibility that someone in real life was likely to get a serious injury from linesmen not flagging when they believe players were offside – running the risk of a sprinting forward meeting a sprinting goalkeeper and WHAMMO. Well, those people are not wrong – but they’re late to the game. This unnecessary risk of injury has been a problem in the game since the advantage rule was introduced in – according to Wikipedia – in 1903.

“1903 – A referee may refrain from awarding a free kick or penalty in order to give advantage to the attacking team.”

It’s not the concept of the ‘Advantage’ rule that anyone disputes, the question is on the construct of the laws of Physics on ‘Time and Space’. During an ‘advantage’ or ‘phase in play’ whilst VAR are analysing various camera angles to bollocks up another decision – is this time real? Or a multi-verse that becomes instantly irrelevant and void once a decision has been made that takes us back to the future? Confusing. Oooh… we have some real life examples to consider thanks to James McLean, Jordan Pickford and Richarlison.

James McLean, Ireland vs Wales, Sunday 11th October

The scene, heading into the final 10 minutes Wales are awarded a corner with the scores at 0-0. Although just an international friendly, it’s a local derby and comes with international bragging rights. James McLean picks the ball up from the corner and launches into a counter-attack. He’s fouled, and in the momentum of his sprint and being pushed off balance, he lunges forward to win the next ball (images above).

The referee gives the free-kick to McLean and Ireland, then chooses to caution McLean for a late tackle – a late tackle that effectively does not exist – as a free-kick was given. It’s only a yellow, so in this instance the referee has deemed this ‘time and space’ to exist, and exist within the linear timeline – multiverse – of real time. To make matters worse, this is McLean’s 2nd yellow card and he’s sent off.

Time after Offence: Real
Severity of Following Offence: Yellow Card

Jordan Pickford, Everton vs Liverpool, Saturday 17th October

Jordan Pickford, Everton and England’s #1 – and since Saturday’s take-down of Virgil van Dijk (VVD) – possibly a club legend to the more hardcore Toffees, and certainly on the Christmas Card list to those hardcore City and Utd fans. The challenge above is nothing short of reckless and dangerous. Look at it. If that’s the height and stance having gone through VVD, how high was he at the point of contact? VVD we know has suffered a serious ACL injury and could be out for the whole season. Pickford should very obviously be sent off ; wait what?

In this incident, ‘Time and Space’ did not exist after the point at which VVD himself was deemed offside from the prior phase of play. It would appear, as defined by the referee at Goodison Park that either:

A) VVD was offside and therefore any event that occurred after this was instantly erased from time like an Avenger in Infinity War.

B) Jordan Pickford’s challenge is not a red card offence – nor even a yellow card offence – as McLean had been booked the previous week.

Fair enough, whilst we do demand consistency from the law makers to the rule administrators to the referees on the field, when a different referee from a different football association has such an awkward decision to make, we as football fans can accept some discrepancy. Right? It was a different referee, the same referee would not show inconsistency : wait, what?

Time after Offence: Imaginary
Severity of Following Offence: Red Card

Richarlison, Everton vs Liverpool, Sunday 17th October

Christ. Both of these challenges were in the same game? What was this, the Merseysi… oh… In truth this was quite a tame Merseyside Derby, no punches thrown, not many 50/50s to write home about. These two incidents stood out like a two-footed, studs showing tackle in the middle of the field.

Richarlison’s “tackle” was reckless and dangerous and was rightly deemed a Red Card. There were little to no complaints from Everton and an apology after the game. Thiago, making his Premier League debut, was the victim and despite finishing the game is expected to be out for a few weeks. The right decision was made. Right? Well…

Moments before Richarlison’s foul – milliseconds in truth – a free-kick was awarded to Liverpool for a foul by Mina. Theoretically, Richarlison’s foul did not exist in ‘Time or Space’, or at least the same referee earlier in the game did not punish Pickford for his challenge when ‘Time and Space’ were in question. So… which is it? It must be – because referees are always consistent – that the referee in question, nor his VAR team, considered Pickford’s challenge to be a Red Card. We know they considered it, because they reviewed the VVD Offside because of a potential Penalty from the Pickford challenge. That means that it’s also not been considered as a ‘Yellow Card’. Are you for real?

Time after Offence: Real
Severity of Following Offence: Red Card

The (Actual) Laws of the Game

So with three contradictory incidents within a week, two with the same referee and VAR, perhaps the actual Laws of the Game can direct us to what the truth is, what the decisions should be, and then who we can point our fingers at to call them out.

A tackle or challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent or uses excessive force or brutality must be sanctioned as serious foul play. Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force or endangers the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.

So we can all agree, Jordan Pickford’s challenge is definitely a Red Card.

There’s no definitive talk of Time Travel, the Time Stone, Laws of Physics, Time and Space or Dr. Strange within the Football Association’s Laws of the Game – so it’s hard to get a definitive right answer on what DEFINITELY SHOULD HAPPEN. However… the opening gambit to Disciplinary leads us to believe that all Yellow and Red Cards should be awarded regardless of ‘Time and Space’ of their misdemeanour, resulting in the following:

The referee has the authority to take disciplinary action from entering the field of play for the pre-match inspection until leaving the field of play after the match ends.

If, before entering the field of play at the start of the match, a player or team official commits a sending-off offence, the referee has the authority to prevent the player or team official taking part in the match (see Law 3.6); the referee will report any other misconduct.

This says to me that ANY offence caused by a player, manager, or affiliated club member should be dealt with at the time, and that ‘Time and Space’ do exist within the football universe. This is a given for serious offences such as violent conduct, but it’s noteworthy for players receiving Yellow Cards, as they can rack up to Red Cards and suspensions.

The FA declared on Monday that Jordan Pickford would not receive retrospective action for his challenge, as the officials – both on field and VAR – handled the incident at the time. This statement was offered to prevent further discussion and expectations, but did not provide the required clarity on what is right – what should have happened. However by stating that the Officials had the opportunity to officiate on the incident, they’re doing two things: One, they’re allowing the referee team to control the game. Two; they’re backing their referee team rather than causing discontent amongst the ranks. Unfortunately, that means that both referee and VAR believed this WAS NOT A YELLOW OR RED CARD.

What fans really need, what stakeholders really want – is accountability. We want to know what the right decision should have been, so we can be confident in knowing what should happen next time – how players should approach future incidents – what is right. Instead, we’re scared to admit we were wrong, in case of libel action or a loss of confidence in the Officials. It would be a lot more reassuring if Referee HQ could take ownership of these controversial decisions and provide a black and white answer. We wait in hope… in the meantime, here’s how play should have resulted:

James McLean:
Free-kick to Ireland (Morral’s Foul)
Yellow Card awarded to McLean

Jordan Pickford:
Free-kick to Everton (VVD Offside)
Red Card awarded to Pickford

Free-kick to Liverpool (Mina’s Foul)
Red Card awarded to Richarlison

EPL GW5 Review: Claw Hammers and Sticky Toffees

The mystery mayhem manipulating Premier League matches continues

Another weekend of Premier League football continues to line the pockets of the bookies as no-one really knows what’s going on or why it’s happening but be honest… we fucking love it.

And the mayhem doesn’t stand still – for – one – moment. 26 goals from 8 weekend games, 5 last gasp equalisers across high scoring dramatic draws, a further last minute winner and late drama at Newcastle, Leicester and the only reliable guarantee left in football – Arsenal losing away to the Big 6.

Completing a concise review of the Premier League is getting harder and harder, almost harder than predicting what to bet on in the first place (I’ve only tipped 2 winning selections from 9 thus far – Villa are responsible for 3 of those). Each of these matches could generate thousands of words, but for now let’s keep it short and snappy.

Stand-out Match: Everton 2 Liverpool 2

What happened at White Hart Lane with West Ham coming back from 3-0 down with 82 minutes played is nothing short of a miracle. “That’s Football” Jose Mourinho remarked. However there is a deep truth to what happened at Spurs – they’re Spursy. It’s what Mourinho was brought in to change, and there’s no doubt that this was a slur on his reputation – hence the deflection of in-depth analysis simply to “that’s football”.

Instead we will focus on Goodison Park, where Premier League managers, players, fans… and some board members focussed their attention on the Merseyside Derby to seek answers on two vital questions: Are Everton the real deal for a challenge to the Top 4? Can Liverpool’s 30 point mountain from last season be conquered? The performance, result and Virgil van Dijk’s season threatening injury provided sufficient evidence to believe in both.

Liverpool’s front three – particularly Salah – looked sharp, and will continue to threaten all Premier League defences all season – which means despite any other wheels coming off – they should definitely expect to be title challenging. One major concern is the dramatic drop in goals and assists from Roberto Firmino, he’s now only scored 1 goal in 30 games. A lot is often said of what Firmino brings to Liverpool, allowing them to press from the front and create so many chances – but a return of 9 goals and 10 assists in 43 games since the start of 2018/19 should raise a few eyebrows.

Further concern undoubtedly lies in the expected prolonged absence of van Dijk. Having been in suspicious form this season anyhow, Liverpool’s title defence will be rocked by the loss of their inspirational Dutch leader at the back. It was noticeable, and I cannot be the only one that felt that, both Everton goals – one corner, another deep cross in open play – would both be shining examples of where van Dijk has brought an aerial dominance to this Liverpool side. Without him they were weaker and allowed both Keane and Calvert-Lewin free headers at goal to share the points. The image above shows how unmarked and unchallenged Calvert-Lewin is for 2-2. Other teams will target Matip and Gomez, the latter of which has been below his own standards at a time when he needs to step up the most.

Everton came from behind – twice – to take a point away from a fixture they have not won in 10 years. Their resilience to fight for something out of the game, and quality to achieve both goals and more chances should be praised and give Toffee fans enhanced hope to continue this form throughout the season, challenging the current erratic form of Man Utd, Chelsea, Leicester, Tottenham and Arsenal. You can believe the Toffees will be sticking around.

But a quick note on the incidents that have made the headlines: Pickford was incredibly lucky to stay on the pitch, for what would undoubtedly have been a red card had it not been for an irrelevant offside. It was reckless, dangerous, and he had to go; Richarlison was being Richarlison. Capable of brilliance, but occasionally hot headed and overly aggressive. It was a bad challenge which he admitted, and it was a straight red; the VAR decision to disallow Liverpool’s winner was both hilarious and ludicrous all-in-one. Rightly, albeit a little petulant, Liverpool have demanded answers from Referee HQ as to what the logic was behind this decision when the lines appear to be marked on complete make-belief, and the world seems to see Mane as being onside. With so much controversy surrounding these moments, we’ll pick them up in a separate article.

Stand-out Performance: Timo Werner

I didn’t have the patience to wait for time on Werner, selling him in Fantasy Football a fortnight ago, but after a goal and assist in midweek for Germany he appears to have settled into Premier League life with a brace and assist in Chelsea’s 3-3 draw with Southampton.

Werner’s talent and attitude have never been in question – he’s a machine in the final third, fully capable of running at you from out wide, bringing other players into the game, and deadly infront of goal. If anything, as the spearhead of such an attacking outfit it’s a wonder how it’s taken this long. He should be expected to maintain a higher standard, especially with such creative ability supporting him – it’s just a hope for Chelsea fans they can stop conceding so many goals costing them the win. Even just keeping their opponents down to 2 goals a game would have provided 4 more points, and push Chelsea into 2nd place. Oh how they must long for John Terry (reminder: JT is somehow assisting Villa’s 100% winning record).

In Form: Harry Kane and Heung-min Son

Whilst I can admit to selling Werner before he hit form, I can also celebrate replacing him with Harry Kane who is quite figuratively on fire – ably supported by Heung-min Son – as they continue to push the record books on goalscoring partnerships.

It’s even more impressive and exciting for Spurs fans that Gareth Bale is joining this front two to become arguably the most exciting front line in world football right now (the break-up of Barcelona and Real Madrid assisting this greatly).

Kane’s stats this season in Premier and Europa League are unprecedented and phenomenal. It’s worth noting they have NOT BEEN ENOUGH to see off home games vs Newcastle and West Ham, but he’s really stepped up to lead this new look Spurs:

Played 8 Goals 10 Assists 8

Son is not far behind on an a similarly impressive:

Played 7 Goals 7 Assists 4

With the arrival of Gareth Bale and Vinicius, it will allow more rest and drive more competition amongst Tottenham’s attack and you should expect Kane and Son to keep delivering on goals and assists. Next up, bottom of the table Burnley away.

Out of Form: Newcastle United

This may appear to be harsh, but hear me out. Yes, Newcastle have “impressed” this season, and had gathered 7 points from their 4 Premier League games – but looking at their season in more detail does raise alarm bells.

Their wins, a comprehensive victory on the opening day against West Ham – seems to point more towards the under-cooked Hammers that turned up, and home to Burnley, who are on 100% record of defeats. When dropping points, they were completely outplayed by Brighton, Spurs and Man Utd. In the League Cup, they have been untested with a big victory against Morecambe then relying on Penalties to defeat Newport County.

Some have been tempted to back Newcastle for safety, and perhaps more this year – but with Wolves and Everton to come they really need to pick themselves up and return some fight to the pitch.

EPL GW5 Preview

The return to Premier League action after an international break often puts paid to the form book, with the rest doing the world of good for teams out of form and it being disruptive to those in form. Sadly for that reason, the Merseyside Derby would probably have been a more enticing fixture had there not been a fortnight break, thousands of air miles accumulated – and of course the lack of fans.

Tipped Treble:
@Sheff Utd – Home Win 21/20
@Palace – Under 1.5 First Half Goals 1/3
@Leicester – Home Win 17/20

Sheffield United at home to Fulham… Played 8 Lost 8. Something has to give. It’s most likely to be Sheffield United, who look to be returning some form despite their trouble returning any points. Fulham are due to struggle throughout this season but were involved in plenty of activity on transfer deadline day including the exciting Loftus-Cheek to help create chances for top goalscorer Mitrovic. Once Fulham click, perhaps they will start moving forwards but right now this seems too simple a task for the Blades.

Palace and Brighton is a misleading geographical derby, affectionately termed the A23 Derby in reference to a road that connects London and Brighton. The history actually is born around a feud amongst staff, but Brighton have little geographical interest out in the sticks, and Wimbledon are no longer local rivals to Palace so we’ll have to allow it. Despite the ‘rivalry’, neither team are so confident in their Premier League status to take the bull by the horns, and this match has stalemate written all over it – in the first half. No doubt the Premier League mayhem will occur in the latter stages, as no-one can get a handle on defending right now.

Finally… I am again backing against Aston Villa. Their victory over Liverpool owed much to the acres of space behind the defence, the same methods West Ham used to punish Leicester and therefore you would back Villa to repeat some success – however Brendan Rodgers will have invested time in eradicating those errors, and it should be remembered that Leicester had 100% record until the Hammers surprised them and I expect they will overturn that disappointment with a comprehensive performance in the Midlands Derby.

Stand-out Match: Man City vs Arsenal

Master vs Apprentice. It’s an age old legend told across many varying formats, it will not be the last time you hear it in football – it will not be the last time you hear it about Pep vs Arteta. But this fixture offers so much more than just the meeting of Managers.

City have started poorly, Arsenal have started well. There’s an evident transition at both clubs, but in opposing directions. City come into this game having spent over £400m on defenders in four years yet keeping clean sheets is ultimately their biggest problem. Arsenal’s consistency and reliability is their biggest concern, and a long run of 26 games away to the Big 6 with only one clean sheet and no wins – since a 2015 win at the Etihad.

The attacking ability on show is enough to draw you in, but the fickleness of both defences promises to entertain even further. Be hopeful of another appearance from David Luiz, who at the end of last season away to City managed to contribute a huge error leading to a goal, a penalty and a red card – all in 25 mins off the bench.

Stand-out Performance: Gareth Bale
This is why Gareth Bale was worth £85m when he was last in the Premier League. This is what all neutrals and Spurs fans are looking forward to. All eyes should be on White Hart Lane for Bale’s return – possibly from the start – to see exactly what level the 31 year old Bale is at. In his last two fixtures against the Hammers he scored 3 and won 6 points.

Acca Basher: Newcastle vs Man Utd
This week’s Premier League fixtures are incredibly tough to call, especially following the international break and the inconsistency of form. Chelsea vs Southampton was the most noticeable fixture where there was a dominant ‘favourite’ but how much confidence does anyone have in Chelsea winning that?

I, amongst many others, have been very critical of Man Utd this season and rightly so. They’ve been awful. Newcastle, on the other hand, have surprised a few people this season and have managed to accumulate 7 points from their opening 4 matches.

I really have no idea what is going to happen in this match, who is theoretically favourites, and what form is for either of these sides – but ultimately Man Utd are fully of attacking talent and have a very good record against Newcastle, so all in all I feel that is the way this game will go… possibly.

Box Office Premier League Debut

No, not another foreign player but a new television deal to support the economically challenged Premier League clubs.

There’s no easy way to say this but… Premier League clubs are struggling financially. I know, I know… you think that some institutions are just going to be safe forever, untouchable – but it’s over… we have Football In Need.

It started with lockdown last season, when there was a desperate need to finish the Premier League season otherwise the League would be liable to their television contracts – failing to meet their end of the bargain – and owing hundreds of millions of pounds back to Sky, BT and Amazon. Without Premier League football returning to our screens last season, the Premier League was looking at a minimum £330m loss of revenue. Even with returning to television, the multiple broadcasters received approx. £170m.

At this time there was a general feeling that broadcasters such as Sky were being greedy in making such demands, but in turn they were passing on savings to the average household for not being able to fulfil their contractual agreements of providing Live Premier League football. BT offered a refund, and the opportunity to donate that refund to the NHS. It was a different time where these big companies were trying to support the general public.

It’s those sentiments exactly that drove the government to request ALL Premier League football matches to be televised, including some free-to-air on the BBC, to help maintain the mental health of a footballing mad nation. This was a gift – from the Premier League, from TV broadcasters, and the government. But it’s an unsustainable gift, one which breached the Saturday 3pm live football agreement, and one only ever deemed to be temporary whilst the nation was in a lockdown, devoid of all football below the second tier. That period has most definitely come to an end, and a new agreement needed to be made.

Monopolies Commission and Football Packages
To fully understand the narrative around Pay Per View football, we need to understand the whole process around the availability of live televised football, and this starts in 1992. Sky had a vision, to manufacture live football into a product – a product that would become huge business – because it was the most popular product in the country – we just didn’t realise it yet.

As live televised football developed, it had become apparent that Sky had created a monopoly of live football. If you wanted to watch it, you needed to subscribe to Sky. The Monopolies Commission – as they do across all business activity – investigated the business practice and declared that Premier League football available for TV needed to be broken into football packages, that no one broadcaster could own all packages. It’s a key note in history that all fans should be aware of – it’s not corporate money hungry broadcasters that mean needing to pay four different providers for every available Premier League match – these rules are in place for OUR BENEFIT. If you do not understand the negative impacts of a monopoly, you haven’t played the board game with your family at Christmas. If Sky continued to own all Premier League football, they would have no requirements to develop their product further and no accountability for the quality or cost of their product. Only by enforcing more broadcasters into live televised football could this monopoly be broken. This welcomed ITV Digital, BT Sport, Amazon Prime, etc etc.

So my first point of call on those fans who moan about having to spend money with three different broadcasters to watch all Premier League matches… this – is – for – your – benefit.

Currently, Sky Sports have 4 television packages, allowing them approximately 4 live games a week. BT have one package, for approximately 1 game a week. Amazon picked up the remaining two packages, showing all 10 midweek matches during two key weeks within the season. The concept of splitting these games is to allow fans to access live Premier League football without having to spend additional money, or to watch certain matches at one friend’s house, and to host other games yourself. It’s to protect the finances of all, not to concern themselves with those demanding access to all.

Release from Lockdown
The agreement to show all remaining 2019/20 matches post lockdown live was a free benefit to broadcasters. Sky, for example, had paid £9.3m per game in their football packages – suddenly they had free access to even more – reducing their average price. They alongside BT, Amazon and BBC were the winners from showing the remaining unselected games live on their format. Sky and BT now had more products to sell advertising to, Amazon continued having products to drive subscription growth – BBC had their first ever live Premier League football, a statement achievement.

The losers of this situation, undoubtedly, was every football club in the country. In the top flight, the revenue generated from each home match is a hugely significant figure. For argument’s sake, consider it just being ticket revenue: In 2018/19 Man Utd’s highest ticket price was £53 and lowest £31. To keep things simple, let’s take an approx. of £40 per ticket and multiply by their 76,000 capacity and you’re looking at revenue per match of £3 million. That doesn’t include the meals, drinks and merchandise purchased on top. For each match played, Premier League clubs were out of pocket for this revenue.

Fortunately for top flight sides, perhaps even Championship sides – their match day revenue is not a hugely determining factor to their survival. At this level, television money is their main benefactor. For lower league sides, match day is a predominant factor in their overall turnover and it’s the defining reason for them needing a bail out this season – lower league clubs run at a loss putting matches on without fans.

To appease this, we ended football from League One and below, which means these fans needed entertaining too – and it’s a reminder as to the fundamental reasons of placing these games as ‘free to air’ for the state of the nation’s mental health.

But… heading into the new season, this model was not sustainable. The government held firm to plans to re-introduce fans from October 1st, which meant lower league football was scheduled to begin from then too. With Premier League football due to begin in September, a short term agreement was again made for all 10 Premier League fixtures to be shown free-to-air. Clubs continued to run games without fans, without match day revenue, and the broadcasters continued to get something for nothing. When the second wave of Covid was making the return of fans untenable – a new agreement was needed, a more effective long term solution – to appease the losses of math day revenues. Step forward Pay-Per-View football.

Pay-Per-View Objectives
There are four factors to address under the new agreement that is in place for Pay-Per-View football.

We’ve addressed the why above, but it’s as simple as this. The current free-to-air model for Premier League matches was unfairly benefitting broadcasters and not addressing the loss of revenue for individual clubs. These games needed to be aired to their own fans, those that could not make it to home matches – but why should they be available to everyone for free when we already have an effective auction for television rights based on packages.

How Much?
As explained, only the additional games outside of the football packages will be placed on Box Office, and these will be available for £15 per match. That sounds very expensive compared to £30 per month for all available games, but this is not the comparison that is being made. We’re reflecting on the general cost of attending a Premier League match, looking at how much the average MATCH GOING fan budgets for – and on that note this is actually a very generous offer. For myself and my partner to attend a Premier League match we will have budgeted £100 just for tickets, then travel, then eating and drinking.

What do you get?
This is an unfair comparison no matter how you look at it. Yes, you would spend far more money attending the match, but you get far more out of the atmosphere and experience. I can’t and won’t argue with that – attending matches live – particularly as part of fan group – is incomparable. It’s the greatest feeling and we need it back. However, this is the best available option – we don’t even have the pubs to enjoy this. Understandably, a knocked-down price from a match day ticket should, and has, been considered. Further to this… there’s a rumour there will be no commentary. This is a weird element to the narrative, but… it’s probably because…

Where does the money go?
The broadcasters will not see a penny of the revenue gained from Pay-Per-View matches. This money is directly to support the loss of earnings from match day revenues and therefore the money generated will go directly to the Premier League clubs. Sure, Sky and BT will benefit from advertising and sponsorship but not in the same ways. This money is for the Premier League. There are remaining questions as to how that money is distributed. We expect teams like Manchester United to generate more Pay-Per-View subscribers than Burnley, so when Utd are at home do both teams get the money, and vice versa? No-one is saying this ideal – it’s 2020, the world is on fire – no-one is working on ideals right now. This is considered the best of a bad situation.

The Fan Reaction
Most negativity I have witnessed around this has been from armchair fans, the cliche “I already spend [x] on Sky, BT, Amazon” or all of the above. This is a common problem with our modern day society of wanting something for nothing. We pay that much money because we deem it important enough. We had no such concerns about the remaining matches outside of television packages before, but now that it’s been made available we feel we are owed it. That’s bullshit. Football is expensive to follow it all, but it’s the choice you make. There’s plenty of free football to watch every weekend, there’s cheaper local football to watch every weekend, and you could just choose to only purchase one package. No-one is making you do anything, you just want to blame someone else.

The Pundit Reaction

Gary Neville amongst others have been disappointed in the move to put some games behind a pay wall, but without specific references to what or why this is a problem “This is a really bad move by the Premier League to charge £14.95 for single matches that have been shown free for 6 months!” The angle appears to be that we’re having something taken away when it’s been available previously. I do understand that, but there’s a bigger picture at large. The country is struggling financially, and live sport has had a positive impact on the country’s mental welfare but it’s not an abandonment of live sport. The country is progressing and we need certain actions to help return to a form of normality.

The Precedent
It’s a dangerous precedent to introduce Pay-Per-View football that generates revenues for specific clubs. It’s a move that Barcelona and Real Madrid have been trying to manufacture for themselves in Spain. They’re the real attraction to La Liga, why should they share their television revenues? We’ve seen this action take place in the Premier League with the Big 6 – currently domestic television rights are split by the final position in the league table – but the Big 6 are requesting a larger stake of international television rights to be made to just the top placed teams. By introducing a model that financially rewards the big teams regularly, we create a cycle of the rich getting richer and the poor going bankrupt. It’s dangerous to open that door to a group of businessmen that are already making a power grab for dominance.

The Season-Ticket Reaction
These are the fans that this move is theoretically being designed for. At Maidstone United, a National League South side, they’re live streaming their home matches to season ticket holders at a match day ticket cost. This is the model ideally clubs would like to implement.

By providing access to their own season ticket holders or members, they can control the cost, control the product, and control the advertising. They can also produce everything on brand to further engage with their community. When Man Utd’s Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward stated they were against the proposals for Pay-Per-View matches, it must be remembered they’re the least likely to benefit financially from this – definitely when compared with the method directly through the club. Man Utd have the biggest stadium, the largest fan base, and are more often selected as one of the live games anyway – their opportunity to profit from this is not as high as selling tv licensing directly. Notably whilst he made those comments, it was only Leicester that voted against the proposals.

The Illegal Streaming
This is a widespread problem across the live televised match industry already, but understandably there’s a concern that Pay-Per-View matches will push people to that market as they’re unwilling to pay the correct fee for the legal version.

Unsure of how large this issue is? Ever wondered why there’s a silhouette of a pint glass in the corner of the screen when watching football down the pub? It’s the same reason you will occasionally see a string of digits on your home live televised matches. These are designed to catch the individuals / businesses involved in illegal streaming. Where a licensed venue shows football without that pint glass, they’re operating a private not public license. When an illegal stream is identified, they can track the string of numbers back to the account that is providing it. These are the basic domestic methods – then there’s illegal streaming from the middle east coverage of the Premier League.

The thing is… it’s a cop out. It’s a lazy argument to say that Pay-Per-View matches is the reason people are pushed into crime. That’s what it is. Do you believe it’s a victimless crime? Perhaps you do, but it’s a crime nonetheless. It’s an unrelated major concern to the television industry (as it effects products such as Game of Thrones and Marvel movies too) but it’s another action that shows people expect something for nothing.

If you cannot afford a luxury item, it is not your right to obtain it illegally. Football is a luxury item. It is not a human right, nor it a human necessity and yet the reaction is often that we are owed this.

This move, like most business decisions across the globe right now, is a middle ground. It’s designed with all stakeholders in mind, but it’s not going to please everyone. It allows us to retain a level of control over the live televised industry, to retain some finances within the clubs, all without giving too much leeway to any one party. Unfortunately, that does leave fans feeling like they’re the victims – another £15 per match?! Yes. If you do want to watch every Premier League match ever – it’s going to cost you – that’s how the economy works.

And when all else fails, Match of the Day is still free-to-air and they have a snazzy Sunday program too. We’re not that privileged we get to complain about this.

Big Picture Project: Gone but Not Forgotten

Collective Premier League voice hits right notes, but songsheet is incomplete.

Big Picture Project shot through the echelons of English football, leaving a comet trail of burning embers lighting the flames of passion within stakeholders from owners, chairmen, fan groups, journalists, pundits and the head of the key football parties – FA, Premier League and the EFL. They got our attention – they didn’t get our compliance.

“Power grab” was the dominant phrase to appear from George Clarke as head of the FA. “Concentrating power in the hands of six billionaire owners” was how the Supporters’ Groups put it. “A damaging impact on the whole game” within the Premier League statement. These were the feelings leading to an expected tension amongst the 20 Premier League Chairmen meeting yesterday to discuss BPP.

The football world was not been naïve to the actions of the Big 6 in attempting to claim more power, to own future ground-breaking decisions that impact the football world going forwards. They sugar coated the process by offering large chunks of money that clearly swayed the 72 EFL Chairmen who were coming out in droves of support for the deal – you have to feel sorry for those clubs – they are desperate for that money.

The summary details of Project Big Picture appear to go some way to help drive sustainability for the EFL’s member clubs and this can only be a good thing for clubs’ long term growth and the communities in which they are based” Sharon Brittan, Bolton Chairwoman

“This is the most attractive solution for the EFL… It’s better than a loan from the Bank of England repayable over ten years or from an American hedge fund” Paul Scally, Gillingham Chairman

The statement from the Premier League following the meeting yesterday attempted to add clarity, by stating the Big Picture Project “will not be endorsed or pursued by the Premier League, or The FA”. This has not ultimately ruled out BPP occurring, there is not a definitive ‘NO’ from the Premier League – but there’s a statement that it will not be driven by themselves nor the FA. In other words, should Liverpool and Manchester United attempt a second wave, it could be pushed through a vote and succeed. However, there is a little more to digest:

“[All 20] Clubs will work collaboratively, in an open and transparent process, focusing on competition structure, calendar, governance and financial sustainability. This project has the full support of The FA and will include engagement with all relevant stakeholders including fans, Government and, of course, the EFL.”

This statement is reaction to the underhand shenanigans of the Big 6 in producing this proposal WITHOUT collaborative, open and transparent discussion. The only way – rightly – for the issues within football, EFL financial troubles, and systemic cycle of creating a division between the divisions, is for all the major stakeholders to work together. This is the statement form the Premier League yesterday.

The concerns – and they are very concerning – is… that is exactly what was supposed to be happening in the first place. The statement makes a suggestion that it’s been the Big 6 refusing to work collaboratively, but this isn’t the truth. The truth is the FA, Premier League and EFL have not reformed effectively or efficiently as the business of football has grown exponentially, and the lack of organic progress has resulted in cracks flowing through our foundations. No one individual or board ever took a reform seriously enough to implement the required changes.

It was 2001 when Lord Burns was tasked with an independent review of the FA and how football was run, and he delivered in huge detail the short falls of the games infrastructure from diversity, to representation of grassroots, and independent boards and reviews. In 2015, Greg Dyke left the FA trying to get through required reform to make the FA more effective and diverse – these changes did not occur and the archaic structure of our football system continued. These are not new problems – Covid has just escalated the need to address the imbalance.

The Premier League’s statement doesn’t make any progress to resolving any of the problems staring it in the face – just a push back on one option, and a continued acceptance that “it needs change”.

These are regularly the actions and statements of those in power just buying themselves more time to continue their lack of ingenuity. One decent act from yesterday’s meeting was the confirmed £50m ‘gift’ to the EFL to help cover the losses through Covid-19. This will quieten down the EFL Chairmen for a while, perhaps only a month – and this money doesn’t assist any of the Championship sides who will argue for far more to supplement their inflated wage bills.

We know the football family needs money. Desperately needs money. And needs fans back in the stands. We know the football community HAS money. We know we can afford to implement a new structure that does balance financial reward throughout the pyramid. We know that footballers DO NOT NEED £500k a week. We know home shirts DO NOT COST £70 to manufacture. We know away tickets DO NOT NEED to be £60+. There are solutions out there, and we need an independent body, one that is seeking to look out for the football fan, to be involved.

But the Big 6 are not going away, their power will grow with every passing season, and their power grab will return if we do not take action now.

Kieran Tripps on Gambling Exchange

Extreme betting rules on player transfers are fault of bookies, not players.

Let’s start this article by going back to happier times. First of all, let’s return to Russia 2018. Gareth “Footballs Coming Home Again” Southgate is leading a pride of young lions on a journey to become World Cup winners. No-one can quite believe it, yet somehow… we reach the Semi-Final and Kieran Trippier steps up to put a free-kick in the top corner after 5 minutes. Kieran Trippier is a World Cup Semi-Final goalscorer.

Continue the journey, trade out Southgate for Pochettino – and you’re in the Champions League Final playing against domestic rivals Liverpool. After a front row seat of Sissoko’s unfortunate handball in the first minute, you finish the match as losers – or more affectionately – runners-up. In 12 months, you have gone from “former Man City academy” to “World Cup Semi-finalist and Champions League runner-up”. What a transformation.

Investigate the journey in more detail, perhaps those close to him, and there’s a picture of discontent. I am not saying Tripper was unhappy at Spurs, but perhaps wanting more. Despite the success in Europe, Pochettino’s Spurs were waning, dropping points regularly and not pressing teams as much. It was evident outside the club that not all was well, and Trippier seized on this with a move abroad. The possibility to relocate and play under Diego Simeone is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one you wouldn’t consider on your own. It’s completely understandable to share this quandry with friends and family. However, it’s these discussions that have led to an FA Charge in Breach of Betting Rules E8(1)(a)(ii) and Rule E8(1)(b), specifically the latter as:

“Where a participant provides to any other person any information relating to football which the participant has obtained by virtue of his or her position within the game and which is not publicly available at that time, the participant shall be in breach of this rule where any of that information is used by that other person for, or in relation to, betting.”

This rule is designed to protect the integrity of the game, and integrity of gambling on the game. It’s a rule against “insider trading”, where those with inside knowledge capitalise financially on that knowledge making the betting exchange ‘unfair’.

This same rule caught out Daniel Sturridge during the January 2018 transfer window. Sturridge had contacted his family over a potential move to Spanish La Liga side Sevilla. It’s understandable that he would hold such conversations. If I changed job role (as I have through Covid redundancy) I would be sharing this with my friends and family too, especially if it were to take me to a foreign country. Sturridge was found to be guilty, and punished with a 6 month ban (eventually after appeal). The irony of this offence was that Sturridge didn’t even move to Sevilla in the end.

Those close to Trippier appear to have placed bets on him moving to Atletico Madrid, and benefitted financially as a result. Trippier has declared his innocence from day one, “I want to make it clear that while a professional footballer I have at no stage placed any football related bets or received any financial benefit from others betting.” but this isn’t a sufficient defence in relation to the rules – somehow.

The actions of those friends and family around you should be held at arm’s length when it comes to punishing the footballer at the root of the offence. The rule is legitimate, it needs to protect the integrity of the game, but it should not be with ultimate responsibility on the footballer. The footballer is a person, a human being with natural instincts to share and discuss personal matters within their close circle. A bigger problem is the access and available markets that bookmakers can provide, and therefore, more availability for a perception of insider trading.

Sturridge himself called for a change in the rules on gambling, from the point of view that gambling on the transfers / sacking of players and managers should be taboo – banned, “I’m going to continue to campaign for professional footballers to be able to speak to their families and close friends freely, without the real risk of being charged. I feel the betting companies and the practice and process of people placing bets on players moving clubs has to be stopped.”

There is a graver concern than just these markets – where do we draw the line? Bookmakers are ever keen to introduce more and more football markets because gambling on football is the fastest growing gambling industry worldwide. A quick glance at tonight’s England vs Denmark match on SkyBet and there’s 150+ markets available on the game with some examples below:

Let’s say for example, there’s a striker in a run of poor form. Roberto Firmino is yet to score this season for Liverpool. Out of form and perhaps low on morale, perhaps he discusses with his friends and family about a need to get more shots off, to get in and around the box more often and take a few punts and hope for the best. These are standard thoughts for a striker out of form… but if he does share these concerns – supporting his rights for his mental health and wellbeing – what if someone then senses an opportunity to place a bet on:

66/1! Blimey. That’s some serious betting available… In fact just writing this I am overly excited about the free money of Firmino getting more shots off in the Merseyside Derby next weekend. Be warned, that screenshot is first half only, but going back to the point… should Firmino then face an FA Disciplinary charge and 6 month ban from world football?

That is the precedent for punishment. A ban from world football – not just the FA, domestic English football – but everything.

Professional footballers gambling on fixtures is definitely a world we want to prevent. Preventing stupid markets that capitalise on human weakness is definitely a world we want to prevent. Somewhere in the middle though, we need compromise.

My expectation is Trippier will get a smaller punishment than Sturridge (and it should be remembered that each individual case has its own individual evidence, witness statements etc so it’s not going to be as simple as Trippier gets a smaller ban because he’s white or worse because he actually went to the team that was gambled on) as I imagine the FA are not seeking to set an example, but learn how to control the issue better.

Gambling on where a player is going to move is a ludicrous market. You either know – therefore insider information – or you’re guessing. There’s no skill here, and the market is heavily held in the bookmakers’ favour as they control the odds and can react to any news that is made publicly available. The basic advice from me is don’t waste your time trying to make money on these markets, and certainly do not place large bets on them when you do know something you shouldn’t.

For the footballers, I would advise this. Until the markets disappear, keep the information within your close circle and accept the consequences of those that act unprofessionally on what you have shared. Ultimately you are the professional football on inflated wages, and it’s on you to control your inner circle. However, I am with Daniel Sturridge on the overall problem that there are too many markets available and too much emphasis on markets that rely on gamblers guessing on outcomes and not thought or skill related.

Though, if any of you are interested (or close associates to Jack Wilshere) here’s some available betting for you:

Big Picture Project: For The Many, Not The Few

Episode Four: United Kingdom unanimous in rebuking indecent proposal.

Today the Premier League Clubs collectively meet at 11am to “discuss” the Big Picture Project put forward by Liverpool and Man Utd on behalf of the Big 6 [Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City and Spurs the remaining 4]. I say “discuss” because… this is tantamount to civil war.

The exact stance of all Premier League teams is yet to be deciphered, and expect that everyone will keep their cards close to their chest to avoid any public indignation. The fact that the Supporters’ Groups representing the Big 6 have released a joint statement condemning the proposals means every single step now is fragile – except for Joel Glazar, as most Man Utd fans already despise him and the owners. The statement read:

“By floating this latest plan, those behind it are acknowledging football needs to be reformed. It’s something we have been saying for many years. There are some suggestions in this plan that have merit.

But we are totally opposed to concentrating power in the hands of six billionaire owners and departing from the one club, one vote and collective ethos of the Premier League.

This part of the proposal must be dropped immediately if other elements are to be given serious consideration.”

The Supporters’ Groups have correctly recognised the need for reform in their statement, not running away from the issues threatening the foundations of our beautiful game but have addressed the most important proposal from the BPP Team : ONE CLUB, ONE VOTE, COLLECTIVE ETHOS.

That ‘Collective Ethos’ is being threatened by the break-away Big 6, trying to lure the Middle 3 of Everton, West Ham and Southampton, and to dominate the Bottom 100,000 – all the other teams that make up the dozens and dozens of competitive leagues supported by the FA.

West Ham United, named within the announcement of the Big Picture Project, have suitably distanced themselves from the action, placing a metaphorical running track between their name and this absurd claim for power. It’s an impressive move to make a stand by West Ham, given their financial and fan instability. They’re acting like a genuine football institution, to protect and unite all football and not just abandon its roots for a quick buck. Very unlike the reputation of the West Ham owners.

But for all of this “discussion” due to take place at the virtual Premier League Headquarters, the fact remains that the EFL have stated they require a minimum £250m bail out due to Covid. The National League required a minimum £20m bail out in the absence of fans since October’s change of heart. The FA announced 120 redundancies, cancelled all vacancies and declared a £300m loss due to Covid-19. Imperative action is required, at a time we need to invest in change – change in racism, change in sexism, change in protecting vulnerable people, change in promoting diversity, change in progressing children’s football, reform across the whole country, across all playing abilities, across all boundaries.

The money is definitely available within football, the question is where, and how. No-one is forcing the billionaire owners to part with their “hard earned” cash, keep your oil / slave money – we don’t want it. What we want is the game in the hands of the fans.

We are the single highest contributor to the wealth of all football, through television rights, merchandising and gate receipts. The game is for us.

We should make the demands because we know what we want – kind of. We do rely on Premier League Chairmen to make the big decisions, but we trust that those decisions are fair for all. It’s a huge relief to see the response and outrage from fans, particularly the Big 6 Supporters’ Groups to denounce their faith in their own Clubs.

In the FA We Trust! FA Chairman Greg Clarke, not notorious for being a man of the people, said he walked away from BPP discussions in the Spring “when the principal aim of these discussions became the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few clubs with a breakaway league mooted as a threat”. The FA are in need of their own reforms certainly, but they’re attempting to complete these in the right manner and not willing to have their legs cut out from underneath them.

At a time when ignorance and naivety dominate our social feeds and national press with anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, climate change denials, etc etc it’s a huge reassurance to see that us football fans have not been of such an ignorance, to see this as anything short of a power grab and way to manipulate all English football under the control of a select few individuals.

Unfortunately, and we’re yet to see the result of today’s initial discussions, I do not believe this to be the end of the story by some distance. The actions of the Big Picture Project were to cause disharmony and distrust and disturb the waters of the existing Premier League owners. Certain aspects of the proposal will be promoted, some abolished, some – like Special Voting Rights – will be fought for harder than any by the tyrant side. Have you seen the last 4 years of Brexit? This will be negotiation after negotiation after negotiation, with neither side really getting what they want. The lesson to be learned from Brexit is this… we don’t need to force negotiations with Fenway Sports Group and Joel Glazar – nor do we need to resolve these financial issues with the Premier League at all.

The FA and The Government should be doing far more to regulate and govern the sport, particularly at the highest level where billions and billions of pounds are spent effortlessly whilst parts of the country are scrambling around for survival in food banks. We do not need the supposed help of these foreign investors (chlorinated chicken) to be prosperous in a post Covid world. We are the United Kingdom, and we know how to run football without you.

Big Picture Project: Premier Cupset on the Cards

Episode Three: Domestic trophies require reformation not deforestation

You’re at school. You’re chatting to your best friend, almost all friends, about the hottest boy / girl in your year. It’s contagious, infectious, everyone is infatuated with them. They all want to be with them, but not everyone can. They – due to our matriarchy social system – can only be with one person – certainly at a time – but they appeal to everyone – boys and girls. Heck, you’re even competing with kids from other schools for their attention. The odds are just not in your favour, or anyone’s for that matter – and yet, everyone has a chance. She is the FA Cup. Not everyone can win her, but she appeals to everyone, we all want to win her.

She has a friend, she has many friends, of varying appeal, value and difficulty. That’s important for us. Some of us do not have the confidence or the appeal at this stage to compete for the hottest boy / girl in school. We don’t want to sit around forever just watching them date just the few popular kids in school. It’s especially not fair when the same popular kid has been out with all of the hot kids in school.

Let’s leave the school analogy before I am arrested. But the point remains. If you remove all the other children in the school, you have everyone competing over one trophy. In all seriousness, you have about 5% of students competing and the rest just lonely, passing the time, making up the numbers. If you remove the League Cup, what is left to play for? Where is the motivation to develop, improve, to win.

Footballers should start their careers looking to win, to achieve, to finish their career admiring the silverware in their cabinets. Football is not about dollar and pound signs, but it’s about glory. The more we consider the removal of domestic trophies, the less ambition we offer our players, and the more the whole game is fuelled to harvest and crop talent for the few clubs at the top.

There is a huge need to keep all the domestic trophies available, even for the biggest teams. The highlight image of Pep Guardiola and Phil Foden was intentional on three folds:

A: Pep Guardiola’s first English trophy was the League Cup, as it was for Jose Mourinho. This initial trophy helps breed success for Managers.

B: Phil Foden’s first final for Man City was in the League Cup, producing a Man of the Match performance, showing Pep and Gareth Southgate what can be achieved on the biggest stage.

C: There’s only three major domestic trophies available in England for Premier League sides, and yet a minimum of 6 teams that start the season seeking a trophy. Removing a trophy takes that progress and development away from a side seeking to break into the Big 6 – again re-iterating these changes are protecting the few not the many.

The concern for Premier League sides with the League Cup is that there’s far more at stake and far more to gain in each Premier League match than there is in reaching the Quarter-finals or Semi-finals of the League Cup. Recent history shows that since 2004 only once has the final been made up of two sides outside of the Big 6 – Swansea beating Bradford in 2013. In that period, a Big 6 side has reached the final 24 out of 32 times. It’s been won by a Big 6 side 14 out of 16. As much as those sides show their frustration at the fixture congestion, the tournament is still stacked heavily in their favour – especially the byes afforded to the teams that qualify for European football.

Perhaps a resolution to this conundrum, of playing too many meaningless games in football, is to reform the League Cup into two trophies. A Premier League Cup and a Football League Cup. This provides both tournaments with more competitive football rather than the current procession of which Big 6 team completes the annual rigmorale. By placing a Champions League place on the tournament, rather than a Europa League place, the motivation to win games will become more apparent too. The Football League Cup will offer more competitiveness and an opportunity to watch more footballers reach semi-finals and finals and see who stands out amongst the best of the rest. A radical incentive could be placing a Play-off place as the reward, an opportunity to play for Premier League football – and is that not the greatest incentive for a Championship side?

Either way, the removal of the League Cup is not a direct solution to any of the issues currently besieging English football. If anything, it’s another direct method for protecting the bigger teams, reducing the number of fixtures they’re required to feature in, and opening the door for more lucrative matches to be arranged either in friendlies, or within a break-away European tournament.

Project Big Picture: Loss of Shield leaves Community Defenceless

Episode Two: Attack of the Clones – Faceless corporate monsters of US Sport lead the way on revolutionising UK Football – for the better?

When you sit down and watch a good old fashioned story of good versus evil, the bad guys are so clear and obviously bad guys. They make their intentions clear, they discuss the way they’re going to go about their deceit and wicked plans, then they attempt to win over the general public to obtain enough momentum to get their way. In this instance, Project Big Picture have put themselves out there as the good guys, yet… there’s some very obvious tell tale signs that suggest otherwise. Most notably, without any consideration for the obvious losses, the statement provided ‘The Community Shield abolished’.

Are you for real? One innocent football match in a 365 day calendar. The Wembley curtain-raiser of English football, dating back to 1908 – over 100 years of history – ABOLISHED. When you think of good and evil… surely the abolishment of an English institution that opens the domestic season, puts the two best teams against each other, all in the guise of charity… surely only evil motives can make such a demand?

In this instance the proposals from Fenway Sports and Joel Glazer are not even being subtle in their pursuit of personal wealth and two fingers up at the little man. They’re openly closing doors to using their powers for good. Why should they be playing any football that they’re directly benefitting from financially? Do you know what they could be doing instead of one charity match per year (on the off chance you are one of two qualifying sides)? Oh of course…

This is the clear image – sign – message to all UK football fans that says… We don’t actually give a fuck about you, we’re just commercialising every moment of time that belongs to our football clubs. Play games for charity? Go fuck yourselves – there’s millions to make from international television and merchandising you peasants.

Losing the Community Shield is a power play from the BPP Team. No other nation has made such a suggestion, in fact in other leagues the curtain raising ‘Super Cup’ is actually a sought after trophy rather than a meaningless day out for the benefit of vulnerable people and those less privileged. English football fans mocked Jose Mourinho for celebrating the Community Shield as part of a ‘Treble’ because it’s always been viewed as a pre-season friendly to us, a glamourous run around to show off the new signings for the season, and get a little momentum before 3pm next Saturday.

Equally, this is a clever negotiating tactic from Team BPP. They don’t really care enough about a one-off game. Sure it would open the door to planning a more thorough pre-season tour of commercial venues, but it’s just one game. In truth, it’s been added as part of an ironic “Big Picture” negotiation. When the Premier League and FA decide to respond to the proposals, this will be a ‘defeat’ Team BPP are willing to take in return for ‘something else’. That something else will no doubt be of greater value to them.

There are pros and cons to the overall Big Picture Project, but the fact that Fenway Sports, Joel Glazer and the clubs that are supporting this proposal are able to use the Community Shield as such a pawn within the beautiful game, the home of football, is shameful and absurd. Who the hell are these guys anyway? They just happen to own a name, a business, a whole load of shares and millions of pounds. But one thing is for sure, and we need to make sure it stays that way… They don’t own the game.