Klopp Strop is Height of Double Standards on Player Welfare

Whilst Managers repeatedly blame broadcasters, what are they really doing for the mental and physical welfare of their own? And where should the fingers of responsibility really be pointed?

Following his incendiary interview with Sky last week, Jurgen Klopp has followed up with both barrels to Des Kelly, the BT Pitchside journalist in his postgame interview. Klopp had been further incensed by more injuries to his squad, but also a number of disallowed goals and giving away a last minute penalty in a damaging 1-1 draw at Brighton. With emotions high and tension rising, Klopp snapped at Kelly, congratulating him for causing Milner’s injury.

Klopp: Yeah, congratulations.
Kelly: Me, personally?
Klopp: No, but you work for them yeah? Hamstring. Surprise.

Jurgen Klopp has most definitely marked his line in the sand and he’s building a scouse army to follow him – WAR ON BROADCASTERS. Unfortunately for Klopp, Kelly wasn’t taking any shit – and rightly so.

Kelly: Maybe you’re firing at the wrong target. We are broadcasters, we work within Premier League rules, and Premier League makes the rules, that’s the Premier League clubs, so shouldn’t you be talking to Premier League clubs? Shouldn’t you be talking to chief executives.

The thing is… Klopp has absolutely no ground to stand on. Kelly went on to re-iterate this is a Premier League issue, voted on by the Premier League Chairmen, and Klopp’s protests should be with them. If Mourinho was acting the way Klopp was, we would be slamming him with contempt of the game and rightly calling him out for the childish petulance on display.

This is the second wave of controversy for broadcasters this season, having had the finger incorrectly pointed at them for the Pay-Per-View debacle when again – they were acting on the instructions of the Premier League. Now that PPV is out of the way, the middle finger is being pointed at Sky and BT – with most velocity by Klopp – for Saturday 1230pm kick-offs. Does he have a point? Well quite frankly no. The reason for Saturday 1230pm kick offs is a decision made by the Premier League to maximise the value of domestic and international television rights.

The Premier League decide on the available slots not to please those fans that attend the games (we’ve seen scenarios where fans are unable to use public transport because of scheduled fixtures), sometimes not even to please the fans from the UK – but those who wake up in New York, Malaysia or South Korea. They have hand-picked these times for kick-offs, and those are decided by the 20 Premier League representatives sent from each club. Sky take whatever is offered, but have no control over these.

  • The Premier League set the rules on which games can be broadcast and when.
  • The Premier League decided on a weekly Saturday 1230pm kick-off.
  • The Premier League decided any team that plays by Wednesday night can be selected for the Saturday 1230pm kick-off.
  • Clubs RUN the Premier League through Members’ Voting Rights.
  • Premier League Clubs this season have agreed to only 3 Subs, to continue with the TV Scheduling (and they were responsible for the introduction of PPV).

So why is Klopp foaming at the mouth against broadcasters? It’s the same interview tactic recently employed by intellectuals Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. The truth is irrelevant. The most important factor in Klopp’s empassioned interviews is the ability to shout louder and directing anger at something indefensible. What’s incredible, is his actions in ignoring competent and logical arguments and just shouting louder and louder.

Klopp: If someone tells me again about contracts I will go really nuts because the contracts were not made for a Covid season

The truth is Klopp is struggling this season with injuries and decisions going against him. It’s a run that we have not seen Liverpool threatened with previously under the German. He’s consistently been able to rely upon the same solid 15 or 16 players, and a string of VAR / refereeing decisions until this season – this is the Klopp you get when things go awry. With the injuries “piling up”, Klopp’s been forced to use his squad. With decisions going against him, Klopp’s been forced into humility in defeat. What’s apparent, is Klopp’s no better than the rest of us. He’s used typical deflection tactics to avoid accepting that Liverpool are not meeting his expectations.

If not the broadcasters, Klopp also has time to vent at the officials as seen here. On a roll, he’s taking no prisoners in showing his levels of entitlement. Again, this has not been the fault of the officials, but the angry speeches of a old man losing his grip of control on the greatest show on Earth. The Trump comparisons continue…

What about if we were to point the finger at Klopp and Liverpool themselves, and consider how much they care about player welfare? It’s the latest emotional bargaining attempt from the Managers’ Union, and purported by Klopp this time last year.

Klopp: There would be a few solutions possible but there was not one day where Fifa, Uefa, the Premier League, the Football League and the other leagues sit at a table and think about the players and not about their wallet

It’s the height of double standards when Managers make claims of everyone else not having a care for players’ welfare when they themselves have the ultimate responsibility, and are the ones pushing players into injuries. No-one is demanding that James Milner play, no-one insisted that players be rushed back or risked. If it’s such an obvious disaster to play these players at 1230pm on a Saturday, why are YOU playing them?

It’s time for Clubs to be honest, for Managers’ to be honest. If they really cared for players welfare, they themselves would put their welfare first – alas they do not – alas they’re just protecting their own interests. In fact, they’re probably acting more selfishly in pursuit of glory than the rule makers or broadcasters, who are guaranteed their money regardless.

Sane and Salah have both contracted positive Covid-19 Tests. The concern for their welfare? To sit out two weeks training and return straight to the first team. Why Klopp why?! Did Sky force you to play them? Could they have been eased back? Why have Origi and Shaquiri only played a combined 52 minutes this season?! That must be because BT had too many adverts or something as equally as irrelevant to the selection policy at Anfield.

Liverpool are such victims after all, it’s not like Salah was breaching Covid rules and attending a wedding during the international break. No doubt this was somehow Amazon Prime or BBC’s fault.

Solskjaer spoke out previously “We were set up to fail”. Why? Man Utd were set-up to play at 1230pm on a Saturday, no-one forced them to pick injured players. Solskjaer chose the team he did because he is under pressure to win games, collect points, win trophies – please shareholders.

The same can be said for Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Frank Lampard, Jose Mourinho, etc etc.

You want evidence that the Clubs / Managers are not putting players welfare at the forefront of their decision making? Take last night’s incident between David Luiz and Jimenez. The loudest CRACK accompanied the contact between them that left Jimenez out cold with a fractured skull. He laid on the ground requiring treatment for 10 minutes before he was taken to hospital. David Luiz, in contrast, was just wrapped up in bandages and despite blood continuing to pour from his skull, he was not taken off or seen too with concern for his welfare until half-time – 30 minutes later. Where’s the concern then?

Managers and Clubs are making their points public but they’re not often making them with credibility. If they shout loud enough about emotive subjects such as player welfare, or the cost of football, and point fingers at the perennial baddie “Broadcasters” they will incite enough hatred to get their voice heard and logic thrown out the window.

The reason Milner was risked by Klopp is his incessant need to win games, not player welfare. Liverpool, as with any Premier League side, is entitled to a squad of 25 players PLUS the ability to use any player U21 – and they have the majority of those available for selection on a weekly basis. Liverpool have ELEVEN available options in defence before including Fabinho and Milner. These “fringe” players have not been used by Klopp, and the consequences of injuries has increased.

David Luiz’s welfare was not considered important enough for Arteta to use a substitution and protect him from serious mental health concerns. Should the FA have concussion subs? Perhaps – but equally we should protect our players welfare irrespective of our pursuit of points, prizes and money. This was even more poignant given the recent media attention on the link between heading the ball and dementia, which has taken the lives of a number of the England ’66 World Cup winning squad – yet David Luiz just got wrapped up and sent back out like a battered soldier on the front line. Where was the concern for his welfare? It’s probably Sky’s fault for the late Sunday night kick-off, I mean… who plays on Sunday nights?!

Look at Spurs, who have played more games in less time than any other team in the Premier League. They have done so quietly, not complaining too much, just getting on with it. They have used more players than any other side, with those players averaging more minutes than any other sides’ squad players. The more players you use in rotation, the more likely you are going to avoid injuries – a system that is effective at White Hart Lane with them top of the League, in the League Cup Semis, and top of their Europa League group. Perhaps actually using your squad is the way forward.

The final note on this saga in its current guise is to call out the unprofessionalism of Jurgen Klopp attempting to name and shame Chris Wilder, making a mockery of Sheffield United’s one point from 9 games, and creating a divisive civil war amongst the Premier League Clubs. Klopp is not getting his way, but his campaign should be behind closed doors with decorum. Instead, he has gone public with an argument short of facts and strong on irrelevant emotional outbursts. If that doesn’t scream “Donald Trump Playbook” I don’t know what does.

Stay classy Anfield.

NB: Player welfare is important, it’s why the Premier League provide the option of a 25 man squad with the addition of youth players to supplement when required. Rest and recuperation is important, which is why the Premier League have rules to prevent two matches occurring within 48 hours (Christmas exceptions aside). Winning trophies is the legacy that Managers and Players will leave, which is why they put their own welfare aside in the pursuit of glory. That’s their choice. No-one’s fault.

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.