10 February 2008

The booty-full game

The English football Premier League has announced plans for an extra game per season for each club to be played overseas, not as an exhibition match, but as part of the regular season. This is part of the Premier League's plans to cement their global brand identity, not to mention the logical extension of the now ubiquitous pre-season overseas tours indulged in by even the humblest of top-flight clubs.

One might question whether subjecting the people of Shanghai to the delights of watching Wigan Athletic and Derby County scratch out a nil-nil draw is, in fact, counter-productive in this quest. But in an age when Liverpool can be crowned champions of Europe despite finishing fifth in the Premier League, questions of logic and geography are really not relevant.

Of course there has been much huffing and puffing about such plans from the usual illiterati of the English football scene. Number one gripe seems to be the accusation it is a cynical money-grabbing exercise - the authorities once again take financial advantage of fans' commitment to their clubs. Which begs the question: where have these "experts" been the last 20 years? For so long as clubs have sold replica shirts it has been about revenue generation and marketing - the fact they now do it better is neither here nor there.

And as for taking advantage of the fans, this is apparently a one-way street. It is perfectly acceptable for overseas fans to subsidise their English counterparts through shirt sales and satellite TV subscriptions. But to actually demand a bigger part of the action is apparently exploiting the long-suffering English aficionados. For English supporters to enjoy watching the talents of £100,000-a-week footballers without wondering how it is paid for is redolent of the natural romanticism every football fan must believe in.

Or else symptomatic of a culture that believes it can keep on spending on its credit cards without having the debt called in.

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