If you pay any scant attention to the news, it won’t have escaped you that we’re living in a time when many people feel like they can get away with all kinds of things – especially at a political level. I don’t need to go into details, and I know corruption, back-handers, and looking after your friends/donors/vested interests is not new. However, it feels like an era in which people are emboldened to be as brazen as they like because they see that consequences these days are basically hit and miss (with much more miss than hit).
What’s that? There’s a tender out to produce £200m worth of PPE for medical professionals during a worldwide pandemic. Who should we give this massive contract to? The company which has been doing this kind of work for years and years and has experience, professionalism, employees and a track record? Or, Honest Bob’s PPE LTD, which was registered as a company three days ago, whose offices appear to be a back-room above a chip shop, and whose sole directors are close friends of a government minister?
Congratulations Honest Bob! And we’re sure front-line staff will feel perfectly safe and secure wearing the non-existent PPE that you will never provide in the first place. Remember, if they do get poorly or overworked or overwhelmed and remain underpaid, just stand outside your front door for 30 seconds on a Thursday and give them a lovely round of applause because that will make it better.
That Project Make The Big Clubs Richer And More Powerful (I am refusing to give it its ‘real name’) contains elements which are just as brazen should be of no surprise to anyone, but this was jaw-dropping:
Exclusive: 'Project Big Picture' offers retrospective subsidies for new stadium builds/improvements with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur among those who would benefit https://t.co/aeDEQdoDN2
— Sam Wallace (@SamWallaceTel) October 12, 2020
It feels like we’re at a critical juncture here. The bits of this plan which are dressed up to provide assistance to EFL clubs are simply bait. There is no philanthropy here, there is no consideration for the good of the game or protecting the structure of English football. Its about money, end of story. It’s about the big clubs getting more money at the expense of so-called ‘smaller’ clubs. It’s about ensuring that the money they get is ring-fenced and assured. It’s about putting in place a hierarchy which means when there’s even more money, they get more of it, and nobody else will have a sniff.
All of which comes at the expense of the clubs these ‘big six’ have deemed inferior and less worthy. It comes at the expense of fairness off the pitch, obviously, but on it too. What makes football, and sport, so exciting and worthy of our time is that it’s supposed to be competitive. And look, I realise the financial disparity which already exists has done plenty to diminish those things, but why would anyone outside those who want to get richer want to make it any worse?
Apparently it’s Liverpool and Man Utd who have been driving this thing, and I wonder what their fans think of their ownership’s role in it. But I can’t imagine FSG and the Glazers have gone as far as they have without some tacit approval from the rest of the clubs who would form this cabal of cuntery, so that probably includes us too. I would hope the majority of fans would consider this plan at odds with what they associate the values (I know, I know) of their own club.
From an Arsenal perspective, the stadium rebate thing obviously stings, because we suffered financially for our own move and expansion. And you know what, that’s the way it should be. You take a risk, you build a thing, you pay for it, and it’s up to you to manage that and the financial impact on your club. You don’t get a partial refund because you’ve decided that your stature or reputation merits special consideration. And if you’re genuinely concerned about what happens below you in the football pyramid and you want to protect clubs – some of whom have been in existence just as long and mean just as much to their fans and communities – you use the money for that, not to give a billionaire some cashback. Billionaires are bad.
I’m not blind to the fact that in any industry in which there’s a lot of money sloshing around, owners want to get a bigger slice of that pie. They want the reassurance of knowing their earning potential will grow, and if they can start to separate on-pitch performance from that, even better. A Premier League in which certain clubs can’t be relegated because they’re considered more important means that the cash will come rolling in and if you have a stinker of a season, it won’t matter. That’s where we’re heading with all this.
The plight of EFL clubs is obviously still a major issue, and that’s a reality we can’t escape. I don’t know what the answer is there, to be perfectly honest, but there has to be a better way than selling what’s let of the remain scraps of the soul of the game to Honest John and Honest Malcolm (is he still alive), as Honest Stan and Honest Sheikh Mansour and Honest Joe etc, sit around and get even richer.
Wait, I’ve got it: Liverpool and Man Utd can arrange for us all to stand outside and clap for Port Vale, and clap for Southend United, and clap for Tranmere and … you get the idea. That’ll fix it!
Here’s an Interlull Arsecast for you below, happy listening.