While Dr Al Fahim haggles with Sacha Gaydamak over the price (nothing to worry about; you view a house then you haggle over the price, don’t you?), Portsmouth remain in limbo with the clock ticking down towards pre season. The collapse of the deal at this stage doesn’t bear thinking about! So while we bite our fingernails and wait, let’s talk about American Football.
That’s right, I want to talk about American Football. Although you’ll see this is really about soccer (!) football. I went through a phase in the mid 80s of watching American Football every week. It was easy to do so as an eight year old boy because it was shown by way of a weekly highlights programme, Sunday evening on Channel 4. The host was Mick Luckhurst, a British guy who had made it big in the NFL as a kicker with the Atlanta Falcons. I think there was also a bearded fella called Nicky Horne who may have preceded Luckhurst, and later there was Gary Imlach. I was taken by the drama of it, but of course the game (short bursts of action separated by long interludes where the clock stops, meaning that a game with a playing time of an hour can go on for three) lends itself to this type of highlights package. Even now, live matches (apart from the Superbowl perhaps) would be a bit much. I will never buy a Sky subscription either, so the only way I will ever really watch it again is if the highlights format comes to Freeview. The Chicago Bears were my team by the way. They had William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry and Walter Payton. They beat the New England Patriots to win the Superbowl for the first time in ages I think and have done pretty much nothing in the twenty-five years since!
The Arsenal Chief Executive, Ivan Gazidis, recently called for a salary cap in an article in the Guardian. You can read it here. In it, he refers to the cap operated in American Football. The thing about American Football is that the team with the worst record in one particular year might turn it round the next to become top dogs. Why? A combination of the college draft system and the salary cap, probably. The draft system means that the worst teams get the first pick of the top college players, and the best have to wait until last. Now of course we don’t have the same college (or University) sports system here, but we still used to have the situation where a promoted team team could go straight on and challenge for the league title the following season. Nottingham Forest achieved that under Brian Clough thirty years or so ago. Not only that, they immediately went on to win the European Cup twice in a row. Like the NFL today, they were only able to do that because our league was truly competitive. Today, it is not, and that is because money and greed is spiralling out of control.
The NFL is rich, the players are paid more than most people could even dream of, and yet competition is equalised. The integrity of the product is maintained. I have no problem with players earning big salaries but things are getting obscene now. How much do they need? Manchester City have reportedly recently offered Samuel Eto’o £180,000 a week! £180,000 a year would be more than enough for him to pay for a bit of financial advice and be secure for the rest of his life. We’re not even talking about sponsorship deals or image rights here!
For now, we seem to be stuck with the model that sees TV money providing the main income for football clubs in this country. In turn, rich investors are attracted. But more of this money needs to go into improving club infrastructure and facilities, and nurturing young talent. Not into the pockets of established stars. The level of wages seems especially distasteful in the current economic climate, and although fans no longer pay the players’ wages, the TV companies still pay to show games in full stadiums with a good atmosphere. Without the fans there would be no football.
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