OLIVER HOLT: Our arrogant clubs will squeeze fans until they squeak

OLIVER HOLT: Our greedy and arrogant clubs will squeeze the fans until they squeak… the pay-per-view stunt the Premier League fat cats have pulled on supporters was tone-deaf

  • The Premier League fat cats decided that they hadn’t bled fans quite enough yet
  • The pay-per-view stunt unveiled was insensitive and came during the pandemic 
  • All 20 clubs’ instinct is to grab those most loyal to them, their fans, and squeeze 

Let’s play the Football-Club-As-Supermarket analogy game, the one that people like Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish like to have fun with when they are trying to justify sitting on their hands and letting small clubs die. 

‘The supermarkets aren’t instructed to help the corner shops,’ he says. ‘Deliveroo aren’t bailing out your local cafe.’

Some people nodded and said that, reluctantly, they had to agree Parish made a good point. Really? Parish is an eloquent man but is Supermarket vs Corner Shop the template we want our game to aspire to? 

The instinct of Premier League clubs is still to try to squeeze those loyal to them – their fans

Steve Parish has attempted to justify people sitting on hands and allowing small clubs to die

If our top division wants English football to emulate a dystopian world where the rich swallow up the poor, rip the character out of our town centres, kill local small businesses and leave us at the mercy of a faceless plutocracy, then God help our national sport.

But if the supermarket analogy game is the game the Premier League want to play, let’s play it.

In fact, let’s apply it to the greedy, grasping, arrogant, insensitive, tone-deaf stunt that the cash-bloated fat cats of our elite division played on supporters on Friday when they decided that they hadn’t bled fans quite enough yet, even in the midst of a pandemic.  

The unveiling of the top flight’s PPV service was arrogant, tone-deaf and quite simply greedy

So even now, when numbers of infections are spiralling and people are reeling from the economic uncertainty that is assailing them every day and they are losing their jobs, and struggling with debts, the brains at the Premier League – with the honourable exception of Leicester City – decide they are going to introduce a huge hike in the price that supporters have to pay to watch their team in action. 

So even when people are wondering how they are going to pay their mortgages and maybe the football is a bit of an escape for them but they can’t get into the stadiums because all the matches are behind closed doors and the only way they can see their club play is on the television and they’re still paying their already expensive subscriptions to Sky and BT Sport, the Premier League says kindly: ‘You know what, show us the money and double it.’

And even when these 20 clubs have spent £1.2billion between them on bringing in new recruits during the summer transfer window to try to camouflage their previous profligacy, even though they are swimming in cash, their instinct is still to try to squeeze the person most loyal to them – the fan – until they hear the pips squeak. How would they package that in Tesco’s? ‘Buy Two Get None Free’? ‘Buy Two Pay An Extra £14.95 For A Bundle of Stuff We Gave You For Nothing Last Week’?

Something tells me that might not quite work for a family on furlough but maybe I’m wrong.

The introduction of the price hike comes at a time when people are reeling from uncertainty

That’s the kind of bargain the Premier League seems to think it can strike. Out of touch doesn’t even get close. The timing of it stinks. The cynicism behind it stinks.

There is a simple solution, of course, which is that no one has to subscribe to the pay-per-view games. They can wait and watch the highlights on the BBC’s Match of the Day. And that’s the danger for the Premier League: all they are doing is making a bad situation worse.

If they’re not careful, the people who bought two and got none free are going to put their goods back on the shelves, walk out of the door and never come back.

Don’t insult us with this talk of how desperate things are, either. If things are desperate, don’t spend £64m on a centre-back from Benfica or £45m on a left-back from Leicester or £40m on a midfielder from Ajax or £20m on a striker from Bournemouth. If you are really panicking about the future, keep your hands in your pockets for a few months.

The clubs have insulted us with talk of desperation despite spending lavishly this summer

If you’re really panicking about the amount of money you’re losing – and we all accept those numbers are significant – why not get together and agree a maximum spend in the last window rather paying £27m for a defender from Saint-Etienne, sticking him in the reserves and sacking the bloke who wears a dinosaur costume and is loved by the club’s supporters?

The Premier League are one of those organisations that appears to be incapable of thinking that way. There is no off button. They reach agreement on price rises but not price reductions. They are quick to look for help from the Government but they stall and frown when those below them, who do not have access to their television riches, beg for help.

Oh, I almost forgot, in the midst of all this, Manchester City’s chief executive Ferran Soriano thought it would be a good idea to lecture the lower leagues about a sustainable business model, which was interesting given that City have a net spend somewhere in the region of £1bn on transfers since Sheik Mansour bought the club in 2008.

Manchester City chief Ferran Soriano has lectured the lower leagues over a business model

Soriano also mourned the absence of B-teams in the English game. Understandable, I suppose, given that it would provide him with somewhere to stick all the centre-halves he’s signed at vast expense. Sadly for him, English football doesn’t want B-teams. It wants teams at the heart of their communities, not playthings for big business.

English football doesn’t want football clubs that think of themselves as supermarkets who want to kill corner shops and raise prices for customers.

English football wants a Premier League it can be proud of off the field as well as on it. It wants a Premier League that did the right thing during the pandemic, not an organisation with pound signs for eyes and a block of cold gold where its heart should be.

JACK GREALISH PICKS HIS IDOLS WELL  

Jack Grealish spoke well about his admiration for Paul Gascoigne in the aftermath of his own excellent performance for England against Wales on Thursday night.

Gascoigne is the most talented player England has produced in the last 50 years and if Grealish, who is showing signs of providing the creative inspiration Gareth Southgate’s team has been lacking, can come close to achieving what Gazza achieved in major tournaments for his country, he will have had a fine career indeed.

Jack Grealish spoke warmly of idol Paul Gascoigne after starring for England against Wales

SOUTHGATE HAS DEALT WELL WITH RULE BREAKERS 

England manager Gareth Southgate has dealt well and logically with the five England players who breached Covid-19 rules in the last couple of months. There is no need to turn them into pariahs but being dropped for one game, or more, will have been a sharp reminder of what is expected of them.

More pleasing still is that a player like Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who got his chance because of the banishment of others, seized his opportunity with both hands. Sometimes there is a price to pay for stepping out of line.

Gareth Southgate has dealt well with the England players who had breached coronavirus rules

RAFAEL NADAL CAN’T EQUAL FEDERER’S FLAIR  

Rafael Nadal will equal Roger Federer’s mark of 20 men’s singles Grand Slam victories if he beats Novak Djokovic in the French Open final at Roland Garros on Sunday.

Whoever wins, the debate about the greatest player ever in men’s tennis will rage on. 

Nadal is a wonderful player, a man to be admired, but however many titles his rivals go on to win, Federer will always be the greatest player to have wielded a racket.

Rafael Nadal is a wonderful man but Roger Federer will be the greatest tennis player in history




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