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Wednesday, February 11, 2015 

One solution to Scudamore: piracy.

The Premier League could not have a better representative than Richard Scudamore.  He is the embodiment of absolutely everything that has gone wrong with football at the highest level over the past 20 years, or rather everything the not always right critics who often don't so much as like the game point towards.  Do you for instance believe the Premier League should not exist in a vacuum, that it ought to "redistribute" some of the money it receives from the broadcasters from your bank account down to the lower leagues, to sport at the grassroots, that clubs should be at the heart of their community, rather than in the hearts of the community?

You do?  Well, in Scudamore you have a man who believes in one thing and one thing only, which is getting as much dosh as he can from the likes of BT and Sky for the 20 clubs that make up the league, and then letting them do whatever they like with that money.  It's not for him to say clubs should pay their staff the living wage for example, that's up to the government.  Does he think it's completely obscene for a club to pay a congenital idiot like Wayne Rooney £300,000 a week for his on-off ability to kick a bag of wind around an enclosed grass field while the poor bastards who stand in the cold selling match programmes at £5 or however much a pop get only slightly more that that for an hour's work?  Don't be silly, as just as in "any talent industry" the world market sets the rate, whereas cleaners, training staff and kit men are ten a penny, almost literally.  If the government suggested introducing a maximum wage the screams would be banshee-like, but a minimum wage set barely above the poverty line is clearly there to be respected, not as precisely that, a minimum.

Scudamore is just a figurehead.  He can't tell clubs it looks really bad if they don't pay their staff the living wage despite the new £5.14bn television deal (fun fact: that's more than the BBC's total income for 2013-14, £3.72bn of which is from the licence fee), as the clubs themselves answer to no one.  Only when the fans make it abundantly clear they want an owner to go, as Liverpool did the non-dynamic duo of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, is anything close to accountability encountered.  Scudamore was also right to point out that despite the complete insanity of the latest deal, most Premier League clubs are not "staggeringly wealthy": only 8 out of the 20 clubs made a profit in 2012-2013, including Wigan and Norwich, both since relegated.  It's no coincidence the current top 2, Chelsea and Manchester City, have owners where money is no object, considering in both cases said money was looted from the people of Russia and the UAE respectively.  At the moment it's just the players, their agents and the broadcasters making anything out of the game, as the owners themselves hardly ever do.

Except this might just be the deal to change that.  Recently introduced rules on financial fair play from both the Premier League and UEFA should, in theory, mean an end to the apparently endless increases in wages and transfer fees.  We've already seen this somewhat with Chelsea needing to sell Andre Schurrle before they could bring in Juan Cuadrado.  How the clubs spend their further largesse is of course up to them, and some of the mid-table clubs may well use it fund splurges of their own.  Other proprietors however will undoubtedly pocket it, seeing it as being reward for having sunk their own money in down the years while taking little if anything out.  As the difference between profit and loss outside of the mega-spending clubs is often relatively slight, West Ham for instance losing £4m before tax in 2012-2013, this latest increase will help them considerably.

When you then add in the recent increase in "parachute" payments to relegated sides, the gap between the Premier League and the lower divisions is getting to be a chasm.  It's always been a major challenge to win promotion and then stay in the top division, but with £99m as a minimum guaranteed to the club finishing bottom, the teams yo-yoing between Premier League and Championship look set to become a secondary elite.  The story of this season has almost certainly been the rise of Bournemouth, looking to repeat the unlikely promotion of Blackpool a few years back.  They won't though want to repeat Blackpool's subsequent fall, or a couple of seasons from now to be propping up the table as the Lancashire side are, while the QPRs of the world continue to alternate between being there or thereabouts season in season out.

For all the complaints and whinging today, as well as the cynicism over the likelihood of ticket prices dropping as a result of the influx of cash from television, hardly anyone is going to cancel their TV package or not renew their season ticket.  Loyalty to your team trumps everything, and demand for more live games just continues to increase.  Purists like me will snort and harrumph at the introduction of games on a Friday night, further reducing the number that will kick off at 3 on a Saturday afternoon, but we're just stick in the muds.  Besides, I'd rather transfer my allegiance to Spurs than give Murdoch any money, and the same goes for BT, so I'm hardly your average punter.

If there is something that might just bring change, it's the same thing as mentioned when BT won the Champions League rights: illegal streaming of games is only going to increase and will fast become a viable alternative to a TV package, if it's not quite there yet.  Moreover, such piracy is frankly less morally questionable than handing over your cash to such lovely people as Scudamore, Sheikh Mansour and the Glazers.  Somehow though you can't see it having the same impact as it has on the film and music industries, and just as the real victims there have been the little guys rather than the behemoths, so too it will be your Swanseas and Burnleys that suffer rather than United and City.  Sigh.

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