All entries for Monday 30 April 2007

April 30, 2007

Empty stadiums, empty wallets, empty souls

Sunderland are a massive club with great support and let’s hope when they come up this time they stay up as the Premiership needs the big clubs.

Alan Hansen’s right. The Premiership’s had a dodgy season because some of its biggest clubs have hit the doldrums while others have been promoted but didn’t really deserve to be. Leeds – once a massive Premiership team – are plummeting towards oblivion like Nottingham Forest once did, along with Sunderland, Derby and Southampton. Luckily, Sunderland are heading back up, along with Birmingham and probably one of the other two I just mentioned.

But in their place have come Watford, Charlton, Wigan and Sheffield United. Teams who don’t play a Premiership style of football, despite their foreign players, and who don’t really have the support to justify their place in the top division. There’s been some horrifically low attendances at some games involving these teams. With ticket prices so high and rewards so slim, why would anyone pay to see them?

An Observer article this weekend suggested that the answer to many of football’s problems may lie Stateside. Simply, scrap relegation. A guaranteed place in the top flight leads to lower transfer fees (it’s complicated but logical – read the article) and ensures the best supported teams play in the top flight.

It has its attractions, but not for long. It plays against the egalitarian nature of British football where a top flight team can be beaten by a minnow in the F.A. Cup.

The real problem is the Premier League. A separate body from the F.A., it takes almost all of the cash going from TV rights and gives it to the top 20 teams in the country. The others have to fight over what remains (just don’t mention ‘ITV Digital’ to them). The current system has led to the Premiership becoming, arguably, the world’s best football league again. But it’s also led to the erosion of passion in the lower ranks of the game, where your local team could one day make it to the top.

We have the best football stadiums, the best players, and the best competition in the world. It’s just a shame it’s exclusive to the three or four teams at the very top.

Criminal Ear Damage

What’s the most insipid invention of the 21st Century so far? This is:

No, it’s not a set of aeroplane landing lights, it’s a portable speaker system for MP3 players. AND THEY’RE DRIVING ME NUTS.

I’ve been doing a lot of travelling by train recently, and several times some spotty teenager has been playing some rubbish music through these tinny monstrosities, VERY LOUDLY.

As a product, they’re not necessarily offensive. Except I don’t think they’re being used in people’s bedrooms as much as they are being used on various forms of public transport where – neglecting the invention of the headphone – they’re broadcasting their appalling choice of music to a wide audience in a confined space.

On my next train journey I shall be armed with a large hammer with which to smash the next one of these I hear. Consider this a fair warning.

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