Monday 10 October 2011

Kicking Things Around

One of the given’s in the way global finance and media has affected the UK in the last decade or two is in the promotion of the English soccer Premiership to the status of one of the major financial and commercial operations in the sports industry, or should that be sector?

Like many other global operations of this kind it has its odd features. In soccer it is that player pay and benefits are mopping up a very high proportion of the total spend. Theoretically, this is unsustainable but is kept going by the desire of magnate backers to be part of the big time whatever the cost.

It can go wrong. The major chicken and egg suppliers of India (or egg and chicken), the owners of the Venky Company, you name it we stuff it, who took on Blackburn Rovers may have made an acquisition that has a nasty dose of the football equivalent of salmonella.

The cure is likely to be an expensive one and not guaranteed to succeed. Blackburn, one of the original Football League clubs has spent most of its history in the second or third levels before Jack Walker bankrolled them around 1990.

It could end in tears. A number of other clubs s in recent years have gone down fast. Looking at the Conference Premier, not in the old main Football Leagues there are no less than fourteen clubs out of the 24 that have come down from the League of whom two once had a spell in the top division.

In general for betting men, one interesting punt is which club will be the next to go into administration or face bankruptcy. There is no shortage of possibilities and the odds are often short. But betting itself has lurched into the mainstream of football provision.

Sky Sports has a very irritating main advertiser for its screened games urging viewers to phone now for the latest special betting offer. The advertising bill boards at the games have a rich choice of betting sponsors and many clubs are also funded by them. Gambling, which was once a side shoot to the game has become central.

There have been a number of major scandals recently involving betting in sport to the effect of players acting to do things that matter to the gamblers rather than to the game. There is nothing essentially new about this, it has just gone global.

If anything the Premiership has been a central plank in world gambling with across the globe the nations come together to wager on which player will score first or when or be sent off. In this context the stories relating to the Rooney family over the last few days have almost an old fashioned look to them.

Wayne is sent off playing for England with a straight red card for a silly reaction that is owed entirely to his bad temper whilst his father has been charged with alleged fixing of matches in company with others. The one will affect the odds on future England games; the other will add interest to the advertising.

As father does not look to be the cleverest cabbage on the patch I suspect he is the sort of inveterate gambler who given a tip in the pub or overhearing some chat on the train between Moorfields and Bootle Oriel Road is on the mobile in seconds without a thought for the reliability or accuracy of the sources.

The trouble is that footballers down the years as well as being unusually prone to some human failings are often gamblers operating at a high level of stupidity. When one of my relations in the 1920’s was offered a professional contract to play for Liverpool his fiancĂ© told him flatly that it was either football or her but not both.

He had a job with a decent wage for the day and promise for the future. He would have been no better off. Also, she was much attached to her family and did not want to risk her husband arriving home one day to announce that he had been transferred to some far distant place, Alloa, Accrington or Aldershot and they were to leave tomorrow.

Her major fear though was the gambling and drinking were part of the culture in football then and when his career ended there would be nothing and the chances were that he might be left as a casual labourer.

These days with the rewards at the very top footballers should have enough invested despite the celebrity lifestyles to eek out the decades after football. Unless, of course we have a big crash that takes the present structure of English football with it.

As for Wayne, my guess is that he is of a build and an athletic type to have knee problems sooner rather than later so he may not have long to go at the top.

It might be worth having a quiet flutter on that one.

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