Published on November 15th, 2018 | by Bill
Football has been ruined by greed. TV is the feeder.
FIFA should press the off-switch or a neo-Luddite fan revolution will do it for them.
Tom Reed, writing for STAND
The message cut loud and clear through the November night sky from Leeds United fans in the West Brom away end. It was part cry against the soul destroying effects of blanket TV coverage on modern football, part jealousy at being thrown off the Premier League gravy train and losing a slice of the big money TV pie in the top tier.
The Leeds Chairman Andrea Radrizzani was named by the Times as a “driving force” behind a threatened 15 Championship club breakaway from the English Football League in a row over the next television deal. A Premier League 2 is in the offing.
Last week it was a breakaway European Super League in the news, driven by greed ultimately, with televised football at the centre, playing on the base fallacy amongst fans that certain teams are more worthy than others.
The avarice was honed in Serie A in the ‘90s, then in the Premier League and facilitated by the Football Association’s ruinous 1991 Blueprint which calamitously underestimated the immediate power of television by stating:
“There is growing evidence that rather than fuelling excess demand, the proliferation of viewing opportunities, by fracturing entrenched viewing habits, is actually causing viewers to turn their backs on the TV”.
That statement may, perversely, prove correct in the long run but the TV mania damage between the early nineties and today has been done.
On Tuesday, the Premier League hired broadcasting executive Susanna Dinnage as CEO to a fanfare of industry bluster about her leading former employer Discovery through “digital disruption” and the move to mobile and digital streaming. The appointment has done nothing to combat fears that football is in thrall to television.
Meanwhile, in League 1, Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt has railed against the EFL’s “experiment” in streaming matches live to UK audiences, fearful of an adverse effect on attendances and the relationship between community and clubs. Research from the Times newspaper found that streaming matches and giving fans the chance to watch from armchairs has hit match day crowds.
In September, Werder Bremen fans in Germany hung a huge banner slamming the movement of games for television audiences at the expense of match going supporters. All over Europe, fans are waking up to realisation that TV and streaming is the conduit to football’s ills and that the game might be better for pressing the off switch.
FIFA and UEFA have a job on their hands dealing with the myriad of graspers in the game, threatening the uneasy equilibrium in world football. Instead of concentrating on fending off the Charlie Stillitanos of this world, the game’s governing bodies should be tabling measures that cut them off at the neck: A global limit on the televising of football.
Anyone over 30 will remember when live TV matches were rare, highlights shows were something to look forward to. The game still went on, players still earned far more than the working man in the street. It could work again.
Stewards and the police can spot a fan with a beer or a cigarette in areas they are not supposed to be so it would not be difficult to identify people trying to flout the ban by filming matches themselves.
Take away pay TV and the oligarchs, agents, fraudsters, gamblers and criminals that have encircled the game would soon melt away. Fans would regain their clubs and have space to breath. Football would continue.
Back in the 19th Century textile workers known as the Luddites from the Nottinghamshire area began to smash up the machines that they knew would replace them. They were right in that they knew that the machines that were supposed to make life easier would be used by the rich and corrupt to no such effect.
The term has come to be used in a derogatory sense but that wasn’t the case for proud people who could see what was staring them in the face and continues to stare us in the face.
Likewise, the televisation of football which is supposed to show off the best of the game has undermined its sporting premise, made life no better for fans and brought a glimpse of the worst of capitalist society from the shadows in which they normally operate.
Unless FIFA and UEFA begin to rein in football’s TV coverage they will have a double headed crisis that desperate fans will begin to deal with themselves.
Blanket TV coverage is diluting the quality of the sport by turning it into an indistinct, homogenized onslaught of media spam where Premier League, Champions League International Champions Cup, World Cup and ultimately FIFA on Playstation begin to become indistinguishable from each other.
Pay TV football is a terrifically vulnerable medium based on the obedience of a crowd . Dortmund fans threw tennis balls on the pitch to stop proceedings in protest. Charlton Athletic fans did the same with plastic pigs. It seems only a matter of time before protestors turn their attention to the cameras and advertising hoardings in stadia to completely undo the TV product.
FIFA should heed the despairing message being transmitted on the terraces, otherwise a revolution is coming and it will not be televised.