Tuesday, 28 October 2008

I'm still alive...

Yes, I realise I've been quiet lately, but I've been a little snowed under by the Open University stuff.

Also, a quick heads up for any Ipswich fans who may have found their way over here - Ipswich Town First, the Independent Supporters Trust, have a project where they are looking for fan memories of previous - see here for more details.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Game 39 steps up it's marketing

Asian Football Confederation present Mohamed Bin Hammam has stated in an interview with the BBC that he's now warning to the idea of Game 39.

Seemingly now convinced that the arrival of games such as Middlesbrough v Blackburn Rovers will improve the likelihood of local fans watching their national clubs on TV, Bin Hamman seems happy to thro his weight behind the FA's travelling circus.

"The Premier League is a brand which has a huge fan-base across Asia, and I believe it has the will and initiative to help develop and support the game there.

You cannot stop fans from wanting to watch the best games, and the Premier League is one of the best football products in the world, but the desire of broadcasters in Asia to screen Premier League matches rather than their local leagues is where the imbalance is happening.

They are willing to pay tens of millions to show Premier League games but not a few thousand to show domestic matches. "

Bin Hamman seems to forget, however, that these are extra games in the calendar - and as the whole point of Game 39 is to make as much money as possible provide the worldwide fans with more games, the PL's plan will be to squeeze more games onto TV, at the expense of other leagues and products. The "product" will cost more, leaving even less for coverage of domestic leagues - unless the Premier League plan to charge so much, that the only money left for Asian broadcasters is their own league...

Also, for the weeks leading up to the games, all the exposure is going to be on the Premier League, and away from the grass roots of the home nations.

"That might take years to change, and the Premier League can give us technical assistance and help improve the skills of our administrators, marketing and media staff."

This seems to be how Richard Scudamore and co. have sold the idea to Bin Hammam. But the Premier League's success is in spite of the administrators. The nation fell in love with football again at Italia '90. England's reaching the semi-final and Paul Gascoigne crying were long before the Premier League started. The aim of the PL was to share the income for the national game between 22, then 20, rather than 92. Sky's first TV deal came about, not because they sold the way they would produce the game, and make it look great around the world (and more professional and slick looking than it's rivals of La Liga and Serie A), nor about their planned innovations in football broadcasting, but because Ken Bates wanted to put one over David Dein. The income from Sky's subsequent deals, gave more money to the clubs, enabling them to spend more on players, which in turn gave Sky a better product to promote. Without the impetus of Italia '90, and the money fom Sky, the Premier League would not be as marketable worldwide as it is today. The Premier League marketers have the easiest job of all, given that it would be impossible to not sell that product around the world.

What the AFC needs to get people interested, isn't more people in suits, but better coaching, to make their home players better, to create a better game for it's locals. And in that respect, they would be better of speaking to UEFA, about implementing their coaching schemes. All the English football authorities have done for Asian football is parachute certain English "coaches" (such as Peter Reid, Peter Withe and Bob Houghton) into national team jobs, in exchange for votes when the next FIFA ballot comes round.

And that's not forgetting that the last thing the Premier Leeageu would want to do is to make Asian football look more attractive and more popular. Why? When you think of the League as a "brand", and the games as a "product", you tend to view other leagues as "competition". After all, should the Malaysian league (for example) start to improve, and find itself more popular at home, then Malaysian TV are going to want to spend more money on that, than the Premier League - and that's the last thing that the Premier League would want.

And it goes without saying that like everyone else in England, with half a brain, I'm against the idea, because of the fact that clubs belong to their communities/39 is a stupid number of games for a 20 team league/it's not the Premier League's game to sell/it takes the game away from those that fund it/it means anyone who goes to every game suddenly has to spend almost as much to watch one game as much as they would normally cost to see a dozen/it's a stupid idea dreamed up by morons.

But I do have an idea, which would enable the Premier Legaue to sell games across the world, without destroying the integrity of the competition.

Create a new team. Call it Gloucester Place FC, or something relating to the name of the Premier League HQ. Place it at the bottom of the pyramid. State in the club's constitution that the club can never have it's own home ground. In effect, they're a bastardized version of Rugby's Barbarians, only GPFC retain the same players week in, week out. With the money the PL have behing them, they can attract better players and pay better wages at non-league level, to see the club ascend the pyramid, then they can follow the Dave Whelan model by getting them from League Two to the Premier League, then bingo. 19 games that you can hold wherever in the world you want. GPFC v Liverpool in Dallas, GPFC v Arsenal in the UAE, GPFC v Chelsea in Moscow. Everybody's happy. Apart from the home-based fans. And who cares about them anymore? They've already been squeezed for everything they've got.

It's the best idea I've heard yet, in terms of letting the world see English football in the flesh. And yes, it's still a rubbish idea.