Forget Fergie's bellyaching and Tevez's strops - fans are still football's most hard done by
What a week it’s been for seeing just how football has descended into a game populated by satanists and people who are no better than Nazis.
Just for the hell of it, I have been trying for two days to fashion an argument that supports Carlos Tevez’ decision on Tuesday evening not to do the job that he is paid to do.
I thought, Well, who among us hasn’t at some point in our working lives not done a job that we are paid to do?
This argument, I felt, was working out quite nicely for me until I thought, Yeah, but the thing about my job is that I’m not paid northward of £200,000 per week to do it. Also, I do not appear on television while doing it, and I certainly don’t do it in front of tens of thousands of people, some of whom, in this case, had travelled overseas to watch me.
When Alex Ferguson this week spoke of “shaking hands with the devil” – the devil being the TV companies that have helped make him an extremely wealthy man, by the way – many people began muttering as to whether or not his comments were worth the air they floated on.
One of the questions that wasn’t asked, though, was this: football supporters themselves – and by these, I mean people who attend live games - didn’t shake hands with the Devil at all. So how come no one seems at all concerned about how this brave new televisual world affects them?
People guzzling beer from Stockport to Saigon have helped to make Carlos Tevez a millionaire several times over a year. And it has done the same for players and managers up and down the land.
But football is about more than what happens on the pitch. Don’t believe me? Okay, then try filming a game played behind closed doors and see how that looks on Super Sunday.
TV companies are especially thoughtless, though, when it comes to the day after Sunday. Monday Night Football is a concept pinched from the US – in this case the sport being American Football – where it works like a treat. This isn’t surprising: supporters of, say, the Washington Redskins were unlikely to make their way to Dallas for a game against the Cowboys whatever day it happened to be. So the concept of inconveniencing travelling fans was never really a serious consideration.
But so far this season, MNF in the UK has asked followers of Newcastle United to travel to west London in order to see their team play out a goalless draw against Queens Park Rangers. And fans of Sunderland were just this week invited to journey to Norwich City so as to see the only occasion in living memory when a canary got the better of a black cat.
Oh, you might say, but the fans didn’t have to travel to these games, they could have just watched them on the telly.
This is true. And many fans probably did stay at home and watch their team play away in two-dimensions. But that’s not the point.
The point is, that television prevented these supporters from travelling to a game they might have reached had it been played on a Saturday or even a Sunday afternoon.
Obviously attempting to turn back the advances of Sky TV and ESPN is a bit like trying to restore the canal ways of Britain to the status they enjoyed in the 18th Century. The genie is out of the bottle. But that doesn’t mean that the needs of active supporters should be ignored as routinely as increasingly they are.
Because when people in football talk about shaking hands with the devil, it is those in the stands who feel the sharpest prod of his pitchfork.
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