December 19th 2016
The Grubby Pursuit Of Cash Finally Does Some Good For The Game

Back in the summer the Chairman of the premier League, Richard Scudamore admitted that talks regarding a winter break in football were “ongoing”.

The then newly appointed England manager, Sam Allardyce was vocal in his calls for such a thing to be implemented, saying the demands that playing for nine months placed on players were too heavy (and perhaps it would have given Big Sam chance to do some more completely legitimate business deals during in the time off, who knows…..?)

No doubt this will be a debate that rears its head again this week in the build up to Christmas and three games in a week will be deemed too much for highly paid athletes by some managers (not all in fairness). Rather neglecting, of course, that the first thing all the big clubs would do given a couple of weeks off was trot off around the world to play friendlies for lots and lots of cash (under the pretext of “furthering the brand” or other such management speak).

However, very quietly something happened in the last few months that means that finally money may have done some good in football.

Back in October, the FA announced overseas broadcast rights deals worth $1 billion (£820 million) for the FA Cup, and whilst the world’s biggest domestic cup competition might have seen it’s magic diminished in the UK, it seems the rest of the world is keen to watch the action.

And even if it will mean that the already obscenely rich get even richer, then here’s why it is good for the English game; the contracts the FA have signed stipulate initial ties must take place over weekends – similar to the Premier League deal which dictates at least 32 of its 38 rounds of fixtures are played between a Friday and Monday – because those days attract the biggest ratings.

This deal runs until 2024, which ends the prospect of the ridiculous idea that the FA Cup moves to midweek to create spaces for a break in January – and money talks, as we all know and a £1bn cheque doesn’t just talk, it shouts loudly and gets it’s own way.

But what this does show is where the power lies in the game – and it’s most definitely not with the fans.

I would wager that nearly all fans wouldn’t want a winter break. We like the games over Christmas, we like the FA Cup on the first Saturday in the year. We don’t care what other countries do, we like some traditions in a British football world where they are taken away from us with each passing year.

Yet the only thing that is holding the FA back from ruining the very fabric of game in this country as we know it is because those traditions are so highly prized in foreign countries that they will pay massive money to watch.

As unpalatable as it might be to the true traditionalists then the selling of the game for mega money – on this occasion at least – is something we should all be grateful for.

This is the last blog we’ll be publishing before the festive period, so thanks for reading them and have a good Christmas and Happy New Year. And enjoy the football – which it looks like you’ll be able to until at least 2024.

Andy Thorley

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