September 9, 2008

The game is open for business

With the purchase of Manchester City and the summer of record-breaking transfer fees, many fans are bemoaning the commercialization of the Premier League. Their arguments are threefold.

1. Players' wages and transfer fees have risen to unfathomable levels, thus pricing out the common fan.

According to the BBC, player wages for last season registered at approximately £1.9 billion, an increase of almost 27% from the previous season. To offset these costs, season ticket prices have risen to an average of £590 for a middle-range seat as reported by the Guardian, or slightly more than £31/game.

I don't mean to sound snobby and elitist, but that's a big problem? For world-class entertainment I think it's a great deal. Plus, it prices out the hooligans and leads to a more family-friendly atmosphere, songs notwithstanding.

Is the problem simply the amount of money the players are making? Don't be jealous; it's not attractive.

2. The foreign ownership knows nothing of the team's and league's traditions.

I'm going to make an assumption, so please feel free to voice your disagreement, but I believe fans don't care the first bit if an owner can't name the 1978 squad but can deliver a title in 2008. What traditions are the owners supposed to follow, a history of underachievement, of being lovable losers? As long as the owners are following the rules, I see no moral quandary with being a fan of a team with a quick turnaround. Just get on the bandwagon before it happens.

3. England's national team has suffered from the influx of foreign talent.

Here's the logic as I understand it: clubs stifle young English talent by buying foreign players. To prevent this, the number of foreign players should be lowered, thus allowing English players to fully mature and become the superstars they're destined to be.

What. A load. Of crap.

According to this logic, English players become better by not playing against the best. If they're coddled long enough, they will magically get better just because they're English. If I were an English soccer player, I would be offended at this idea. To win the World Cup, the English have to beat the best players at the world in their primes, so what better preparation than to play against the best at every age level?

The young English players aren't blocked from playing against top competition. If they prove their worth either at lower-division clubs or on the youth/reserve squads, Premier League clubs will want their services, just the same as any other player. So will La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga clubs, all of which provide world-class opposition and an opportunity to become a star.

Perhaps English players aren't getting the proper training at a younger age. If that is the case, the FA needs to change its policies, not the Premier League.


We're not talking about healthcare or maintaining a healthy middle class or anything of actual importance: we're talking about soccer. Soccer is a game, played entirely for our amusement. Yes, some people make their living from this game, but none of those people will be adversely affected by the recent changes. If anything they have a chance to watch their salaries rise as well.

To those who long for the good ol' days, support a local club and forget about the Premier League. Everyone has a vote: it's in the wallet. Unless these billionaires are content to support their clubs with no money coming in, this pattern cannot continue. The fans keep the cycle alive by purchasing these season tickets and buying another jersey with every new sponsor or design. For those don't want to be a part of it, any lower-level club would love to have them as fans.

Globalization affects everyone, including especially soccer. The arguments for closing England's doors ring of bitterness and pining for a time long past, and the voices making them will fade more quickly than their memories. An open society cannot be closed, and those who try will fail and watch their dreams die.

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