It used to be the preserve of the hangover. Sunday mornings spent ambling around a pitch, hoping you wouldn’t have to head the ball before the paracetamol had kicked in or until after the remnants of that the dog walkers hadn’t cleared away, span off elsewhere. Next season will be seven days of the week, the Premier League matches will be televised on nights when only Tranmere used to play.
We’ll be having the same conversations in a few years time when the full impact of the Qatar World Cup begins to be felt. Prior to moving the competition to November / December, the posturing included claims that three seasons would be affected by the change. It will be club football Jim, but not as we know it.
Football has always had a strong sense of protectionism. Live televised coverage of matches on a weekly basis only came into being in the early-80s in the UK but the sport hasn’t looked back since and shows no sign of curbing its enthusiasm for the medium. Survey the wreckage of your week when the initial televised fixtures are announced this week and you’ll look back with fondness on a time when you knew that Saturday meant football and life filled the rest of your time, instead of the other way around.
The unlikeliest saviour may yet turn out to be Spanish football. Their season is shaped much the way English football will be but Qatar has proven to be a step too far for them. The LFP has launched an action against FIFA in the Court of Arbitration for Sport to try to have the dates for the World Cup revert back to the summer so the clubs don’t suffer financially.
Which apparently they will. Quite how isn’t entirely clear unless the various European leagues alter their structure and reduce the number of games, the clubs will still play each other home and away, just across a split season. As such, you wouldn’t necessarily expect them to lose any broadcast revenues or much gate money. In fact, a season which ends later in the summer might benefit with better weather attracting bigger crowds in some cases.
However, there must be something in it as FIFA is stuffing brown envelopes with €200m to give to the clubs from the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The governing body is, after all, not noted for its largesse to anyone other than itself and its’ cronies.
Notably, the other leagues have let the Spaniards fight this one themselves. The PL, Ligue Un and Serie A organisations have offered moral support before nodding sagely at each other with a look of ‘rather you than me’ in their eyes. They won’t be so shy when it comes to reaping any rewards the LFP action produces.
Am I bothered when the 2022 World Cup takes place? Not really, it doesn’t make a great deal of difference whether the tournament takes place in November or June; it’s still going to knacker up sleep patterns and cause arguments over the television remote control.
All of which means, you’ll have guessed, that Arsène hasn’t signed anyone yet although the rumour mill is convinced Petr Cech signed on Friday and will be announced on Monday. Or Tuesday. Or one of the other days next week. Or the week after.
Elsewhere, Arsenal pulled out of the race for Morgan Schneiderlin because they wanted to sign Arturo Vidal instead. Or the Chilean was the only one they were interested in anyway because the travails involving Greece means that it will cost less to prise the midfielder from Juve than they would have to pay Southampton.