It’s a marketing scam that Reggie would have been proud of but unlike his fictional namesake, Loic Perrin’s is doomed to fail unintentionally as Arsenal are looking elsewhere for a new centre back. It’s a bit of a comedown from Mats Hummels and the outright certainty of some claims he would sign in the summer but Gabriel Paulista, Villarreal’s ‘versatile’ defender is the new go-to guy.
Or perhaps not as some doubt is cast over whether he would qualify for a work permit. In an eerie echo of the past, Joel Campbell was being lined up as a makeweight in the deal. Elsewhere, Ilkay Gundogan’s back injury has moved him into prime position for the defensive midfield role whilst in a bizarre twist, Adrien Rabiot is once more linked with a move to Arsenal with Wenger looking to bring out the attacking midfielder’s previously well-hidden defensive qualities.
Whatever the case, FIFA’s largesse means there is no excuse for inactivity in the transfer window. The Federation have raided Sepp’s re-election budget and made payments to clubs for borrowing players for their summer jamboree, giving Arsenal just over $1m for the pleasure of all the players called up for the World Cup.
The daily rate is $2.3k, equivalent of an annual salary of just over $500k which suggest FIFA has very different views on players worth than the clubs and indeed the players themselves.
Arsène and the squad meanwhile are preparing for a mid-table clash with Stoke in the Sunday lunchtime kick-off. It’s a better time than the 5.30pm kick-off endured for the FA Cup tie against Hull but only marginally so. With the clubs gradually becoming less and less reliant upon matchday revenues, broadcasters are in the position of dictating matches at their convenience.
Football is the strangest of commodities. There is little argument that the sheen has dulled on the FA Cup, it’s no longer the shining beacon for the end of a season that it once was. The ascendency of the Premier League and Champions League with their financial riches has assured that the jewel in the FA’s crown needs taking to a specialist and given a tidy up.
Or so you would think. Disparaged as the elongated weekend might have been, crowds at this years third round are not likely to show that much of a drop on last year’s thirty-five year high. This even though Manchester United and Liverpool were away rather than being at home at the stage of last season’s competition. It’s staggering especially with just 9k watching the all-Premier League clash at Turf Moor.
Crowds are remarkably resilient in the modern game but increasingly irrelevant to broadcasters. They don’t want an empty stadia for their matches yet perversely they are not overly concerned with lower crowds. After all, their interest is in subscribers and advertising revenues, both of which benefit from stay-away fans.
From the outside, it seems there are two avenues left for the clubs to truly exploit; Saturday afternoon broadcasts and television season tickets. The former has always been a concern for the game, from the very outset. When the BBC floated the idea for Match of the Day, the clubs initially insisted that the televised game(s) were not announced until half-time such was their fear that attendances would suffer.
In a broadcast age with every game in every division receiving some sort of coverage, it is hard to explain the buzz of a child when you pitched up at a ground and saw the Outside Broadcast vans parked close by. In those low tech days, graphics were to say the least, basic. Half-time and full-time scores and scorers came courtesy of a chalkboard in front of a camera on the pitch. How you marvelled when the highlights rendered the background seemingly invisible.
It probably was a touch more hi-tech than that but not much.
Clubs are mulling over the relevance of the Saturday ban on transmissions but the final decision comes down to reaching an agreement with the Football League. With Friday night football, the number of Premier League games kicking off at the traditional time could be as low as four when the Champions and Europa Leagues are in full flow.
Will supporters of Football League clubs stop going if Aston Villa are playing Chelsea in the televised 3pm kick-off? A quick straw poll on the subject at work suggested it won’t influence matchday habits.
Equally, having failed to make club television channels work with satellite platforms, clubs engagement with supporters is mainly online. Exploiting pockets with a television season ticket for every match is a way of boosting revenues for themselves and the opponents on a game-by-game basis. It certainly recognises that Premier League clubs know no geographic boundaries in terms of support, either locally in the UK or globally.
Football has changed since the initial days of the 1960s when televised matches in one shape or form became a regular feature on the landscape. Not just in the studio but in the prominence the finances play. Every contract negotiated reflects the increasing popularity of Premier League clubs and their never-ending supply of ideas for exploiting supporters.
And our seemingly bottomless wallets to pay for them. Just when you think they can’t find new tricks to screw us, they do. Executives call it engagement, making fans feel involved in the club even if the distance in the relationship is wider than ever. I know what I call it but it’s too early in the day for such language.
Ever feel like you’ve been cheated?
From The Vaults
Earlier in the week, I covered off the contrasting preparations of defending champions Arsenal and their opponents in the forthcoming FA Cup Third Round tie, non-league Darwen. Arsenal’s 11 – 1 victory remains their most comprehensive at this stage of the competition.