Footballers and football clubs are doing so many good things at the moment, I suppose I should be praising the football community. (Clears throat) Manchester United have shown the way through their excellent work in the community and there have been countless instances of players and clubs going way beyond what cynics like me might expect them to do. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson’s impressive work forming Players together, Gary Lineker giving huge sums to charity (shame it’s the corporate deadbeats of the British Red Cross, but never mind) and David Moyes delivering stuff to vulnerable people are there positive examples. There are loads of positive examples but it’s always the actions of the minority that make my body boil.
However you try and spin it, Mesut Ozil’s refusal to accept even the smallest cut from his £350k a week is a grotesque example of football’s ugly side and it completely overshadows and undermines the efforts of others. But it’s not just the money. It’s the sheer recklessness of others.
How about Manchester City and England full back Kyle Walker and his mate enjoying a sex party with two prostitutes? I would imagine social distancing could be a slight issue here. Then, Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish drives across town to see his mate and is photographed at the scene of a car crash. This was less than 24 hours after Grealish filmed a video telling everyone to stay at home. But there’s always Spurs.
Serge Aurier and Moussa Sissoko decided the social distancing rules didn’t apply to them and went out together to train in the park. Then, naturally, manager Jose Mourinho decided to take one of his players, Tanguy Ndombele, to a park for a one-on-one training session. And that’s before tax dodging billionaire owner and Bahamas dweller Joe Lewis decided it would be a good idea to furlough non playing football staff at Spurs and give hard-pressed taxpayers the opportunity of playing their wages. And now Everton’s Moise Kean joins in the fun.
At a time when over 20,000 people have died of Covid-19 in hospital and God knows how many have died at home or in care homes. Kean decides to host a house party and, better still, films it and shares the footage on social networks. The point about Kean and his reckless footballing pals is that they are the ones who have been caught and once they have been caught out comes the grovelling apology, an apology which would never have been forthcoming had they not been caught. They might as well apologise for being caught.
I’m finding it very hard to maintain my sense of perspective about footballers, certainly those in the Premier League who earn in a week what it takes mere mortals years to earn. Mesut Ozil trousers a basic £50k a day, plus whatever he can ‘earn’ by way of bonuses, commercial interests and the usual ‘image rights’. Whilst not all footballers are greedy, selfish bastards, plenty of them are, and the players at one Russian oligarch club owned have declined a modest 10% cut in their wages. We’re all in it together, indeed.
One thing football is definitely in is the shit. The EFL says privately that it expects dozens of clubs to go bust, especially when season ticket money dries up – and who in their right mind would buy a season ticket for a season that is unlikely to start, certainly with spectators, perhaps well into 2021? People will lots of money are the only group – and even with everyone furloughed, most football clubs lose large sums of money and had eye-watering levels of debt before Covid-19 came along. I doubt that the bloated, overrated, overpriced Premier League will escape scot-free. How can it?
With no crowds, no income from concessions, reduced merchandise sales and, with any luck, reduced TV income, many of them will surely struggle, especially since so many owners are form overseas and do not ‘support’ the teams they own in the same way that supporters do. What a time for Newcastle United’s ownership to be passed from Mike Ashley to the human rights abusers and head choppers of Saudi Arabia!
The big question for football is this: what happens when this is all over? Will things simply revert to business as usual, with vast sums being paid in players and transfer fees, paid for in essence through TV subscriptions? Well, it’s up to us.
It is highly likely that when we finally emerge from lockdown, our country will look very different. Some kind of economic crash is inevitable, with thousands of businesses going bust and millions of people being made unemployed. The colossal debts the country will have racked up will need to be paid back, so expect deep austerity for years, possibly decades to come. And the austerity will make the last decade will appear to have been the dog days of summer. People will need to make choices. To watch football, live or on telly, both or to do neither.
We’ve cancelled our Sky and BT subscriptions because there is literally no sport to watch, apart from horse racing from America, and who is interested in that? My inclination is that when sport resumes again, we will stay unsubscribed. I am sick of the overarching greed represented by the Premier League and by UEFA, and indeed FIFA, and basically I want my football back.
It’s our choice to revert to the normality that sees disinterested players like the aforementioned Ozil earn large fortunes and then, when people are dead and dying all over the world, refuses to make the smallest contribution. In four minutes, Ozil has ‘earned’ what I am losing every month due to furlough. For all the good work of the majority of players, it’s the arrogant, uncaring attitude of the minority I remember most. And I can’t get it out of my head.
There could soon be a day of reckoning for the Premier League. I certainly hope so.