Being asked to pay £46 if I want to watch [*] Sunderland's final game of the season away at West Ham United has got me thinking how things might be in ten years time. * Watching is a loose description if your an away fan at West Ham as you can't even see the far touchline and in some cases the seats are virtually at ground level.
Today sees the start of the 2021 Tesco Premier League, the World’s greatest sporting competition designed specifically to have plasma viewers glued to their big screens. Fourteen modern day giants will battle it out across eight months with the top six earning the right to compete in the Grand Championship Play Off Final’s in China over Christmas and the New Year.
Last season provided a real shock with sixth placed Beckham Dons taking the Grand Trophy with a last minute penalty winner denying top placed Arsenal in the final. The Beckham Dons success provided justification for former Manchester United and England superstar David Beckham’s decision to invest approximately ½ a billion $’s in buying out the Milton Keynes Dons franchise.
Following which he moved the former Wimbledon club back “towards its roots” by installing them in the former Olympic Park Stadium left empty after fans of its tenants, West Ham United, deserted the side in despair at the lack of atmosphere during matches held there.
|MK Dons Stadium - home of the most hated club in the English Football League?|
Beckham, who as owner, was allowed to come on as a last minute substitute to take the penalty said: “scoring was the most magical moment of my long career.” After being selected from thousands of applicant’s dozens of Dons fans were amongst the elite crowd who had paid from $10,000 to $100,000 a ticket. Premier League spokesperson Loti Cash said this showed that “this competition is not just for those who can afford to pay the premier prices we need to charge to ensure we can recruit the best players in the world.”
For Arsenal defeat was another harsh blow. Having moved from their ancestral home Highbury in 2005 to the purpose built library known as The Emirates the Gunners have constantly played exciting, thrilling football without winning the trophies many believe they deserve.
Now registered in France, a move the club denies was undertaken to prevent it falling foul of the rules requiring clubs to have at least six British home grown players, Arsenal under new man in charge, Cesc Fabregas, are determined to go one better this season.
Previous season’s winners, Chelsea Mastercard, are though once again the favourites to collect the Diamond studded Trophy. They will start however without star man Jordan McDonalds. He’s yet to recover from an operation designed to improve his looks as the club and player seek to cash in on the lucrative image market.
Manchester United’s new owners Shell Oil have revived the fallen giant after its huge debts, accumulated during the ill-fated Glazier period, saw the once Old Trafford based club fall into administration. With neighbours Manchester City having purchased United’s former ground at the knock-down price of $40 million, then Gary Neville’s side will once again play the majority of their home games at Wembley.
United will start their season at Poole United. The Premier League’s newcomers, have replaced Sunderland after Tesco decided that with the north-east still to recover from the economic crisis of a decade ago it would be better for football’s long term financial future to play top games in an area where fans can enjoy paying premier prices to watch live football.
Formed two seasons ago, with the financial muscle of former England manager Harry Redknapp behind it, Poole have invested heavily during the summer to bring in some of the world’s best players. Critics though have pointed out it will take time for the players to become familiar with each other, but with a guaranteed six-season franchise in the top flight there should be no immediate concerns.
|Stadium of Light, Sunderland|
Demoted Sunderland, who last season finished in 13th place, have promised to re-apply for Tesco Premier League status at the end of the season but even Chief Executive Niall Quinn admits “it will be tough as we don’t have the right type of fans, making it difficult for sponsors seeking to maximise sales at the ground.” Considering that at least a third of Sunderland’s $200 million a year in receipts was needed to pay their entry fees to the Premier League they had done remarkably well to remain competitive on the pitch. A drop down to the lower leagues has therefore come as a body blow to followers of the famous club.
The Wearsiders worries have had the fans of near neighbours Newcastle United dancing deliriously. ‘The Toon’ have had little success in recent times and the decision to relocate the players and the training and administrative sections of the club to the Channel Islands has never enjoyed the support of the Newcastle@StJamesPark faithful. However with significant tax advantages the move has boosted the bottom line of the company’s accounts. This has enabled owner Mike Ashley to compete financially when it comes to attracting players, even if as happened last season star striker David Sony exceeded, because of his court case for assault, the eighty day limit in the UK under which a player can enjoy tax-free status.
Now the only Manchester based club City are looking to get back amongst the top six this season. Its now nearly fifty years since they last won a major trophy, and having decided to re-introduce their youth policy four seasons ago its time believe City fans for the youngsters to deliver.
No one though can be exactly certain how the sons of Arab Royal families will perform on the big stage. This could therefore be another season of transition for a club that has finished at the bottom of the league for the last three seasons. However those cynics who feel City have only been allowed to remain in the Premier League because of the entry fees guaranteed to it by their owners have been dismissed by Loti Cash who said “it was only right we seek to bring on the game in Manchester.”
Just along the M62 Everpool struggled last season and are expected to do so this. Having been informed that their once former glories and crumbling Anfield and Goodison Park grounds were not attractive enough for the plasma screen Liverpool and Everton were forced back to the period before 1892 where only one club represented the city on English football’s highest platform.
With finance from the City Council, the Premier League and a, as yet unidentified backer, the merger of the clubs was the right one but sparked fury amongst Reds and Blues alike. So much so that when the Asda Super Stadium opened six seasons ago many boycotted it and even today Liverpool and Everton fans are divided within the ground by metal fences. At least though the situation whereby joint managers were in charge has now ended with former Everton and Liverpool legend Peter Beardsley taking over the reins.
|St Andrews, Birmingham City|
One side also looking to revive their fortunes are Microsoft Villa. With neighbours Birmingham City having gone out of business almost a decade ago for failing to pay the Inland Revenue, and a whole host of debtors, The Villa are now England’s second city only club. They are still smarting from the power cut that denied them a place in the play-offs. This prevented the computer technician in charge of the final game with Newcastle United at St James’ Park from being able to see on his monitor that home man David Carling was in fact offside as he netted a last minute equaliser.
Leeds United is another side that fancy their chances of the play-offs this season. It will require them to step up their play in the final two quarters of each match, records showing that up to 22 and ½ and 45 minutes the Yorkshire club are the best in the business, but their form falls off considerably in the third and fourth quarters. Coming to terms with the three ten minute breaks that facilitate advertising opportunities would make Leeds serious contenders this season.
Whether they can do much however to prevent viewers constantly voting against them when it comes to deciding on penalty awards could be more problematic. Last season there were eight occasions involving the Whites where the computer technician was unable to decide on a penalty award. When this was put to a vote, with supporters of the televised teams prevented from taking part, Leeds lost out on every occasion. As a result chairman Ken Bates has called for the system to be ended and radically has even suggested returning to pre-2017 when referees on the pitch were in sole charge of affairs.
Opening Day’s Fixtures
Stevenage Hotspur - Arsenal
Poole United - Manchester United
Manchester City - Newcastle@StJamesPark
Microsoft Villa - Everpool
Chelsea Mastercard - Beckham Dons
Leeds United - Crawley Town