Ing-er-land, Ing-er-land, we’re the famous Old Firm and we’re going to Ing-er-land (OVER XCOS.EUs DEAD BODY)

16 Nov

Whilst I fully accept that I may be typing this through rose tinted specs, it seems to me that newspapers just ain’t what they used to be. Physically, most of the decent ones seem to have shrunk, and quality wise the red tops have done the impossible and moved so far downmarket that you’re more likely to find the truth behind current events in a Jesus leaflet or on the back of a tin of soup.

What especially riles me, is the advent of the non-news story. Again, rose-tinted specs, but I’ve been seeing more and more of these recently.

Lily Allen said WHAT? On Twitter? That’s not news.

David Cameron rides a bike? So what?

Crisps contain saturated fat? Do they? Do they really? You’d have thought someone would have said.

And so on.

But worse than non-news stories, dear reader, are the non-sports stories. Sports writers, and more importantly editors, are keen to get the football pages filled, even when there is no football news to report on. This is especially problematic during the pre-season, but traditionally hacks have been able to keep interest up by reporting on the football merry-go-round, or at the very least speculating on possible transfers.

As sports reporting has taken on a new dimension in the last few years, with a football clubs bank balance being more important than how good they actually are; this non-sports story has evolved from speculating about players, to speculating about finances, and where so-and-so club will get money to buy players from.

Taking it to it’s logical conclusion, and when (and only when) there is nothing else to fucking talk about, we tend to get two non-stories which seem to get an airing once or twice a year, namely,

a) In England, the lower league teams need more money to compete, so they’ll breakaway and form a Phoenix league, and

b) In Scotland, the Old Firm teams need more money to compete, so they’ll breakaway and join the English Premier League/Atlantic League/Justice League Unlimited etc.

Just to quickly acknowledge and refute non-story a) – it won’t happen. The FA Premier League happened because there was a premium market for the best product. Nobody wants to pay top dollar for the second best. ITV Digital tried that, they went bust. Even more amazingly, Setanta bought the rights to Blue Square Premier (the fifth best English league), and they went bust.

Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas (though there is an argument for extending the franchise to poultry), and it’s clearly not in the interests at the moment for smaller English clubs to start a breakaway league that will, more than likely, lead to financial ruin, as well as the cold shoulder from the football authorities.

As for non-story b) – The Old Firm moving to England/Atlantis/The Moon – well, this appears in papers so often that you’d be forgiven for thinking it had actually happened, and that Glasgow is now the capital of Moonbase Alpha. It is never going to happen, and the only people who believe that it will are deluded crazy mentalists. I am, of course, referring to those Celtic and Rangers fans who believe that the sun shines out of Parkhead/Ibrox, and that their teams are the best in the world, and that if only they had a tiny little bit more money to spend, they’d be able to sign the worlds best players, and so on. It is to you, Mr and Mrs Fruitcake, that I say this:

IT. AIN’T. HAPPENING.

And just for my own personal amusement, I’m going to refute some reasons why I don’t think the Old Firm should join specifically the FA Premier League, though these reasons may also apply to any other mooted league.

First of all, let’s look at the money issue. Yes, it’s a well known fact that the FA Premier League has a TV deal with BSkyB and ESPN worth over a billion quid for 3 seasons worth. Thats £1,000,000,000 between a maximum of 26 different clubs (allowing for promotion/relegation) over three years. Even after your usual deductions for peoples salaries, football in the community and what not, that’s still an insane prize fund, and only an idiot wouldn’t want part of that pie.

Indeed, if we compare that to the £1-2million that the SPL champions receive in prize money, coupled with the fact that both teams could possibly compete week in week out with teams from the FAPL, it looks downright unfair. In truth, it probably is. However, that’s how football has evolved. The teams from over there play in a league with teams from over there. Same with teams from over there. They play over there. Different rules, standards, TV deals and levels of prize money. Sorry, but that’s how it happens.

Besides, having more money doesn’t necessarily imply success, we should remember. There’s nothing to stop either Celtic or Rangers winning £36mill for hypothetically finishing in mid table, only for the club to spend it on three Tore Andre Flos. Furthermore, look at the teams that have been relegated from the Premier League in the megabucks era: Leeds, Norwich, Charlton, Southampton, Leicester City, Crystal Palace – a lot of fucking good the FAPL money did for them!

Now, by way of segue to the next logical point of discussion, here’s a conversation with an Old Firm fan I’d just had inside my own head:


Shh!!!! Witbacarf?

What’s that? Say it again?

Cff.

One more time?

Carff

Stop mumbling at the back, spit it out

CARDIFF, FUCKING CARDIFF, YA WEE ANGLISH BASTAT

Ah yes, the Welsh argument. Namely that if Welsh teams can play in the English, the Old Firm should be able to as well. In fact, surely it’s downright discrimination? Well, err no.

Fact is that Cardiff, Swansea, Wrexham, not to mention Newport County, Colwyn Bay and Merthyr Tyddfil, have been playing in the English pyramid system since time immemorial, and are what I would call legacy teams. By that, I mean that each of the six clubs mentioned above all accepted invites to play in various leagues within the English pyramid, which have subsequently not been revoked up to this present day. By no means is their presence uncontroversial – there are fans of English teams up and down the country who would rather see them play in the Welsh league, but that’s not likely to happen in the near to medium future.

Or, to give another example, it’s like Berwick Rangers accepting an invite from the Scottish Football League, and ignoring the English league. Or Gretna accepting an invite from the English league, only to revoke it when they became rich, and head north to the Scottish leagues. Gretna, of course, one of the few teams who have proved that you can change the country in which you play football. Wonder how they’re getting on?

Psst. Big man.

Yerrrs?

Wit aboot tha’ fans?

Good question. In fact, I’ll come clean at this point. The other week, whilst watching Unirea vs Rangers in a Glasgow pub with a drinking partner who shall remain nameless, the suggestion was put to me that the Old Firm should be given a place in the FAPL on account that they have loads of fans. In other words, the suggestion here is the bigger your fan base, the better, more important, fantastic your team are. Now, please bear in mind that we had been drinking some 7% perry for some time before and during the match, but he was totally serious. Completely straight faced, and seemingly unaware that it was an argument that a 5 year old would be embarrassed by in a playground. His justification for his position was, however, top drawer, I’ll give him that.

“So”, I said, “you think that the Old Firm should be in the English Premier League as they have more fans than some of the teams currently there?”

“How many fans do Millwall have in Australia?” came the reply. Anyone familiar with TV animation South Park may remember the Chewbacca Defence in the episode Chef Aid. This was better.

“Err, not sure how that’s relevant, what with Australia being the other side of the world”

“So you admit then that Rangers have more fans than Millwall?” It’s like chatting to Roger fucking Irrelevant.

“What I’m asking”, I said with a mixture of despair and intrigue, “is why you think that the number of fans of a football team from one country, living in another country, should affect the ability of that team to play in the league of yet another country?”

“Millwall have no fans in the Empire, so that’s why they’re in League Two [he meant One]” At this point I am both stifling laughter and watching out for any sharp objects.

I replied “Fine, if that makes sense to you, then whatever. Both you and I know it ain’t going to happen”.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the point of this post. There is no way the Old Firm are going to join the FA Premier League, and very little chance of them joining a lower English division. This isn’t to say, however, that this story won’t run and run, because despite the fact it’s a nothing story, it continues to generate revenue every time it’s wheeled out by the Scottish (and occasionally English) press. People buy the papers on the strength of idle speculation like this.

Perhaps it’s time the Old Firm woke up, smelled the coffee, and decided it would be a better endeavour to strengthen their own league than to covet the treasures of another? Just a thought.

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