Once again David James has written a very thought provoking piece in his Observer column this week under the title: “Poor old Pompey made to pay dear in the age of imprudence”, speaking about how other clubs could learn a big lesson from Portsmouth’s fall from grace.
While James goes on to talk about the current situation down on the south coast, and how winning the FA Cup and making an appearance in Europe has led to the club being £60million in the red; it is the 39 year-olds’ thoughts for the game over the next decade that has interested me.
Now, as we all know that money and TV rights is what makes the game tick, but is it going to be sustainable over the next decade? Because if this money crashes then it will result in huge problems for everyone involved, especially the football clubs. The money being paid for TV rights has escalated over the past 20 years, which is why the BBC or ITV have not broadcast live football from the Premier League since 1988. Ever since then Sky have ruled the roost in terms of showing big games on their exclusive pay-TV channels.
The Pompey shot stopper states: “I think TV money could dictate what happens to the game, and if that means shaking up the format and changing the rules that may happen. Look at darts, and now snooker. Those are sports that struggled and then became TV-savvy to jumpstart a revival.”
We’ve already seen Setanta go bust because they tried to play the money game with Sky and lost. Without football Sky would lose up to 50% of its subscribers, which is staggering. And who is to say current Premier League broadcasters ESPN or Sky won’t go the same way as the Irish broadcaster?
As James goes on to say: “This may sound completely wacko – and it may not be for another 20 years – but I can imagine things like the substitutes rule changing.”
I don’t think James’ idea sounds wacko at all; he is on the money as far as changing the substitutes rule. “We could bring David Beckham on to take free-kicks, aged 40, and then take him off again as play restarts. Or someone like Jamie Ashdown, our reserve goalkeeper who is a fantastic penalty stopper, could be brought on for the crucial moments”
On the surface it sounds like a fantastic idea, because at the moment I think the game needs to find a way of appealing to a wider audience. And while it may not please everyone it would certainly be a way forward, because right now football is living in the past. In snooker you have the Super 6 tournament, which was set up to make the game quicker and more exciting.
Arsene Wenger recently had what many people thought was a ridiculous idea of abandoning throw ins, but I see that as another way of moving the game forward, it would certainly up the tempo of the game and make it punchier.
These changes would have to take time and obviously trialled in possibly lower league games, but if the FA or FIFA were to get professionals onside then I don’t see why football can’t move forward with the times.
As ever the calls for goal-line technology will grow ever louder over the next ten years but I like James think that it will be implemented by the end of the decade. There have been too many incidences over the past couple of years the most notable Thierry Henry’s hand-ball against Ireland.
I definitely believe that change is a good thing and that there are always benefits from change. The emphasis on money in football needs to become less, and the game needs to go back to its grassroots thinking in order to move forwards with the time.