Well I thought it might be time for a change in subject matter and whilst I don’t want to alienate my many (ahem) female readers, I thought it was about time to talk sport.
Now we’ve been in lockdown for what seems like 6 months but it’s just 4 weeks or so. And the absence of all sport has left a pretty big hole in my life. It’s amazing the part that it plays in our lives really. There’s a cycle to it and not seeing the conclusion of the football season, the Open, the summer Tests and Wimbledon etc definitely feels like life is out of synch. Of course I appreciate that sport has to be closed whilst this pandemic is still raging. And in many ways I am still outraged that the Gov’t didn’t instruct the Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool v Athletico M match to be shut down. How many carriers were admitted into the country or were locals who passed on the virus at those gatherings is not known. But it must have introduced a springboard for the spread of the virus when it was still possible to massively staunch its spread.
We’ve all been paying for the Govenment’s slowness in acting ever since. But enough about making political points. This is about trying to maintain an interest in sport during the lockdown and I have to admit I’ve found it very hard. The press, normally full of copy is really struggling to provide interesting stories. Social media is a nightmare. TV is an empty landscape. MoTd is doing interviews between Lineker, Shearer on Wright on meaningful stuff like their favourite strikers/goalies etc. So Alan just who is your favourite? Er well me actually Gary? Sigh. And radio – normally a rich source of material for me – is a bloody disaster. I’ve tried podcasts but they are all about pundits asking each other what they’re wearing (shorts and T’s) and who’s cutting their hair. Sigh. So I’ve tried to give my old faithful Talksport radio a few goes. Now ordinarily I find it full of ex-footballers/other sportsmen and the odd mad cap pundit airing their strong, trenchant, chauvinistic, narrow-minded views on all things football. But at least they’ve been able to talk about the match last night, the awful VAR decisions, opinions on Solskjaer, Klopp, Guardiola and transfer speculation. It’s predictable, redneck but at least it’s rich in content because of the mass of sporting activity.
I don’t know why they can’t discuss something interesting that ordinarily we don’t get to hear about like who gave the best training sessions and why, what it was like to be in the dressing room listening to Fabio Capello, how a major transfer is actually structured, when is the best time for a young player to get an agent and why, is the transfer system still justifiable, the media reporters most respected by the players and why. You know something insightful.
But without any activity we are left with these fuckwits filling airspace with all sorts of other stuff. The other day I listened to Ali McCoist and Talksports’s fabulous new capture, Andrew Flintoff, discussing their top 5 Elvis songs whilst delivering murderous renditions of Hunk of Burning Love and In the Ghetto from their home studios, with a time lag on the studio broadcast. It was excruciating. Later I heard the Drivetime team of grumpy Adrian Durham and the likeable Yorkshire fuckwit and ex-cricketer Darren Gough discussing their top 5 films. You’ll not be surprised to learn that Stallone’s magnificent ouevre featured strongly whilst classic Nouvelle Vague films from the golden age of French cinema hardly figured at all. I was amazed.
Listening to sports people talking about sport is hard enough but I put up with it because I am always hoping for some brilliant understanding of the secrets within. But more often than not all I get is shite not insight. The problem is that it is hard for them to articulate what being a professional sportsperson is really like – they are all just over eager to express ill thought-out views. But hey I’m trying very hard to give them a break so this morning I checked in to the early conversation between Alan marnin Brazil, Ray Parlour (who’s a very simple bloke who struggles with English at the best of times) and their special guest Bianca Westwood. Now Bianca’s a pleasant enough West Ham-supporting match reporter on the Gillette Soccer Saturday programme. She gives short updates on matches live on the prog and is about the nearest thing to a 48 year old bit of eye candy on the show. She just seems to be the one that the panel of 4 footballer pundits and presenter Jeff Stelling get to girlie rib during the programme.
This morning she was invited to join the discussion between Alan and Ray on what could/should happen to the Premier League season. It’s a fairly major issue for all fans and for the sport as a whole but Bianca’s opening comment was to admit that she was still in her pj’s and looking like a monster without her make-up. Lots of guffawing from the lads. Sigh. Now I know Bianca’s university educated and spent a few years in the banking industry but she seems to have jettisoned intelligence for Sky/Talksport footie banter. I won’t try and describe the depth and acuity of the rest of the debate (ho ho!) other than to report that the main presenter Alan’s solution was to play out the remainder of the matches, probably 4 games a week, during August (fitness/tiredness not being an issue as the Premiership teams all have big squads he declared). There were lots of ‘yer right Al’.
Now these are footballing experts supposedly. But what wasn’t considered or appreciated was that many footballer contracts run out at the end of June, the usual nominal end of season date. So many clubs could find players just leaving before the resumption got under way. Also many commercial contracts with the PL and the clubs themselves end at the same time including the highly lucrative broadcasting deals. Some £750m in tv broadcast rights are at risk of being repayable if the season were delayed until August. Clubs aren’t going to be eager for that are they? Commercially there are issues; Liverpool FC for example have a new shirt deal commencing I July. They are pledged to use their existing supplier’s shirts for the title run in celebrations but if the season continued beyond 30 June, then whose shirts should they wear contractually? Also EUFA have announced that they would like the final stages of the Champions League and Europa Cup matches to be played during August so you cannot imagine involved teams playing up to 4 games a week of League fixtures and also Euro matches as well.
But you don’t get these issues raised on Talksport’s leading programme; it’s not exactly secret stuff. All that’s offered are Alan’s views off the cuff which pass as informed judgement A more likely scenario perhaps might see lockdown restrictions lifted at the end of the first week of May allowing clubs to resume closed training sessions perhaps for the following 3-4 weeks. This would enable a re-start of the season assuming all cv-19 testing of personnel went well at around June 6. I’m assuming all outstanding matches would be played behind closed doors. If the teams played a game every 3-4 days or so, they’d complete the seasons’ outstanding commitments (of around 9 matches per team) by the end of June or shortly after. Some jiggling with broadcasters, sponsors, shirt suppliers, commercial partners, players and their representatives and fans over ticket refunds etc should accommodate a slight shift into mid-late July. These are exceptional circumstances after all.
Doesn’t that sound like a more sensible plan? And it took me 2 minutes to articulate. I’m not trying to be clever; I don’t know the ins and outs after all. But it just seems a more likely scenario. I’d just like a bit less grandstanding and utter twaddle from our country’s leading sports radio channel. I just don’t think I can stand 6 more weeks of non-match related inane chit chat. They’ll be discussing their least favourite invasive treatments next. I’ll give them two to begin with.