Alan Biggs' New Year column: Football is the piper allowing its tune to be called

Being part of the media, this column tends to stay neutral when branches of it, or individuals within it, are attacked.

Wednesday, 1st January 2020, 9:00 am
The match preview on Amazon Prime ahead of the Premier League match at St Mary's, Southampton. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday December 4, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Southampton. Photo credit should read: Steven Paston/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.

Either defend or say nothing is the motto.

The job’s hard enough without having stuff thrown at you from within your own greenhouse.

Which is why the only exception I have made in the last year is with a regional editor who rallied his club’s army of fans against me on social media - when he could simply have answered my opinions himself. Unprofessional and he knows who he is.

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However, in a general sense, I have more of a problem when fans rail against the broadcast media over these two abominations –

1/ The madness of the January transfer window.

2/ Ridiculous fixture scheduling.

Stations, including (declaration of interest) two I happen to freelance for, fill their boots in these two areas.

There was eight hours of continuous Premier League football on Boxing Day and, of course, we still have the countdown to the deadline to “look forward to.”

Hands up a second time. Do I profit from any of this? Yep, got to admit I do.

Another reason for mostly keeping quiet!

But, considering the wider interests of the game, surely it’s a bit excessive.

So who’s really to blame for the sort of Boxing Day packaging that sent Brighton up to Spurs for a 12.30pm kick off and Liverpool to Leicester at 8pm?

And who’s really responsible for whipping up fans in a ferment throughout January, creating a clamour for clubs to make signings they wouldn’t normally make and reducing trading practices to a circus?

Here’s my get-out, folks. It’s football and the football industry in both cases.

Who decides where you go to watch a game and when? Who rules that your team can’t buy or sell a player outside a certain month?

Television (including streaming services like Amazon) and, to some extent radio, merely exploit a situation not of their making.

Ok, they are financing the process. But does that give them the right to call all the shots?

Absolutely not. You’re selling your house - you don’t have potential buyers saying “I’ll give you X more if you put a conservatory on the back.”

Selling a show to sponsors? This is the date and time, make us an offer.

Same with windows. These are our players, make us an offer. What’s that? Only if it’s in January or the summer months!

This is where we are, as decreed by FIFA some 16 years ago having first been proposed here in England a decade earlier. So you see, it’s not the media running football and riding roughshod over it, it’s the game itself.

Let’s quote two respected football figures on windows. Sven Goran Eriksson: “A little bit desperate and not right.” Steve Coppell: “Causes a fire-sale mentality and clubs buying too many players.”

Yes, clubs are either stocking up or stocking down, with no corrective control over the vagaries of the ensuing four months.

As for supporters being dragged around the country at all manner of inconvenient times and dates, since when did they count?

They’re just making up the numbers so that “the product” looks good.

He who pays the piper calls the tune, isn’t that right?

Football is the piper allowing its tune to be called. If the money is right, cash is king.

Surely there are values of tradition and moral justice way above this.

Consistently selling out to the highest bidder thrusts the paying customer - without whom there is no “product” - further down the pecking order; pours more and more money into the pockets of the rich elite; and swells the bank accounts of the players to obscene proportions.

Players, let’s add, who in some cases can stonewall through the window, let their contracts run down and move “for nothing” in the summer, effectively collecting the “fee” in wages.

More and more money being drained from the game and that’s before we even mention agents.

There is a better way to do all of this.

As in the days when a saner and more sensible transfer deadline was imposed on the final Thursday in March.

For all but a few short weeks, clubs could work to a coherent strategy, acting as and when they needed.

Transfers were actually relatively few but they were invariably well-considered.

Ah well, I’ve been around a few seasons now - what do you expect?

What this dinosaur doesn’t expect is anything to change.

So thanks for hearing out this rant (if you did) and a Happy New Year one and all.

Normal Blades and Owls coverage resumes next week.