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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 February 2008

Football

Top of the League for greed

PREMIER LEAGUE football is beamed into 600 million homes in 202 countries. When I was in China on holiday last year, everyone wanted to talk to me about the so-called big four clubs. They didn't believe me when I said I supported Queens Park Rangers (QPR).

John Reid, author of Reclaim the Game (first published 16 years ago at the start of the Premier League)

Mind you, now QPR are backed by billionaires and are technically the richest club in the world, we may quickly be able to buy success and join the global gravy train (after years of misery I think I could live with QPR buying success!).

Unfortunately that is what football has become; a gravy train with world TV rights bringing in billions of dollars. I have no qualms about a world club tournament taking place and games taking place on every continent, but the "game 39" proposal to play Premier League games in Dubai, Beijing, Miami, Sydney, Kolkata or Cape Town is plainly ludicrous.

The proposals are for one reason only - money. It won't take the game to the masses; the games will take place in stadiums before crowds of 60,000 or so, thousands of miles from England and will be for the rich in those countries paying hundreds of dollars to watch a match; the masses will still watch on television.

As for the loyal fan back home who travels to every away match, unless he or she mortgages their house, they will also watch at home.

The proposal for game 39 from January 2011 comes at the beginning of a new round of negotiations for overseas television rights.

The current deal which runs until 2010 is worth 625 million; broadcaster Now TV paid around 100 million for the rights to Hong Kong alone. One billion people watched this season's clash between Arsenal and Manchester United.

No to game 39

Opposition to game 39 is growing. The Football Supporters Federation have launched a campaign 'No To Game 39'. The Asian Confederation (representing 46 countries including Australia, Hong Kong and India) opposes the move.

Sepp Blater, FIFA supremo, opposes the Premier League's arrogance and greed, saying that the proposal may jeopardise England staging the 2018 World Cup.

UEFA president Michel Platini stated: "In England, you already have no English coach, no English players, and maybe now you will have no clubs playing in England..."

The Premier League wants to take greed to a new level. They will also undermine the home leagues in Africa and elsewhere, already denuded of their best talent.

The Premier League and other top European leagues have for the last decade bought up the best young talent from Africa and South America, including commercial rights over children. It is a new variation of colonialism and bonded labour.

Premier League football is no longer the people's game. It is a high-priced spectacle, fought out by millionaires on the pitch and owned and controlled by billionaires. For every club bought out by a billionaire, such as QPR, we see a Luton Town or Bournemouth facing extinction.

The money going into the game should benefit the whole football 'family', League and non-League. Satellite television should be nationalised and the technology should be made available cheaply to the mass of people.

Top Premier League clubs earn so much from television, they could allow fans in to matches for free and still make a profit. Instead they charge a small fortune for tickets.

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In The Socialist 20 February 2008:

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Football: Top of the League for greed


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Workplace news in brief

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