Like Hong Kong Phooey, I’m a fairly mild mannered sort of chap.
It takes a lot to wind me up.
So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate the EFL for managing to do so, almost continuously, for the last year or so.
The EFL, for those people who are blissfully unaware of such things, is the new name that the Football League awarded itself last November.
It came about after, no doubt, many arduous hours spent at meetings and conference calls. After repeated rounds of expensive coffee and Marks & Spencer take-out buffet. After choosing to take a helicopter view of things and agreeing to touch base offline. After an idea shower or two. After they’d picked all the low hanging fruit. And after they’d cascaded the relevant information before taking a ride right up to the very top of the strategic staircase.
And, finally, after a fanfare that would have put Emerson, Lake & Palmer to shame, they decided to rename themselves, at great expense, the ‘English Football League’.
That’s the Football League. The one in England. Yes, England. Because if they were in Germany, for example, it would be the German Football League.
Just so we don’t get confused. Easily done. Let’s hope they’re not thinking along similar lines in Estonia. Else pandemonium will ensue.
Except, of course, it has to have an acronym. Because acronyms are sexy; acronyms are the in thing; they’re contemporary, dangerous and ever so now.
There’s the SAS for example. MI5. And NASA. Exciting worlds, exciting designations, exciting acronyms.
Then there’s the kids. Oh how they want to get down with the kids. Like me and all the other middle-aged men who are first to take to the floor at the wedding reception disco. ‘Look at us, we’re still cool, we’ve still got all the moves’.
The kids with their acronyms, the new language of the 21st century. DURS. FWB. And GYPO.
The Football League didn’t want to feel left out of things; they didn’t want to be the geeky kid at the EPL party anymore. They wanted to be cool and trendy, to have all the cool generation sending each other texts like, ‘Hey, am off to see EFL match, CU L8 for some I&I, ROFL’
Yes, EFL has entered the lexicon. English. Football. League. EFL.
Marvellous. When I heard the news I was so excited I nearly PML.
That whole exercise took the ‘EFL’ two months to decide, agree and implement.
It’s nearly fifty years since NASA took eight days to get two men onto the moon, off it again and back to earth.
Yet in 2016, it took two months for what used to be known as the FL to work out that they now want to be known as the EFL.
It’s just as well the EFL don’t run NASA. If they did, then the latter would barely be past the Roman candle stage right now. Plus they’d think the moon was made of cheese. Or the earth was flat.
EFL. It’s ridiculous. Talk about getting your priorities right. And we know what theirs are.
One of the reasons given for the rebrand was that the EFL was meant to ‘…increase the league’s global competitiveness in global sports markets.’
For ‘global sports markets’ read the USA, China and the Middle East.
Now, in fairness to the ‘EFL’, they’re not the first to put the television watching millions all over the globe before those watching in their own country, or, heaven forfend, the actual match attending fans of the clubs in question.
La Liga has long since sold its soul.
The first league clash of this season between Real Madrid and Barcelona has been re-scheduled to be played at 3:15 pm on Saturday December 3rd.
The current embargo in place in this country on any game being shown live on TV during the same afternoon as a full league programme means that it won’t be shown live in this country. Not even in a pub. So if you have an El Clasico fix, forget it.
The people in power are too afraid that, for example, thousands of Norwich fans who would normally get themselves along to Carrow Road to see their team play Brentford will all think, as one, “…no, sod that, I’m going to watch Real Madrid against Barcelona on the telly instead”.
As if. But that, in a nutshell, is the reason for the embargo. They genuinely think that club attendances will plummet to catastrophically low levels if there is a live game of football on somewhere.
Anyway. When the President of La Liga, one Javier Tebas, was asked about the decision to reschedule El Clasico to that, for Spain, unusual kick off time, his reply was;
“We had three windows we had considered, at 13:00, 16:15 and 18:30. We analysed those with our audiovisual team and to play at 18:00 is too late in Asia while to play at 13:00 is too early for the American market”.
This is, in case you’d forgotten, not the CEO of a multinational finance group talking about multinational finance bulls**t. But the man who heads up an organisation whose remit is football. The playing of. Period.
I hope the Real fans have their white hankies ready for him. That is, of course, if they are allowed to take them into the ground.
The waving of white hankies at any La Liga ground is probably forbidden unless, of course, said article has the Santander logo on it. Or Nike. They are amongst La Liga’s main sponsors. And for as long as they put the money in, they will expect prominence and priority above anyone and anything else.
Including the fans. After all, it’s not a game anymore. It’s a product. And that product no longer belongs to the fans.
We’ve become peripheral; a sideshow. Even, I suspect in the eyes of some within the game, an inconvenience.
That would be rescheduling our game at Brentford for 5:30pm on New Year’s Eve then?
Good luck if you’re thinking of taking the train for that one. The only chance you’ll have of getting home to Norwich from London Liverpool Street is if you catch the 22:28. And that’s a bus service. A restricted one. That may, or may not, run.
There is another, departing at 23:58. But that’s scheduled to take a little over ten hours to get you back to Norwich. Still, you can always see 2017 in whilst gazing at the Nat West Tower, or whatever it’s called now, from the grimy window at grimy seat in your grimy rail replacement bus. Good luck with that.
And to everyone who will be getting down to Brentford for that game. A decision made with the travelling fans last in line.
And a match that will, I suspect, have one of Sky’s lowest audiences for any Championship game this season. After all, it is New Years Eve. So I can’t imagine that many neutrals will be watching anyway.
The EFL’s greedy tendrils reached out a little bit further earlier this week.
Their latest target being the proliferation of fan TV stations that have caught on and proliferated at just about every club in the country.
We’ve all had a good laugh at the moaning Arsenal fans on one of theirs. As well as the increasingly angry Hammers fans on West Ham Fan TV. As for the lager swilling Geordie? Well, there are no words. Why? Because he’s said them all. There are no words left.
Fan TV stations are the fanzines of the 21st century. Remember Liverpool Are On The Tele Again? These are their modern day successors.
You may like them. You may not. But they are here and they are increasingly popular. TalkNorwichCity has over 8,500 subscribers, with one recent show – the post-match verdict on our defeat at Newcastle – drawing over 10,000 views to date.
The sort of figures some of the more famous brands on You Tube would love to call their own.
Impressive enough for the Football League, sorry, the EFL, to have taken note. And decided enough is enough.
Fan led and produced material that’s made by the fans, involves the fans and is watched by the fans?
That’s not acceptable at all to the EFL. For them it’s all about the product (Note that, in modern day football speak the word ‘game’ has been replaced by ‘product’) and their stakeholders, which, for the EFL includes SkyBET, Checkatrade, Ginsters (laughably referred to on the EFL website as the ‘official savoury pastry partner of the EFL’) and Wickes, aka ‘the official home improvement and trade partner of the EFL’.
Let’s hope Wickes never get to design or build any new stadiums in the coming seasons, else you’ll be hedging your bets on whether it falls down or blows away first. With SkyBET, naturally.
Henceforth therefore, the EFL have clamped down on the likes of our Jack Reeve and all the other people who have started up fan led channels over the last year or so.
That means they can’t film in the ground any more. Now, at a push, and a mighty bloody big one at that, I can see, although never accept, their reasoning, for their not wanting people to film short little clips of the match action itself.
After all, my 30 second long footage of Robert Snodgrass taking a corner, taken from halfway up the River End, is of course going to lead to thousands of Sky Sports subscribers abandoning the station as they all come to me for their weekly football fix.
The EFL have also advised clubs that fans are now no longer permitted to film themselves or their fellow supporters in grounds either, which means that, whilst it’s in the EFL’s interests to promote gambling and drinking, woe betide you if you switch on your camera to film you and your mates celebrating a goal, or else your and their reactions to an incident in the match itself.
It won’t be so long, I suspect, before they ban people filming or taking photographs in and around football grounds in the moments leading up to and after a match as well. The battle lines seem a little blurry at the moment and I am sure that clubs will all adopt varying views on camera wielding fans and their attitude towards them.
So expect some even more overzealous stewarding at places like Leeds, Newcastle and QPR in the seasons ahead.
This is nothing to do with the clubs. They haven’t made this decision. It has been made and put into place by the EFL with the clubs given strict guidelines to follow with regard to the matter. It means, therefore, that anything and everything that takes place at Carrow Road, and all 91 of the other , from now on is, and remains, as far as the EFL is concerned, THEIR property, intellectual or otherwise.
And you’ll either enjoy it in the way they prescribe. Or you can take a hike.
But this is the sort of thing that happens when a game becomes a product.
And the views and interests of the fans are surpassed by stakeholders, sponsors and markets. Which is what Real Madrid and Barcelona fans are learning right now.
So no-one is safe. And, whilst we discuss and obsess about matters relating to the club, the game and our match with Rotherham tomorrow, little by little and ever so insidiously, our game is being taken away from us.
With the clampdown on football fan led TV just another example of how it’s being done.
I’ll leave the last word to Shaun Harvey, the Chief Executive of the Football League who, when asked about the rebranding of the Football League in 2015, did his very best David Brent impression with his response thus;
“In an increasingly-challenging global sports market, it is absolutely essential that sports properties can project a modern identity that not only resonates with their regular audience but is also easily recognisable to a broader audience of potential fans, viewers and commercial partners”.
There’s going to be a lot of anticipointment Shaun.
So go and take another thought shower.
And start thinking about the fans for once.