Scratching The Mud

Football Satire

A Nation of Shopkeepers

The enduring image of any transfer window is one of Harry Redknapp leaving Spurs’ training ground in his car, window down, multiple mobiles going off, Redknapp stopping to tell an over zealous reporter that a player is “triffic” and “he’s a top lad, a proper family man, you know”, all the players mentioned of course being registered at other clubs. I firmly believe the Spurs boss is incapable of driving past a Sky sports news camera without stopping. He uses them as they use him: it’s a veritable marriage. But as in any marriage, one party ends up taking more than what they put back in.

It’s the second game of the season and Tottenham have just been thumped 5-1 at home, and in a typically sincere and candid post-match interview, an upset Harry Redknapp finally vents his frustration at the summer goings on: “I think there’s been too much talk about our players leaving. I think there’s been a really unsettling pre-season. It’s probably the worst pre-season I have ever had since I’ve been in football. I have not enjoyed it one bit. You know, is Luka staying, is he going? Every day non-stop. It’s all we ever get talked about. He’s the main player for us and he gets linked every day. Even today I’m driving in and suddenly there’s a £40 million offer from Chelsea. He’s supposed to be playing today, I speak to him at 11:30 and he tells me he doesn’t know whether he’s right to play or not. It has not been the ideal preparation”.

"A microphone, a camera and an unctuous, jabbering chasm of pure shite"

It’s not the first time “too much talk” has harmed a club. It happens every single year. Each and every time the smaller club at the sharp end of the frenzied speculation making a dreadful start to the season, the synthetically created drama predictably permeating through a squad like a sponge soaked in urine. And why?

Because the talk creates drama - the drama is integral to how the product is sold - the seller is fundamental to the success of the product - and the product will always gratify the seller, as a person providing discreet sexual services for a sequestered group of randy hillbillies. This is why Redknapp will gladly stop to talk to a slimy parasite permanently stationed outside his car park; this is why he performs like a pet monkey in sight of a microphone, a camera and an unctuous, jabbering chasm of pure shite; this is why he lights up like a fruit machine when asked about another club’s player (despite the appalling hypocrisy) - it’s just part of the business. And they all do it (media commitments being contractually obliged by mandate of the Barclays Premier League, though Redknapp performs with such servility you wonder if he’s not on Sky’s payroll); but it would be remiss of me if I didn’t add that the feeding of this bottomless pit of over fed boa-constrictors has also a lot to do with the other side of the ‘drama’: the drama of the failure. And feed them they do.

There’s Kenny Dalglish, a man who has infiltrated the world of the trumped up opinionators with some obliging pre-match press conference wit and the contribution of a few weekly passages to one of the many poisonous rags masquerading as news. There’s Roberto Mancini who is backed with so much wealth he can hardly fail to elude the clutches of negative attention (Manchester City are so wealthy that one wonders why they haven’t put in an audacious bid for the Premier League trophy itself, rather than continuing to participate in this somewhat gauche ‘competition’ of running and kicking and the throwing of vast sums at the feet of the rival clubs’ best players). There’s the new kid on the block, AVB of Chelski, who’s having his honeymoon period as the journalists feel him out. There’s Sir Alex Ferguson, the inveterate bully, who’s menacing looks and powers of intimidation, dwarfs the sphere of influence extended by a ravenous tyrant at an all you can eat buffet: his long-standing power is his protection. And as for the others, they’re all fair game, as they desperately try to remain on that results treadmill, knowing one slip up will invite the wolves to line up outside. But these wolves aren’t after the kill, they just like the chase; they take little bites forever weakening the chosen victim, before allowing the victim to run on ahead once again before recommencing the chase. The sadistic bastards. This is why most managers accommodate their lustful whims, they hope for a little bit of compassion when the ‘Sky’ inevitably pours down its stinking pitch and the dreaded chase commences. Well, most managers but not all.

Which leads us inexorably to the other north London victim of the latest transfer window, the consummate idealist, Arsene Wenger (you’ve probably read about him), who obdurately refuses to feed the said snakes of frivolous and harmful gossip. Unfortunately, Wenger doesn’t hold the sceptre of power Sir Alex wields over the footballing world, and his admirable refusal to sate the voracious appetites of the self-lauded opinion mongerers, has resulted in him being the usual target for spite in the perpetual need to fill column space.

And the favourite subject matter of this spite? Yes, the usual: transfers; the hearsay linking his best players to the inordinately wealthy clubs bankrolled by oil. “Has there been a fresh bid”? “Will he leave before the window closes”? “Do you now accept that you will have to sign players”? Every interview with the embattled manager quickly hitting the same thread - interviewers tapping into the collective unconscious and picking up the chosen narrative, each possessed of the extraordinary ability to get the beleaguered man on the back foot at hello. The interview then ensues as if a profoundly frustrated man was trying to swat an invisible wasp with increasingly desperate and clumsy blows: the belligerent Wenger, with his gaunt, haggard face, countenance sallowed and uphappy, reflecting as in a mirror a mind tormented by unremitting struggle and exasperation, impatiently returning, “I understand that in England if you lose one game the instant solution is to sign players”. And so on so forth.

An incessant and irrepressible wasp is a formidable foe, as Wenger, and now Redknapp, know at their considerable expense. And the swarms of these menacing creatures get bigger and bigger and bigger every single year. That is the nature of hype, manufactured drama and an unsustainable inflationary model. That is the nature of English football. And there is no better example of the soul of English football than transfer deadline day, or in Sky Sports News speak: TRANSFER DEADLINE DAY!!! Napoleon was right when he said we were a nation of shopkeepers.

The face of English football was forever changed 20 years ago with the advent of the Premier League and pay TV football. The deal with Sky flooded the game with previously unheard of sums - each club receiving approximately what the whole league was receiving previously - and the boom years began. Over the last 20 years the top flight’s TV income has risen from £15 million a year to more than a billion and is now raking in world wide TV deals of over £9 billion. The national game quickly became the pay TV darling and a global football festival.

The deal was a match made in heaven, football being the core part of Sky TV’s business model, and Sky being the driving force behind the league’s rapidly growing wealth, influence and popularity - for the principal factor in all English football’s soaring successes was BSkyB’s innate understanding that it was not the show that brings the dough, but the flash that makes the cash, and the more flash, the more cash. Consequently - and at a very early stage - the new Premier League, and everything in it, was hyped up beyond all recognition. Firstly, it was the most exciting league in the world, without rival, before it made its natural ascension to being the greatest league in the world, without rival. And how do we know this was the case? Because we were told so. Repeatedly. And when a story is maintained for long enough it begins to take on the texture of truth.

With Sky at the reigns everything became ‘bigger’, ‘better’ and infinitely ‘more important’. Bad became disastrous, trivial became significant and good became extraordinary: Sky’s enchanting pendulum perpetually oscillating between two scripted extremes. The result of this mesmerizing sales pitch was that it rapidly transformed a national pastime into a national obsession. Interests had been morphed into passions and success had become everything; Sky’s diffusive hype was now shaping everyone’s reality. “We must have success and we must have it now! Now, now, now”! Fans now not only exhibiting a remarkable ignorance of the pronoun ‘we’ but a startling impatience that had been nurtured and encouraged by a media forever trying to justify its own existence. Football consumers have become like a bunch of spoilt brats who shout, scream and stamp their feet when their mummy refuses to spend HER money on a new toy they’ve set their hearts on. But Premier League parents have long surrendered control of their finances to the screaming brats, their resolve vanquished by the indomitable phrase “but HIS mummy bought him it mwah mwah”.

The collective debt of the Premier League currently stands at a whopping £3.3 billion - 4 times higher than Spain’s La liga and 7 times higher than Italy’s Serie A - and it’s on the rise; because although the league has been incredibly successful at generating revenue, it is true of any kind of business, if your expenditure exceeds your income, you’re still going to run at a loss, and no one can run at a loss indefinitely. Other than the obvious, the problem with very thin profit margins - or repeated losses - is that any slight turbulence in the market will drive you into a massive loss, and the more rapid the expansion of prices and the availability of credit, the greater the likelihood that turbulence will take effect with disastrous consequences; circumvention of which being increasingly unlikely. In short, as the financial institutions are slowly finding out, wealth based on debt is unsustainable; the mushrooming popularity, hype and over saturation of the league is also unsustainable. The infernal paradox of the Premier League is that in the root of all its successes lay the building blocks of its ultimate demise.

It is the case that the football consumer has a love-hate relationship with football’s inflationary model. They hate inflation but they love everything that causes it. They hate having to fork out a greater proportion of their earnings each year on this brand of entertainment, but they love watching the so called best players in the world performing week in week out on their patch. They hate the disloyalty of the current professionals who are traded around like cattle as agents endeavour to get themselves and their clients a bigger slice of football’s pie, but they love transfers and all the speculation that goes with it. They hate the fact that these cattle are allowed to graze on the most arable part of football’s, nay civilisation’s, field, and bemoan having to pay more themselves to finance the diets of these gluttonous hoards of specimen as part of the bill inevitably trickles down at their door, but they love watching their club ‘compete’ by caving in to ridiculously inflated prices and purchasing the latest in vogue player. They love all the transfer speculation, and the drama, and the endless talk, but hate, you would think, you would hope, that this speculation invariably panders to the wealthy clubs, and therefore necessarily more successful clubs, and in part contributes to a creation of a thoroughly predictable and sterile procession of a competition, as power and wealth concentrates at the top, the richer becoming richer and the poorer always looking over their increasingly burdened shoulders. And how befitting it is that a league drowning in debt, and which ranks its constituent parts based on the amount of money they’ve spent, is sponsored by a bank.

The inherent confliction in the stance of most - if not all - involved, and their seeming incapability of taking a step back and observing all the contradiction, all the madness, has everything to do with the suspension of sanity perpetuated by large swathes of the media, under the aegis of that triumphant treasure chest of hot air, Sky Sports. And Sky Sports loves, just loves, transfers: the restless speculation and ongoing process of seduction and coercion of already greedy and over prized commodities. The fevered speculation has been heightened in recent years by the advent of their round the clock sports news station and the need for 24 hours worth of filling space, providing all those lucky consumers with ceaseless, non-abating theatre. This ‘Sky Sports News’ - “the home of sports news” - is in its element during the final stages of the transfer window, where its self-fuelling, self-justifying theatre knows no bounds. Its presenters always talking loudly and passionately, always either in a state of rapture and amazement or one of anguish and despair, and always, they would have you believe, sincerely. Presenters such as Bryan Swanson, who despite spending his working life licking toilet seats, has a huge, smug grin permanently fixed on his animated face, as he looks up at the obscene sum displayed on the TOTALISER with the boundless pride of a man who thinks he’s in a studio with Terry Wogan and Pudsey Bear. “The most money spent since the 2008 window” he tells us, as he talks of players moving here and players moving there as if he were trading official Merlin Premier League stickers on the school playground.

                       “He’s an awful character that Bryan Swanson”

The artificial creation of one big school playground can be attributed to this innovative Sky ‘Sports’ News team, a channel that would more accurately portray itself as a hugely expensive self-endorsing advertisement and a juvenile, worthless amalgamation of reality TV and the London Stock Exchange. A channel chaired by feverish characters working themselves and others up into a frenzy with the over use of the word “sensational” and the passage “reportedly in negotiations over a transfer”. More often than not their self-generated feeding frenzy is the genesis for much of the transfer activity, promoting and then impelling its progress, these ‘news’ reporters knowing more about the negotiations than those involved. They are like cowardly, spotty pricks who scream “FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT” at the top of their voices, upon the viewing of the most inconsequential of incidents, inciting a pack of bored, gawping twats - who take to suggestion as cats lap milk - to assemble en mass like toothless zombies at a flesh eating fair.  

Ironically, it is invariably the same brain dead, hypocritical individuals who are first to poke fun at femininity’s puerile obsession with glossy mags and celebrity gossip columns (is Angelina Jolie too thin? And get your exclusive insight into Emma Watson’s new man), “urghh honey, what a tragic waste of your time, it doesn’t matter, none of it actually matters”! Quite right. But indolence forever searches for those blissful interludes of thoughtless docility, and the more spoon fed the culture, the more indolent it becomes - ‘Chief News Reporter’ of Sky Sports News and professional mouth-piece, Jim White, holding out his lengthy ladle, enticing jaded minds to take a sip of his fevered broth. And most, if not all, gulp it down unquestioningly, seemingly unaware of the irrevocable damage it’s doing to themselves and the game itself.

This Jim White just loves to talk, and he scarcely pauses for breath. One wonders what has happened to his sex life since UEFA introduced the transfer window, all this feverish speculation obviously acting as a powerful aphrodisiac on White’s flaccid member. He probably gives his wife a running commentary of their brief sexual encounters during such windows, describing his wife’s reproductive organ as “the transfer market”: “I’m making a splash in the transfer market, dear”, “oooh I’m dipping in and out of the transfer market”, “I’m throwing my weight around, oh yes indeedy, and expecting to finalise this deal shortly, very, very shortly”; the transfer market then shutting with an apathetic Mrs White turning her anaemic lump of jigging cellulite onto one side, before a now limp, little Jimmy enters into “negotiations” in preparation for the opening of the next window. The whole thing is very tiresome and Mrs White will be the first to attest to that.

Not long after the “dramatic” denouement to the transfer window - Jim White informing us of a very significant bit of last minute business as Leyton Orient capture a promising 18 yr old Everton academy starlet on loan for 3 months with an option to buy…gasp gasp, or some other tosh to that effect - the channel pauses for some much needed breath with yet another commercial break, before segueing into the ‘Sky Sports News Special Report’, which this week is about the escalating debt in football and Plymouth Argyle being on the brink of extinction. A now less animated White asking with grave concern, “just what is wrong with our football”?

Another Sky Sports News reporter, Dharmesh Sheth, helpfully answers that question in ‘First Fast Now’ the following day: “Transfer deadline day having passed, for those of you getting withdrawl symptoms, fear not, because there are just 121 days to go before we do it all again”.

"At one point Sky Sports News broadcasted exclusive pictures of Sky Sports News presenter Jim White entering Sky Sports News’ studio on his way to present Sky Sports News. Here he is with fellow presenter Sexy Wallpaper No. 4"

  1. scratchingthemud posted this