The Premier League doesn’t kick off for another 57 days. In fact, despite the countless rumours that have flooded the back pages over the last month, even the transfer window won’t officially open until July 1 and yet, after the Premier League fixtures were released yesterday, we have already been presented with the first political row of the season.
English football and its most prominent exponents, it seems, can’t simply enjoy the summer like everybody else. Forget about taking a break from the game to concentrate on cricket or football for a couple of months, summer is the perfect season to indulge in creating a storm in the proverbial teacup.
As widely reported by today’s papers, Roy Hodgson and the FA have expressed their disdain at the Premier League’s decision to schedule two of the biggest games in the calendar on the third weekend of the season, between August 31 and September 2.
The FA and the England manager had lobbied the Premier League to ensure that particular weekend wouldn’t contain any big matches, given that it comes a week before two of England’s remaining World Cup qualifiers, against Moldova and Ukraine.
Alas, on that weekend, Liverpool host Manchester United while the Emirates will stage the first round of the North London derby meaning that, much to Roy Hodgson annoyance, Sky is likely to choose at least one – most probably both – of the two games for their Super Sunday.
Both games are likely to include a host of England internationals and the fierceness which normally characterises both clashes could enhance the risk of injuries, something the England manager would, understandably, rather avoid.
The FA’s sense of grievance is rather comical, however, when one considers that the governing body of English football has often prioritised the Premier League ahead of the game’s interest, as widely demonstrated by the shambolic running of the England U21 campaign at the recent European U21 Championship.
The FA has often buckled under the clubs’ pressure and lacks the political power Premier League teams can exercise when they decide to lobby the Premier League themselves – an exercise which bears no guarantees of success either.
The relationship between the Premier League and Sky Sports has often been criticised, with both parties growing increasingly rich, while constant rescheduling of fixtures hinders the travel arrangements of many fans, but the League’s decision in this instance was perfectly understandable.
Broadcasting its games around the globe allows the Premier League to generate most of its considerable revenues, a process in which Sky – and, from next season, BT – continues to play an incredibly important role, unlike the FA who’s been increasingly marginalised since 1992.
Furthermore, the clubs’ disdain at the FA’s policy is well documented and considering that the 20 Premier League members are poised to share £2.2 billion worth of television deal, it doesn’t take a degree in economics to understand why the Premier League has rebuffed the FA’s plea.
Last, but by no means least, England’s first game of the World Cup qualifiers double header is against Moldova and, while all teams deserve to be treated with utmost respect, we’re talking about a team ranked 134th world, hardly Spain or Germany.
Premier League football it’s a business, one in which the clubs and the broadcasters hold all the cards and if the FA want to play at the table, they must be prepared to deal with the circumstances at all times, rather than only when it suits them, or else they could engage in a battle they don’t stand a chance to win.
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