Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “It looks a really bad one [foul on Rodrigo Possebon]. We just hope it’s not the worst possible news but he has gone to hospital and it doesn’t look good. For the kid to be making his first start for us, and then to get an injury like that, is pretty horrendous. It really was a terrible tackle. I’ve seen one replay of it and I don’t want to see it again. The thing about challenges like that is the offender always seems to claim he is innocent. Pogatetz should have walked straight off. Then one of their bench jumped up, screaming that it was never a sending off and that there was nothing wrong with the boy. At least [Boro’s manager] Gareth Southgate apologised at the final whistle. He was very good, he realised the gravity of it and he was very, very apologetic. But, oh, what a dreadful tackle. When you see it, dearie me, it’s horrendous. For 10 minutes afterwards, I think everyone was numb about it.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.
Runner-up: “I’m delighted three independent judges have finally agreed the Sheffield United team I managed should never have been relegated. It’s justice; belated justice, probably inadequate justice because you can’t turn the clock back, but still justice…Â I think Richard Scudamore has to take at a good look himself, and his actions, and see if he did everything he should have.” – Neil Warnock (read Warnock’s full reaction to the ruling here).
Today’s overview: Sheffield United are the central theme throughout this mornings football musings, the victors in the court room in the controversial Carlos Tevez affair but the losers on the pitch to Arsenal’s wonderful group of kids.
Self-confessed Sheffield United supporter John Ashdown celebrates the verdict in the Carlos Tevez affair, with Gary Jacob reporting that “West Ham are pinning their hopes of overturning the decision on the Court of Arbitration for Sport.” Jeremy Wilson adds that the Â£30m bill facing West Ham is just another financial constraint on the Hammers in a long line of economic woes.
Mike Townley also wonders about the precedent of the ruling, but concludes that the impact will not be as far reaching as some speculate. Other reactions to the saga include Steve Wilson’s sour summary that there are no winners in the case while the Premier League and FA have escaped responsibility, and Matt Lawton singles out Scott Duxbury for blame.
Moving onto matters on the pitch, the Blades were taught a footballing lesson by Arsene’s babes. For Mark Irwin, “Now we all know why Arsene Wenger is so reluctant to enter the transfer market. Why spend millions when he has already got the next generation of superstars waiting in the wings?” Sachin Nakrani joins in with the applause, describing how Wenger’s charges made their opponents look like “ghosts.” Matt Hughes goes so far as to claim that the “Arsenalâ€™s youngsters have breathed fresh life into this much-maligned competition in recent years.”
In other news, Oliver Kay has some harsh words for Newcastle supporters who pine for the return of Kevin Keegan. There is also a debate over the financial stability of the Premier League, David Conn observes how the Premier League continues to live in a bubble thanks to the loyalty of the fans, but arguing thatÂ the Premier League canÂ dodge the recession, Paul Kelso comments that eventually the bubble may burst.
In the best of the rest, Jonathan Wilson looks at the competition problems for second rate leagues such as the Croatian top flight, Rob Hughes looks at a series of political problemsÂ facing Sepp Blatter and Rob Bagchi laments football clubs who play music every time their team scores.
Self-confessed Sheffield United supporter John Ashdown (Guardian) celebrates the verdict in the Carlos Tevez affair. “It’s not about the money. Despite today’s ruling in their favour over the Carlos Tevez affair, I’d be surprised if Sheffield United see anything like the Â£30m they are believed to be claiming, and, to be honest, it wouldn’t matter to me if it was 30p or Â£300m. It’s likely to lead to a series of appeals and counter-appeals in any case, in all likelihood heading to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. It doesn’t matter. The thing that will please Sheffield United supporters, like myself, most of all today is this: ‘We have no doubt that West Ham would have secured at least three fewer points over the 2006-07 season if Carlos Tevez had not been playing for the club.’ That line, taken from an independent tribunal’s judgment in favour of United’s claim for compensation against West Ham, is what Blades fans have been saying for the best part of two years.”
Gary Jacob (The Times) reports however that West Ham are not taking the decision lying down. “West Ham are pinning their hopes of overturning the decision on the CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport], but the arbitration process was conducted under the rules of the FA, which has said that its regulations do not allow a further right of appeal. West Ham, who had no choice but to enter the arbitration proceedings, will argue that their appeal would be to the CAS, not the FA. But it remains unclear whether the court in Lausanne is permitted to look into another arbitration proceeding. In addition, arbitration is usually binding, unless it can be shown that the ruling was based on the incorrect use of the law.”
The Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson notes how the latest Â£30m bill facing West Ham is just another financial constraint on the Hammers in a long line of economic woes. “Billionaire owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson has recently seen some of his business interests hit by the global economic downturn, while the need this summer to restructure what had been a spiralling wage bill has been well documented. Anton Ferdinand and George McCartney were controversially sold, and Freddie Ljungberg and Nolberto Solano were released. The recent departure of Alan Curbishley has also led to the club paying Chelsea Â£1 million to secure the services of Zolaâ€™s assistant, Steve Clarke. This season, West Ham have also been forced to cancel their shirt sponsorship deal with XL after the travel firm went into administration. The deal, signed last year, was worth Â£7.5 million over three years.”
The Times’Yesterday, a tribunal led by Griffiths found that one player – Carlos TÃ©vez – had decided the Premier League relegation issue in 2006-07, as fact. Not as opinion. Not with any vague doubt that the hundreds of other footballers, managers and coaches who were involved might have had some impact, too. Not with any pretence to evaluate their presence… Yet this ruling is as bad, if not worse, because it takes relegation issues away from the football pitch and back to the legal chamber. It sets a precedent that any relegated team with a grievance that can be put down cunningly to one incident, or one player, have a claim. The same applies to a team denied a prize, or perhaps a Champions League place. It moves English football nearer to the game in Italy or Brazil, where important issues are often not resolved until late in the close season and fixture lists are printed pending courtroom appeal.”
The Independent’s Mike Townley also wonders about the precedent of the ruling, but concludes that the impact will not be as far reaching as some speculate. “The question that people are inevitably asking is “where will it stop?” Will every disputed decision lead on to litigation and potential financial compensation? Will clubs now need to run three senior squads, the first team, the reserves and the lawyers’ XI?… [Yet] there is still an important difference between field-of-play decisions taken during a game and the type of regulatory breach that has caught West Ham out. This decision is no precedent for suing referees and mistakes from the man with the whistle will still largely go unremedied.”
Over at the Telegraph Steve Wilson also bemoans the West Ham ruling, claiming there are no winners while the Premier League and FA have escaped responsibility. “If justice has finally been served it is an unsatisfactory and incomplete one with United and West Ham both suffering at the hands of it – West Ham in financial terms and United in the fact that they now languish in the second tier. The true villains of the piece remain the Premier League and FA for their dithering and failure to take tough decisions when they needed taking, and other than a pang of embarrassment and legal fees they will, once more, escape tainted but unaccountable. What is known in certain circles as ‘having form’ – and not the type that is temporary, unfortunately.”
Matt Lawton (Daily Mail) singles out Scott Duxbury for blame in the Tevez affair, arguing that heads must roll. “How Scott Duxbury survived at Upton Park when the original Premier League inquiry first revealed his role in the affair is a mystery. The lawyer was severely criticised by the independent commission for withholding information and yet he was promoted to chief executive officer. Now it has emerged that he provided verbal assurances to Kia Joorabchian that the agent’s third party agreement still existed – even though he informed the Premier League that the agreement had in fact been terminated to allow Tevez to participate in what remained of West Ham’s battle for survival – Duxbury has to go.”
The achievements of Arsenal’s kids in last night’s League Cup are lauded by Mark Irwin (The Sun). “Now we all know why Arsene Wenger is so reluctant to enter the transfer market. Why spend millions when he has already got the next generation of superstars waiting in the wings?… As Paul Hardcastle might have put it, the average age of this Arsenal team was just n-n-n-nineteen. A stunning hat-trick from Carlos Vela, two more from Nicklas Bendtner and a debut goal from 16-year-old Jack Wilshere were the highlights of an unforgettable night for an Emirates crowd paying just Â£10 a ticket. That has surely got to be the best value in sport. Where else can you see the future of football for the price of a couple of pints?”
The Guardian’s Sachin Nakrani also waxed lyrical over the Arsenal babes. “At times it was hard to believe what was happening. A side with an average age of 19, containing one 16-year-old and four players making first starts, played through their more experienced opponents as if they were ghosts, only pausing to catch breath or celebrate the stream of goals. They registered six but could have reached double figures. ArsÃ¨ne Wenger later described them as the “best crop of young players” he has had at the club… However it was to the right of Arsenal’s midfield that the eye was constantly drawn. From there Jack Wilshere conducted proceedings in a manner that mocked his 16 years.”
The Times’ Matt Hughes goes so far as to claim that the “Arsenalâ€™s youngsters have breathed fresh life into this much-maligned competition in recent years.” “After a nervous start in which possession was sacrificed too readily, the home side recovered their composure to put on an incredible show, with Carlos Vela and Fran MÃ©rida demonstrating the class that has had club insiders purring in expectation for several years, Aaron Ramsey taking to the grander stage of the Emirates Stadium like a duck to water and Jack Wilshere, 16, confirming his vast potential with a first senior goal struck from the edge of the penalty area. No wonder Wenger looked so pleased with himself.”
Oliver Kay (The Times) has some harsh words for Newcastle supporters who pine for the return of Kevin Keegan. “Whether they realise it or not, Newcastle are in serious danger of getting relegated if they do not find a top-class manager with an understanding of modern football and a vision that goes beyond looking at the players who happened to be in the running for the Ballon Dâ€™Or four years ago. Who is that manager? It is hard to say. But reinstating Keegan would be the ultimate cop-out, a cynical publicity stunt designed to ingratiate themselves with the supporters. And maybe it would work a while. But if it is success that Newcastle are looking for, they would be well advised to look elsewhere.”
Having regard to the current economic climate, David Conn (Guardian) observes how the Premier League continues to live in a bubble thanks to the loyalty of the fans. “At six of the 10 weekend Premier League matches there were capacity or almost full houses. These came at Chelsea, for Manchester United’s highly charged visit, Liverpool, West Ham, Tottenham Hotspur and newly promoted Hull City and West Bromwich Albion. Sunderland did not fill the 49,000 Stadium of Light seats but 38,388 people at a match against Middlesbrough hardly represents an exodus of fans in hard-pressed Wearside. Bolton Wanderers, with 6,000 seats empty despite Arsenal’s presence, illustrated the continuing struggle to raise Reebok crowds above 22,000, and Blackburn Rovers’ kids for a-quid deal for the game against Fulham helped to draw 19,398. That is 12,000 below Ewood Park’s capacity but Rovers’ chairman, John Williams, argues that 20,000 attendees in a town of 100,000 people demonstrates profound commitment, rather than a game losing its lustre.”
Arguing the point of the Premier League’s ability to dodge the recession, Paul Kelso (Telegraph) comments that eventually the bubble may burst. “Now the signs of a slowdown are inescapable. When America’s largest insurance company, AIG, teetered on the brink of collapse last week, their tarnished name was plastered across the shirts of Britain’s biggest club. Manchester United are the most resilient brand in football, but if even this marriage of blue-chip market leaders is disturbed by the credit crisis, then no one is immune to turbulence… For many football clubs the difference between profit and loss lies with the 30 per cent of supporters who attend irregularly. Without them, key income streams â€“ ticket sales, merchandise and food and drink â€“ dry up. Get bums on seats, however, and all three are enhanced, but with expendable income decreasing, clubs will have to work harder to convince fans that attending games is not an unsustainable luxury. It’s too early to reach a definitive conclusion but with average Premier League attendances fractionally down at the start of the season, clubs will be paying close attention to their gates.”
The Guardian’s Jonathan Wilson, focusing on comments made by Dinamo Zagerb’s Igor Biscan, looks at the competition problems facing second rate leagues such as the Croatian top flight. “The problem is that since the Zagreb municipality began a programme of investment â€“ which has allowed Dinamo to sign the likes of Biscan and the former Aston Villa forward Bosko Balaban – the titles now come rather too easily. They bring no sense of satisfaction, and leave players unprepared for a higher level of competition… And yet the terrible catch-22 is that even if Dinamo do prosper in Europe, and so generate the funds to establish an academy, that would not necessarily help the Croatian league. Yes, success would stimulate interest, but if they were, say, to reach the group stage of the Champions League, the income that would bring in would simply widen further an already vast gulf between them and the rest… it would only push the Croatian league further into irrelevance.”
Rob Hughes (IHT) looks at the problems facing Sepp Blatter noting how the change of leadership in South Africa, and a dispute between Qatar and Iraq, are testing the FIFA president’s diplomatic skills.”[On the 2010 World Cup] Batter did talk months ago of a “Plan B,” an alternative venue should South Africa for any reason become untenable, but it has only happened once before. That was in 1986, when the World Cup, which was shifted to Mexico after Colombia could not fulfill what it started. However, that hand-over was made three years before the tournament. This one kicks off in JuneÂ 2010. That pressing issue is not the only one on Blatter’sÂ plate. The clock is also ticking on a judgment from the Court of Arbitration for Sport on whether FIFA broke its own statutes in allowing Qatar to field an ineligible player in a World Cup qualifying match in March thisÂ year.”
In an offbeat article, Rob Bagchi (Guardian) laments football clubs who play music every time their team scores. “They must have a pretty dim view of us if they think we don’t know how to celebrate a goal without some sort of cue. I first noticed this phenomenon in America, at NBA games, when the Wurlitzer was switched into hunting-horn mode and a reveille was used to prompt the crowd to chant “Charge!” when the home team had the ball or “Defence!” when an opposition attack was mounted. Nothing could be left to chance – an atmosphere had to be manufactured to suit the spectacle… The self-proclaimed “best league in the world”, which prides itself on the authenticity of its unique matchday “event”, is prepared to cheat, to give the level of crowd participation a helping hand if it does not come up to scratch.”