Fog in Channel, continent isolated

Christoffer Herberts used this old gag in the intro to his opinion piece in HBL today, headlined ‘No new ideas please, we’re British’. It is, allegedly, a Times headline about an epic pea souper that blocked shipping from Dover and so cut off the poor, cheese eating, lederhosen wearing, garlic-stinking inferior peoples of Europe off from civilisation (or, as it is known to some people, the British Isles).

Now, I’m all for taking the piss out of British pompousity and conservatism, where it is necessary or desirable so to do. The thing is, though, that Herberts is mocking the reaction of the British media to the Premier League’s plan to play 10 games abroad every year, beginning with the 2010-2011 season.

Reaction has been mixed, to say the least, with very few people openly in favour. This is understandable: to include a round of randomly drawn matches in a league system seriously messes with the competitive principles that underly the Premier League. Imagine if (say) Arsenal drew Derby and Manchester United drew Manchester City, and the league was decided by less than three points and effectively came down to who drew who.

Herberts seems to draw a chimerical distinction between the ‘old fashioned’ British managers and the ‘modern’ continentals. Arsene Wenger is in favour, of course: his team has been unable to win north of Watford until recently, and he is well aware of the financial constraints he faces in comparison to Chelsea. Alex Ferguson moaned and bitched, but he was complaining about not being consulted before it went public, not (as Herberts suggests) objecting to the idea in principle. He has shown he is willing to sell whatever soul he has left whenever the owners ask him to.

The thing is, this is a ridiculous idea but one that isn’t really the ground-breaking ‘blue sky thinking’ Herberts clearly believes it to be. Britain was pushing cultural exports across the globe while Finland was still part of Sweden. Granted, these cultural exports often had little to do with Britain, but people made lots of money from them and that’s what mattered. People in the far east desperate to get their hands on British merchandise are not, in any way shape or form, a ‘new idea’.

We played cricket in every continent and taught most of the world the various codes of football they now beat us at. Cricket tours institutionalised this, with the touring English ‘gentlemen’ imparting a civilising influence on the savage natives and teaching them a new way to spend their leisure time.

I cannot for the life of me see how the Premier League’s idea is beneficial to anyone, but I do find it interesting that the Finnish press is where i can find a full-blooded defence of the plan. Michel Platini gave it the respect it deserves, so why do some Finns find it interesting? Have they already abandoned hope of a proper, competitive football league? Have Finnish sports enthusiasts already surrendered to cable Tv and just want to get closer to ‘the product’ that is fed to them via that medium?


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