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Monday, 18 February 2013

The Alienation of the People's Sport

There was a time when the beautiful game was the sport of the working class people. The public would work their mundane, manual labour jobs from Monday to Friday and treat themselves to watching an affordable game of football on the weekend.
As sad as it is to say, times have changed and financial matters have been put before the enjoyment of supporters. Ticket costs have reached a disgusting high, pricing out a large number of fans who have to be content with watching their chosen game on the TV or illegally via a free live stream.
It is clear that football has evolved from recreational entertainment into a business. Clubs are intent on sucking their die-hard supporters dry to watch 22 individuals kick a ball around for an hour and a half. The protests of Manchester City and Liverpool fans during their February encounter is proof of this. A jointly-held banner displaying the slogan ‘”£nough is £nough’ is an emotive message to those at their respective team’s hierarchy. Will they listen? Probably not, why should they?
The question now is, can the working class afford to still be followers of the world’s most popular sport? At the way inflation is going, the answer is no. According to this writer's research into ten London football teams using sources from the BBC and official club websites, the average price of a league ticket in English football is £41.90, which is the equivalent of paying 47p per minute. Some fans would be content about splashing the required amount of cash to watch top quality players, but the fact is that only a small minority of football across England can be considered world class. Paying £23 to watch Brentford at home is not most supporter’s idea of value for money.
Ticket prices are not the only essentials that are on the up financially. Merchandise is crucial to the football fanatic’s day out and everyday life. QPR fans would have to pay £60.99 to have a half time pie and be decked out in the latest kit and scarf, on top of the £40 cost for a ticket. You’d think that empty pockets would be less common in the lower leagues, but expenditure is still rather high. Followers of Championship side Millwall would have to pay £53.98 for the same day out, including the £28 ticket.
The most expensive ticket in the country belongs to Arsenal at a whopping £127, whilst the cheapest in the sample was fellow North Londoners Barnet at a somewhat more reasonable £14. The question football fans must be asking themselves is the football at the Emirates £113 better than games played at Underhill. For a typical working man, £127 is going to be a significant dent in the monthly wage, and prices like those would probably be considered criminal by many.
The overpricing doesn't stop there. Out of all the London teams in the sample, not one of them charge under £3.00 for a pie, costing significantly more than the same refreshment at your local supermarket. The priciest pies belong to White Hart Lane who charge £3.70 for their pre-match delicacy. One most assume that the most premium of horses are involved in the ingredients.
Following the recent reports of match fixing combined with the current economic downturn, it may come across some chairmen’s minds that fans might actually start abandoning and boycotting matches over these issues. Therefore, in order to restore some dignity to this already corrupt sport, lower prices from the official club store to the ticket office would seem like a plausible idea.

Whether those at the top of the football pyramid will see it in this light remains to be seen.

Friday, 14 December 2012

What beckons for Beckham?

17 August 1996, David Robert Joseph Beckham exploded onto the footballing scene when he scored a spectacular goal from behind the half way line against Wimbledon. Before this, the young Manchester United midfielder was not considered the household name that he is today. Since then, he has progressed to become one of the most famous footballers to have ever lived, going on to star for Real Madrid and AC Milan whilst also recording over a century of caps for the English national team. Nowadays, 37-year-old Beckham is closing on his ever-nearing retirement from professional football following his MLS Cup triumph with LA Galaxy, and is now considering one last challenge before the door closes on his marvellous career. Billy Taylor looks at possible destinations for the England veteran.

Melbourne Heart

With home attendance currently a problem in Melbourne, the signing of Beckham would definitely help out the Australian outfit when it comes to the issue of crowd atmosphere. Heart play in a 4-3-3 formation, with pacey wingers Mate Dugandzic and David Williams providing the dangerous attack along with Josip Tadic as the main striker, who currently has three goals in seven games. Beckham would slot into the one of the three midfield positions and would most likely start. However, there are some possible financial difficulties with this move. It will cost the club 2 million AU$ (roughly £1.3 million) to obtain the services of Beckham on a ten game stint, which is the proposed deal to lure the ex-England captain to go Down Under. As a club in debt, this could prove to be a stumbling block in their ambitious attempts.


Shanghai Shenhua

A move to China would be a step into the unknown for the former England captain, but then again, so was going to play Major League Soccer five years ago. Shanghai Shenhua will not host the best quality of football (they finished 9th in the Chinese Super League last campaign, which came to a close early last month) but they certainly make up for it with big wads of cash! Beckham was a pioneer of American 'soccer' and has arguably made it the success it is today, so why not try it again with Shanghai? Big stars such as Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka have already made the switch and have been a relative success. If Beckham were to move, it would open the floodgates for players young and old to make the transition in search of success overseas. Being a big Hollywood name in the world of football, he'd without doubt have a place in the starting line up, feeding his trademark passes and crosses to the former Chelsea strikers. Price and lifestyle would also not be issues with the fast growing Chinese economy, so it would definitely be a serious consideration for Goldenballs to move further west.



With no win in 15 games, times are looking distinctly bleak for the Harry Redknapp's newly inherited side as they sit stone-cold last on the Premier League ladder. Could Beckham be the player to change the fortunes of the west Londoners? Probably not would be your first thought. A massive influx of talent has clearly disrupted the core of a side who narrowly avoided relegation last season, and adding yet more players to an unsettled group would hardly steady the ship. However, this is David Beckham we're talking about. Redknapp has gone some way to changing the fortunes of QPR, losing none of the games he has taken charge of so far (but also winning none) and he may turn to experience in order to revamp his lacklustre team. Goldenballs (if he were to start) would probably slot alongside Argentinian Alejandro Faurlin in the centre of midfield, a player who is currently favoured over the high profile transfers of Granero and Stephen M'Bia, possibly to try and bring back the spirit of last season. Inevitable high wage demands wouldn't prove to much of a problem with Tony Fernandes at the helm, but whether he would stump up to pay them is a different story...


West Ham United

The newly promoted Hammers have faired bravely in English football's top tier thus far, but injury to key player Mohamed Diame (also prone to departure speculation) has meant that Allardyce's squad have been left with a sizeable gap in their midfield, and the east London born midfielder could have the ability to fill it. Beckham may also be persuaded to join due to the recent news that negotiations are ongoing to secure the Olympic Stadium for the Hammers, a venue that would see them get more coverage and attention as a club. If chosen to start, Beckham could either fill in on the right wing or next to Mark Noble in the defensive midfield, the latter being most likely due to the pace of English league football. Finances would be provided for the move to happen by the two wealthy Davids, but with the club in debt and also shelling out big payments to move into Stratford, it probably wouldn't be seen as financially sustainable in the long run. Then again, we are talking about the club that brought in Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano a few years ago.



"If David Beckham still wants to win more trophies then this is the right club for him to join" said head-over-heels Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and he is certainly not wrong. Paris Saint-Germain, led by former Chelsea gaffer Carlo Ancelotti, are rapidly making a name for themselves worldwide after acquiring several big money signings, including the giant Swede himself. They currently sit second in Ligue 1 and have also booked their place in the next round of the Champions' League after topping their relatively easy group. Out of all the possibilities mentioned, PSG are clearly the best competitively and offer the most to Beckham in the way of football, but because of the high quality of standard in Les Parisiens squad, getting first team action would be a struggle. Aside from the beautiful game, France offers the glamorous lifestyle that the Beckham family have been used to during their time in LA, and they won't find that in a dodgy east/west end pub. This mega rich team should be able to afford his wages comfortably, and this plus the aforementioned would see the French side as favourites to capture his signature.


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Future of Portsmouth Football Club?

For over three years now, Portsmouth FC have been the subject of financial turmoil which has slowly ravaged the club from the inside. Since first going into administration whilst still in the Premier League, they have seen relegation twice, numerous amounts of points docked and several complaints about unpaid wages. Now in the third tier of English football, Pompey are set to be taken over yet again. But this time, they will not be under the ownership of another unreliable consortium, but by their own supporters club.

The situation is not as simple as it seems however. The South Coast based club were set to be taken over by controversial figure Balram Chainrai, who had previously had an affiliation with the side when he loaned the former owner Ali al-Faraj £17 million (a sum of money that he has reportedly not received back). He took over the club when al-Faraj couldn't repay the fee and soon led the club into a period of administration. Since then he has been linked with taking over Portsmouth on several occasions, but a petition by Pompey supporters (containing over 2000 signatures) clearly shows that he is not wanted at Fratton Park.

Aswell as this, the Hong Kong born businessman, under the fit-and-proper-person test introduced in 2004, may be prevented from becoming the owner if he plans to submit another bid. The fit-and-proper-person test aims to stop corrupt or untrustworthy owners from meddling in the events of football ownership. Since Chainrai has been involved with Portsmouth Football Club on both occasions when they entered administrations, he may not be allowed to become owner. Therefore, the supporters club may be considered as more suitable owners.

But before they can take over, Portsmouth fans must first purchase assets that are currently in Chainrai's possession, including Fratton Park stadium. With the 54-year old still being owed £17 million by the club, and the supporters club's £2 million value of the stadium, this could prove to be a stumbling block as Chainrai attempts to restore his investment that he put into the club several years ago.

For the moment though, the future of Portsmouth FC is still as questionable as ever.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Lampard spares English blushes (England 1-1 Ukraine)

In a match that saw most of the action occur in the last ten minutes, this was certainly not a comfortable game for any of the home or away fans, but it will certainly been a more pleasing display for the eastern European nation, who saw their side give England an enduring encounter.

The qualifier certainly began as a cagey affair, with neither team allowing the opposition much space. Within the first three minutes, a deflected cross from a Ukrainian winger caused Joe Hart some trouble, as he scrambled backwards to tip the ball behind for a corner.

The Euro 2012 co-hosts were without their sensational skipper Andreiy Shevchenko after it was announced he would retire following the tournament, but Oleh Blokhin's side clearly still had attacking threat, with Yarmelonko and Garmash creating problems for the English defence. A few minutes after that, Konoplianka's cross pinged around the 18-yard area before eventually falling into the grateful arms of England's number one.

But the third best international football team in the world (apparently) were not going to be bullied by their former Group D opponents. On the ninth minute mark, Jermaine Defoe picked the ball up around the left wing area, shrugged off the looming figure of Yarmolenko, ran past another defender before thumping the ball past the goalkeeper. However, in a disgraceful piece of play-acting by Dynamo Kyiv forward (who dropped to the floor clutching his face once Defoe raised his arm to shield him off) the referee was conned into disallowing the goal. Nevertheless, England were clearly showing their attacking intent.

The Three Lions defence were looking as solid as always, apart from the occasional absence of Glen Johnson as he looks to become the English answer to Dani Alves. The only brief scare that occurred during the opening minutes was when Steven Gerrard had to throw himself at the ball to block it from being guided in after a slight kerfuffle in the box. In attack, Cleverly was being restricted from being as prolific as he was during the previous match in Moldova, put Steven Gerrard was still Mr. Reliable as he fed creative passes through towards the sharp-looking Defoe. Oxlade-Chamberlin and Milner continued to be a constant threats on the wings, dribbling repeatedly past many blue shirts. Overall, a decent start for Roy Hodgson's side.

Ukrainian attacks were unfortunately still regularly. Garnash was left unmarked as he poked the ball over with the top of his foot from 6 yards out following and inviting ball from the left-back. But England came back again. Gerrard's whipped cross found the head of Defoe, who steered it poorly towards goal, only for Cleverly to latch onto the ball and hit it against the goalkeeper's shins, when nine times out of ten it would have been a simplistic finish. And then the first goal came against the run of play. Konoplynaka attacked down the left wing, quickly cutting inside of Gerrard before hitting an inch-perfect finesse shot past the helpless arms of Joe Hart. It was the first time that Ukraine has scored in three games and the first goal England had conceded in their qualifying group.

Before the half-time whistle, there were two more chances for the home team, and more specifically two more chances for Tom Cleverly. The first one was another dismal miss following a sharp ball from Lampard on the wing, which was mistimed completely by the Manchester United midfielder and squirmed yards wide. The second effort was more promising however, and he found some space on the edge of the six-yard area before thumping his shot against the outside of the post. Despite his efforts however, England went into the break a goal down to the solid Zbirna, but the performance was nothing to be ashamed of thus far.

Second half. The only possible threats upon the Pyatov's goal in the first ten minutes were Lampard's half volley from the edge of the area and Glen Johnson's unmet ground cross, none of which caused the Ukrainian number one any problems. But for every chance England had, Ukraine had a better one. Leighton Baines done well to turn a dangerous Konoplyanka cross over the bar and away from the impending Zozulya, who was waiting to pounce, and the resulting corner was caught safely by Joe Hart.

The match then descended into a mundane kick around, with Blokhin's side happy to close down England with whatever variation of attack they tried. Welbeck and Sturridge were sent on for Chamerberlin and Cleverly in an attempt to improve the attacking threat. Johnson's 68th minute solo run and shot was the only sight of goal England had during the following 20 minutes. Defoe was not the lively character that he was during the first half, and the attacking prowess from the wide midfielders had died down. England desperately needed a boost.

With 15 minutes left, England finally started to show some encouraging signs that they would get a goal, but again to no avail. Defoe and Jagielka had chances, before Welbeck toe-poked his close range effort against the post, which surely should have gone in. Minutes later, the United forward also had a penalty appeal, but was told to get up by the referee. In the midst of all of this however, Ukraine also had a very good chance, but that was thankfully saved by the Manchester City goalie.

But eventually, England's efforts finally got the response that was needed. Welbeck got the ball inside the box and attempted to flick it over his opponent, only for it to be blocked by a Ukrainian arm... penalty! Lampard stepped up to the spot, and coolly smashed it towards the left of the goal. Hope was revived. But a hectic few minutes later, the previously booked captain Steven Gerrard lunged into the back of Garmesh's legs, causing the Liverpool man to be dismissed with only a few minutes of the game remaining.

The Lions desperately searched for the a winner during injury time, but unfortunately it wasn't to be for the team in white, as they dropped crucial points at home in a brave display against a Ukraine side seeking revenge. Whether it will prove crucial in the race for the first place in this group, no-one knows, but Hodgson would certainly have been expecting three points from this game.

Ukraine: Pyatov, Gusev, Khacheridi, Rakitskiy, Selin (Shevchuk 75), Tymoschuk, Rotan (Mandzyuk 90), Yarmolenko, Garmash, Konoplyanka, Zozulya (Devic 89).
England: Hart, Johnson, Jagielka, Lescott, Baines (Bertrand 74), Lampard, Gerrard, Milner, Cleverley (Welbeck 63), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Sturridge 70), Defoe.

BeeTeeSports Man Of The Match: Yevhen Konoplyanka (8/10)

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Jarvis jives down to Upton Park!

After three failed bids in an attempt to lure the winger away from Molinuex, Matt Jarvis has finally completed his transfer to West Ham for £7m, with a further £3m being paid in instalments.

There have been questions surrounding the Englishman's future ever since Wolves' relegation from the Premier League in May. But despite Ståle Solbakken's desperate attempts to keep one of their most highly rated players, he will now join up with Sam Allardyce's new boys after passing a medical and agreeing personal terms today.

 Jarvis becomes the seventh major signing to join the east London based club this summer, following the acquisitions of such players as Alou Diarra, James Collins and Modibo Maiga. He will be competing with Matt Taylor for a place on the left wing in the starting line-up.  

The former Gillingham player, who has one international cap to his name, played in the disappointing 3-0 defeat to Swansea today, but manage to show glimpses of talent throughout - hopefully a sign of what is to come!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

2012/2013 - The Relegation Scrap!

Now that the Premier League is now more competitive than ever before, predicting the candidates for relegations is no easy task. The three teams promoted from the Championship have a certain unpredictability factor, and this was evident last season when Swansea and Norwich finished in very respectable mid-table positions. The teams that struggled last campaign have been dipping into the transfer market to attempt to ensure that they do not fight in the relegation battle again. Alas, three teams will certainly be resigned to the English football second tier come the end of the season.

West Ham:
Despite several new editions to Sam Allardyce's side, the Hammers have been fairly inconsistent during pre-season as they attempt to find their strongest squad. They have won only twice during the ten games in July and early August, but have been somewhat handicapped by only playing fixtures away from home. Last season, they dominated the Championship's top two for the majority of the season, until a run of five consecutive draws in March saw them drop out of the automatic promotion positions. Having won the Play-Off final in scrappy circumstances, Allardyce will be on a mission to prove that his team can cope with England's elite, and also play exciting football in the process (he has been criticised by his own fans for his tactical style)
Prediction - SURVIVAL

Reading shocked everyone in the nPower Championship to win the league last season, winning 15 of their last 18 games which lifted them from mid-table all the way up into pole position. Since their promotion, they have managed to secure some decent signings, including Fulham's scoring sensation of last year Pavel Pogrebnyak, aswell as the versatile former Newcastle midfielder Danny Guthrie (both of them on a free transfer). However, football fans around the country may question what Reading will turn up in the Premier League. Will it be the one we witnessed during the first half of last season, who looked more like Championship relegation contenders than champions? Or will it be the resurgent Royals who dominated the league since March?
Prediction - RELEGATION (19th)

The Saints have changed drastically as a team since they last graced the Premier League during 2004/2005 season. Since then, they have hit rock bottom by slipping miserably into English football's third tier, but thanks to manager Nigel Adkins, they have changed their fortunes around dramatically. Adkins has managed to build a squad that was capable of successive promotions in 2011 and 2012, and has strengthened the core of the side along the way. With menacing forwards such as Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana and Billy Sharp (all of whom blitzed Championship defences last season), they will certainly put up a fight to stay in the top division. Star player Rickie Lambert will be pivotal to the Saint's season as he looks to match last seasons goal tally of 25 while also weighing in with crucial assists.
Prediction - SURVIVAL

It would be fair to say that the Latics had a considerably poor 2011/2012 season, and only a late burst in form saw them escape from the Premier League's trap door when they won four of their last five games. With Roberto Martinez at the helm, Wigan have a strong and experienced manager that will help guide them through the season, but the manager hasn't appeared to made any major additions to the Greater Manchester based side. With Hugo Rodallega moving to Fulham and Victor Moses looking certain to depart the club, the pressure will be on Franco Di Santo to provide the goals (unless a striker is acquired in the near future).
Prediction - RELEGATION (20th)

Despite finishing in 12th place last season, Norwich will be wary of the second season syndrome myth which has plagued many promoted clubs over the years. With manager Paul Lambert departing the club for Premier League rivals Aston Villa after the end of last season, the pre-season schedule would have been somewhat disrupted and major new signings have been at a minimum. Last season, the Canaries had the joint fourth worst defensive record in the league, conceding 66 goals (only the teams relegated that season conceded more). For Norwich to not be involved in the relegation scrap, they must tighten the defence and hope that Grant Holt can continue his sublime scoring form of last season. Without these factors swinging in their favour, it could be a nervy season for City fans...
Prediction - RELEGATION (18th)

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Who will be the fastest man in the world?

After four years of training for these phenomenally fast athletes, their status in the Olympic history books now depends on a fiercely competed 10 second run. It is the most highly anticipated event at the Olympic Games this year. It is the 100m!

The line up for tonight's final (scheduled for around 9:50) goes as follows...

2 - Richard Thompson
3 - Asafa Powell
4 - Tyson Gay
5 - Yohan Blake
6 - Justin Gatlin
7 - Usain Bolt
8 - Ryan Bailey
9 - Churandy Martina

The surprising inclusion in this race is the flying Dutchman Churandy Martina, who had to record a personal best in order to beat Asafa Powell to have an automatic qualifying position. He is the only European to have reached the final, which is dominated by Caribbeans and Americans.

Most of the attention will be placed on Usain Bolt, for obvious reasons. The Jamaican sprinter literally jogged his way to the final, recording some fairly decent times on the way. Despite the 100m not being regarded as Bolt's strongest event, he is definitely the one to watch in this race. He starts in lane 7.

His closest competitors are Yohan Blake and Justin Gatlin, who run side by side in lanes 6 and 7 respectively. Blake is currently the fastest man in the world this year. He has recorded a season's best of 9.75, outpacing his fellow world-record holding countryman by 0.01 seconds. He has beaten Bolt consistently, over 100m and 200m, ever since the World Championships in Daegu from which Usain was disqualified from for a false start.

Despite Gatlin surpassing the peak of his career (now aged 30) he is still has a very good chance of claiming gold at London 2012. He has regularly posted times faster than the 10 second mark this year, including the 9.80 seconds recorded at the US Olympic trials last month. Moreover, he goes into the final knowning that he was the fastest sprinter throughout the semi-final heats, which will provide him with great confidence as he attempts to upset the highly-favoured Jamaicans.

There is also an outside chance for Tyson Gay, who has the second fastest personal best in this race (only  beaten by Usain Bolt). Another runner who is in the latter stages of his career at the age of 29, he faced a difficult year in 2011 that was plagued with injury, but luckily he has returned to form for these Olympics. Posting a respectable time of 9.90 seconds during the semi final, he will be wary of the threat from Yohan Blake, who won the sprint ahead of him by 0.05 seconds. Being one of three runners in this final who have defeated Bolt throughout his career in the 100m, Gay will be secretly confident that he can do well in the race.

1st - Usain Bolt
2nd - Yohan Blake
3rd - Justin Gatlin