By Paul Sinclair, @
Forget what the neutrals say. The title should definitely not go to Leicester. But neither should it go to City or Spurs. Am I a Gooner? Nope. I don’t even support a Premier League team. But hear me out.
The dark horses? Leicester were not even an ornamental stuffed donkey purchased for you by your Aunt during her week in Spain in the 1980s. Playing a dynamic type of counter attacking football, Leicester have quite rightly taken the plaudits for beating two of their title rivals in Manchester City and Tottenham in their own backyards. They were relegation fodder. A more likeable Villa. They hired the Tinkerman after he lost with Greece to the freaking Faroe Isles! They were supposed to be an easy 6 points.
Jamie Vardy, a non-league player with Fleetwood until he was plucked from relative obscurity, has bulldozed his way into the England squad and to the top of the goal scoring charts. Riyad Mahrez has come up against the Premier League’s best defenders and twisted and turned them inside out. Robert Huth, who we forget played previously under Claudio Ranieri at Chelsea, is looking like he could add a second championship medal to his collection with inspired and robust displays in defence. For all the great things about Leicester’s season, winning the title would not be amazing.
The fairy tale story? Yes. Good for the Premier League? No. You need the glamour or the hatred of a big side to keep the interest in the biggest competitions.
Nobody watched Portsmouth v Cardiff City in the 2008 FA Cup Final. Apart from their own fans, the only others who watched it were Southampton and Swansea fans hoping their rivals would get a shellacking. Man United v Millwall in the showpiece game of the 2004 FA Cup only got viewing figures because you wanted to see United get beaten in their heyday by a small team. Okay. Let’s be really honest. You were also hoping Millwall repeated their Luton rampage and smashed up the place after losing 6-0. I’m not sure anyone stayed viewing long enough to see Dennis Wise substitute himself on 89 minutes to get himself a standing ovation; the self-absorbed, punchy midget.
If the title race went down to the wire between Spurs and Leicester, nobody would give a damn.
Leicester don’t really have a rival. They are part of the East Midlands triangle along with Nottingham and Derby, and those two hate each other, while looking at Leicester as that weird kid that smelled of damp cookies at school. You don’t hate him but you don’t like him either. Otherwise they would have to be rivals with Coventry and that’s like playing FIFA with your tween-aged brother. It’s a bit of fun, but it’s not really fair, and you can’t tell anyone about it without looking like a dick.
We all know that the Gooners think of Spurs, and it is pretty much what the rest of the English football fans think. We kinda liked them when Harry was in charge because they had a new team every transfer window and just as they looked like being a good side, they would screw it up at the last minute. We like a trier but we love to laugh when people fail. Twitter is the new stocks, and tweets are the new rotten tomatoes! But Spurs fans watch The Jeremy Kyle Show to see if they can find their long lost dad. (If you don’t know who Jeremy Kyle is, he’s like the British version of Jerry Springer. But the “stars” of the show have less teeth and less vocabulary).
But then that leaves City and Arsenal.
City are the team that everyone loves to hate now that United are boring and Chelsea became cocooned in Mourinho’s ego. They have the team of superstars. They are about to get the “Greatest Tactician in the World”™ as their manager next season. They might even try and spend £300m trying to sign Messi. If City look like winning, then money wins again and you ignore the end of this season and wait for August.
But before I come to Arsenal, I need to explain why it would be bad for the fans, and the competition, if Leicester won the Premier League.
We have all seen the 77th minute walkout by Liverpool fans, that comically backfired and led to their beloved Reds giving up a comfortable 2 goal lead against Norwich. However, that important standoff led to an even more important back down by the Liverpool board.
Whatever you think about the hilarious antics of their defence, the suave and hipster Jürgen Klopp as their manager, and the enormous weight of expectation from their fans, Liverpool may have just won a much bigger battle on your behalf, as long as Leicester don’t screw it up.
We all know that Arsenal have the highest season ticket and match day ticket prices in the world. Even in London, let alone Liverpool, £77 a ticket is not just steep, it’s a slippery slope towards empty stadiums. Sounds over the top? Season tickets that have been in the family for decades have been given up. The skyrocketing cost of entrance, drinks, merchandise and travel make it impossible for the average income family to possibly keep attending.
Even the 20-something single fan will wince at the entry level season ticket prices.
With the new £5bn Premier League television contract beginning in 2016/17, the top teams could actually let all of their fans attend every home league game next season completely free of charge, and still make the same revenue as this season. Every PL club could drop ticket prices to £25 and bring back some of the fans who have drifted away from their beloved teams; the middle aged men who once stood on the terraces for 2 hours straining to see their heroes battle on waterlogged pitches. The kids who had their Junior tickets and turned up early to get autographs from the opposition as they got off the bus. The single guy who lived and breathed his team, wearing everything from the lapel pin to the underpants, until he got a girlfriend and sold his Subbuteo sets and now has 2 kids. He could bring those kids along and suddenly the football Circle of Life starts again.
But of course they won’t. The only people that are going to win from this new contract are the Bundesliga and La Liga teams, the players and their agents.
Remember the old days when a club got taken over and the chairman announces a £20m war chest for the manager to spend on players, and every other club in the league would rub their hands with glee as they put an extra 1m on the transfer price. Well now that is going to be an extra £10m for Premier League clubs that shop overseas. The money is not even going to grassroots football because who the hell buys from the Championship? Even if you want a young player from the lower leagues you snap them up for small change because their club doesn’t want to keep an unhappy player. You want an English player in the Premier League? You already pay an extortionate amount of money because he won’t need to “acclimatise”. But what that really means is he already has a penthouse or a mansion plus the obligatory glamour model girlfriend and a Ferrari.
Football clubs don’t want the die hard fans. They want the tourists. They want the people who spend £100 on merchandise every time they visit the stadium. They are the ones that will spend £77 on a ticket as a one off. They will record the whole game through their iPad and live tweet their experience. As much as they annoy the thick and thin supporters, they are subsidising your tickets. Those fair weather, armchair, plastic fans are helping keep your ticket within affordable reach. Because you will never sell 60,000 tickets to tourists.
However, those tourists come for the same clubs. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.
There is nobody flying in from Oslo or Tokyo for a vacation and to take in a Leicester City game. Even if the Foxes lift the title this season, unless their star players get a move to a “Top Four” club, the Asian market will not remember their names in two years.
It will be left to D list celebrities to “remember the season Leicester won the league” on a cable channel production in ten years. Do we really believe that this season is a power swing? Hell, even Liverpool haven’t won the Premier League. Blackburn is the only anomaly since 1992. And where are they now? Being financed in the lower reaches of the Football League Championship by a chicken company that sacked a proven Premier League manager and replaced him with a coach who just happens to be married to the best friend of the owner’s wife. And we all know how that ended.
Rather than creating a new wave of optimism, all Leicester winning the league will do is force the mid-table clubs to splash the cash on more average European based players. Squad players will earn £100,000 a week. Young academy players will be able to buy your house with their signing on fee. Rather than fanning the flames of inspiration, we will light the fires of expectation. If Leicester can do it, then let’s all give it a go. Look at Stoke! What next? Norwich signing Zlatan?!
You ask for it, and you will probably get it.
But where will all this extra money for transfers, wages and agent’s fees come from? You, that’s who.
The new TV deal will help, sure. But remember that only the very top clubs do not rely on the match day revenue. Even Everton struggle to keep up with their neighbours in spending, yet are not very far apart in the league. But Liverpool’s extra spending doesn’t come from the turnstiles. It comes from the brand. It comes from the history. It comes from the glamour. It comes from the far reaches of the globe buying replica shirts.
So, City winning the league will be boring and predictable. A title showdown between Leicester and Tottenham will have us watching La Liga highlights rather than Match of the Day.
But Arsenal… The team that everyone loves to hate but loves to watch. The team that has not only attracted two of the world’s greatest playmakers but actually got them ripping apart the defences of the Premier League. They regularly keep you entertained with comical defending and their fair share of red cards, but also stunning volleys from Theo Walcott and the Gallic ruggedness of Olivier Giroud. The only visual gold that Arsenal have lost recently is that Arsene Wenger can now actually close his jacket.
But that is what people pay to watch, and in turn, it might just mean you not having to pay £77 to watch Liverpool in the future. So Spurs fans: get behind the Arsenal. It’s for your own good.
Paul Sinclair is a guest blogger of Full90Gooner. Follow him at @