We are increasingly told by the ‘experts’ who report on the beautiful game of football that it is, in modern times, more of a business than a sport.
The introduction of huge sums of money from television franchises and sponsors; the agents who hawk their clients’ wares around the globe; and the professional and profitable upgrade in how football is marketed are all testament to that.
However, if it is a ‘business’ then football, and those who govern and commentate on the sport, need to understand that the first rule of any good business is to look after the customer.
To say that the sport is not particularly good at doing this would be the understatement of the century.
Next weekend, Liverpool play Real Madrid in the showcase Champions League Final.
As with all major cup finals, the allocation of tickets has been a joke. Both clubs could sell 50,000 plus tickets each to their loyal ‘customers’ – but only 36,000 are available – and that is between them.
Then, there is the venue that has been chosen to host the game. Kiev is just about the most challenging destination you could pick for supporters travelling from England or Spain for a European tie.
If that wasn’t bad enough, airlines and hotels have demonstrated their customer friendly approach to the football fan – by doubling, trebling and in some cases quadrupling usual prices for their services.
So, in terms of rewarding loyal customers with easy access to a ticket, UEFA scores zero out of ten. In terms of picking a venue that provides the fan with easy access, UEFA scores minus ten out of ten. And, in terms of making the game price-competitive, the minus score is off the scale.
Closer to home, and the customers of two of England longest established teams have been berated in some quarters for having the audacity for wanting the clubs they pay their hard- earned cash to watch to entertain them.
Everton dismissed Sam Allardyce, who is to entertainment what Donald Trump is to diplomacy, this week, whilst West Ham United dispensed with the services of David Moyes.
The scorn with which these decisions has been met by so-called football experts has been beyond insulting to both sets of supporters.
Apparently, the fact that both teams avoided relegation should be more than enough compensation for the ‘customers’ of Everton and West Ham, who have been subjected to Mogadon football for much of this season.
Well, here is my message to those pundits, and to those who are now running, some would argue ruining, the beautiful game. You can’t have it both ways. If Football is a business, and we are customers, then your approach to customer care is going to have to be significantly improved. Numpties like me, who have loyally followed a club for too many years for me to remember, are probably beyond help, and will put up with the contempt with which you treat us.
However, the leisure and entertainment business is becoming increasingly competitive, and younger generations will be far more selective in what they choose to spend their hard earned cash on.
And though it may be true that football clubs have little reliance on supporters’ cash whilst the telephone number TV deals are on the table, Messrs White, Saunders, and the rest of the TalkSport and associated crews, should know that your employers will not be as relaxed if the continued contempt of fans leads to your customer base falling through the floor quicker than a Sam Allardyce side can send me to sleep.
If football is a business, it needs to start to act like one – and don’t get me started on the ludicrous financial model this ‘business’ is trying to get away with.