So the new Premier League football season starts on Saturday. But the season hasn’t started and already there is a sour taste in the mouth. One of the main features of Sunday’s pre season Community Shield match between Arsenal and Chelsea was yet another whinge a thon between Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho culminating in their failure to shake hands at the end of Arsenal’s 1-0 victory. This feud has a tiringly long history with Mourinho calling Wenger a “voyeur” back in 2005 and the two men nearly coming to blows during a game at Stanford Bridge last year being the lowlights. Mourinho is 52 years old and Wenger 65 but you wouldn’t know it from their behaviour. I suspect two three years olds would behave in a more mature way towards each other and it is about time they grew up. Perhaps a six month ban from doing their jobs might do the trick.
But this is not the first managerial feud in football history. There has been Mourinho v Rafael Benitez – which flared up again last week even though Benitez is not even in this country – Mourinho v Manuel Pellegrini (notice a pattern here?) and in the past there was Sir Alex Ferguson v Kevin Keegan, Ferguson v Wemger, Ferguson v Mourinho, Ferguson v Benitez(another pattern emerging!). This is nothing new – managerial feuds in the UK can be traced back to the early 1970s and the feud between the two “big beasts” of management in that era – Don Revie and Brian Clough who even had a 30 minute live TV debate in 1974 when Clough got sacked from Leeds a mere 44 days after succeeding Revie in the job – but it has gotten beyond a joke. Time to grow up.
To be fair the managers are not the only villains here. The people really to blame are the UK press a lot of whom in my opinion are not interested in football at all and only care about the off field stuff – transfer gossip managerial spats etc – and as a result the papers are full of this stuff rather than the actual game. Another problem is that managers have to talk to the press far too often – before every game after every game seemingly every day. Personally I am sick of them and when ever the awful Sky Sports News (an oxymoron if ever there was one) says they are going to a manager’s press conference I switch channels. Time for a change. If I was in charge of football all press conferences would be scrapped. This would mean that managerial feuds would not be made public as they would not talk to the press and the journalists would have to do some work for a change. You know actually thinking for themselves instead of getting quotes from managers spoon fed to them like babies. At the very least the press and TV interviews should be voluntary. Everybody goes on about freedom of speech. But shouldn’t there also be a freedom not to speak?
The cutting down – or banning – of press interviews might also have two desirable side effects. First with less – or no – interviews to report the UK press might be forced to cover both foreign men’s football and women’s football which are both woefully under covered by our sexist and xenophobic press. Secondly the banning of post match interviews would lead to less “referee bashing”. A lot of criticism of referees comes from upset managers giving interviews at the end of a game when emotions are still raw and people when they are angry say things in the heat of the moment that they don’t mean (I know I do). The FA keep saying they want referees to be respected. Banning the post match interview would reduce criticism of referees “at a stoke” – to quote ex UK Prime Minister Edward Heath.
Another beef I have with the UK press is that they get into football matches for free. Why on earth should they?. No one else does. If a fan wants to watch their team in action at the ground he/she has to pay. Sky Sports, BT Sport and the BBC don’t get into games for free. They have to pay millions of pounds for the privilege. If fans want to watch football on TV they have to pay monthly subscriptions to both Sky and BT Sport. Even to watch the popular “Match Of the Day” highlights show on free-to-air BBC 1 they have to pay a licence fee. Radio too has to pay to be able to cover the games. Why should newspapers be different? Answer: they shouldn’t be. All newspapers should have to pay for the right to get into games – say £200 a year for national papers and £100 a year for the local ones. They should also be ordered to cover women’s football and – in the case of the nationals – foreign football – far more than they currently do. The press may howl they give football publicity. And they do. But so do TV and radio. And they pay up willingly.
All this I am afraid is wishful thinking. No doubt during the season we will get the usual feuds between moaning managers encouraged by a lazy press who don’t then have to write about the game on the pitch – which should be their job – or soil themselves by covering women’s football and foreign football – which could fill the gaps left by the moaning managers . But I live in hope that one day there will be a “tipping point” and football fans will become fed up with grown men behaving like cry babies and our gutter press egging them on and instead demand more coverage of the action on the pitch plus foreign and women’s football – and force our sexist and xenophobic football press out of the 1970s and into the 21st century.