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By Tony Attwood
It is a fairly commonplace and indeed easy observation to make: football is full of complaints. At the moment the media is full of annoyance that the FA arch was not illuminated in the colours of Israel. And in Liverpool, it is that the club has to kick off at 12.30pm kick-off on the Saturday after an international break.
As ever Klopp was outspoken on the matter point out that the “problem is the lack of recovery time. We have four international breaks until March; two of them we already have a 12.30 kick-off. If I say a word about it, the whole world goes, ‘He starts moaning again’…. We have players in South America; I didn’t see them yet and we have 24 hours before we play.”
The record books do show that quite often the clubs that get a 12.30 kick off after an international break tend to lose. However, in Liverpool’s case the trouble is, well, the trouble that has followed some matches at Liverpool’s ground when they play a game at 5.30pm. The police are apparently not happy about late Saturday kick-offs in Liverpool. Which may make us smile… until suddenly the Met start telling Arsenal when it can kick off our matches.
Of course, the Premier League could do something about this, but clubs that are not on TV as much as Liverpool like the extra TV coverage we get each season because some of the money generated filters down to them while they play on without any inconvenience.
Yet ultimately it is the Premier League which does have the upper hand in these matters, and so could resolve these things. The FA desperately needs the Premier League, as the League provides a substantial amount of the FA’s funding. The Championship needs the Premier League as promotion to the the Premier League is the big attraction that helps keep a national interest alive in the Championship alive through the latter part of the season.
So the Premier League actually does have the power to take action in a way that might actually help the fans who go to games. Fans like me for example, who do a 200-mile round trip for each home match. OK, that is my decision, in my retirement I can afford it and I enjoy it, but even so, that does not mean my situation, and those of thousands like me, should not be considered. Buggering about with kick-off times is really disruptive to the rest of my life – and it needn’t happen.
The Premier League is of course the source of international interest and of the money that flows into English football. It helps keep the whole of professional football in this country running. And indeed let us not forget that Arsenal, during its 104 years in the top division, had a long period where crowds were regularly around 30,000, not the sell out 60,000 with a long waiting list, that we have today.
So what the Premier League should be doing is several things.
First it should say to the FA, you organise the England matches in discussion with us, not when you feel like it or when Fifa tells you.
Second, it should demand full and proper compensation for each and every injury that a player suffers playing in any competition that England is involved in. That means not just the salaries but also the cost of buying in a replacement player if the injury lasts more than a few months. They could make the same demand of the national teams of other countries that call up Arsenal players. If the country fails to oblige, Arsenal could then refuse to release the player.
Third, if the club says a player is injured and cannot go to an international, then he’s injured and country associations should have not option to overrule that with their so-called independent medical assessment.
Liverpool and Klopp are clearly heading in this direction, as in a recent interview he said, “I think 30-odd hours ago, Macca played in Bolivia. He landed yesterday morning at 4 o’clock. Lucho (Diaz) at 9am yesterday…. I will see them today and then we will make the decisions about the game tomorrow.”
That is ludicrous, given that it is the club that is paying the players’ salaries, training them, etc etc. Of course, the argument is made that the same situation faces all clubs, and that’s true. But that should never be an excuse for this nonsense.
Now of course the FA will say, “these are our rules, you obey.” But what if the clubs said “no.” What then? Maybe they could think about organising their own league, without any reference to the FA or any other organisation. Then there it would be: take it or leave it.
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