Politics, Sport

A Week in Review: 19th-25th October

Pay-per-view football has alienated fans and won’t help clubs cover their costs

So, pay-per-view Premier League matches haven’t been doing as well as it was maybe hoped. Many matches on the two box office platforms have performed very poorly, so poorly that Sky and BT will not actually release the viewing figures. There was also no mention of what games would be shown on which box office service when the next round of television fixtures was announced this week. It was also reported that both Sky and BT are not happy with the format, be it for low viewing figures or just in general, and want to scrap it. I was never at ease with the concept. When the Premier League restarted last season, every game was made available to watch without any other steps necessary. If you had a subscription to any of the broadcasters you could watch the extra games at no extra costs and the BBC were allowed to broadcast live Premier League games for the first time.

That was not adopted for this season. And it has been soundly rejected by fans. I could understand clubs wanting to get another source of income to help them keep afloat, but this wasn’t the way to go about it. Fans simply are not prepared to pay £14.95 for each match on top of £50 a month to be able to watch the games chosen for ordinary TV coverage. That model works for boxing and MMA, because the big events happen two or three times a year. In a football season, there is often a game every three days. Paying £15 a game every three days when a lot of people are not earning their full wage, especially if they are in one of the regions under higher tier restrictions.

The one good thing to come out of this has been the fan’s response. Instead of paying for the pay-per-view access, fans have instead been donating the fee to local food banks and charities. Newcastle United fans managed to raise £16,000 for a local food bank instead of paying to watch their game against Manchester United. Fans up and down the country have followed their example and done some real good. The players have also contributed to the effort, doubtless inspired by the campaign led by Marcus Rashford (Top work sir, keep it up) and some real good has come of this mess. Only Leicester City voted against the proposal initially, but the fans have clearly voiced their opinion. It was always billed as an interim solution until fans could return to stadiums, but they need to end it now and return to the plans that were in place during Project Restart.

Lampard needs to find the balance to utilise this immensely talented squad

Chelsea kept their second clean sheet in a row against Manchester United on Saturday, in another 0-0 draw. Frank Lampard can be pleased with that, especially since Chelsea hadn’t played out a goalless draw in Lampard’s year-and-a-bit in charge. Now, they have two in two games. This was definitely needed as the defence had not looked secure at all. Chelsea have already played two 3-3 draws this season. Which shows that there is clearly a lot of attacking talent in the side. But the defence has been a problem throughout Lampard’s time in charge. Some of the problems have been addressed; left back was always an issue for Lampard last season. This year, he has Ben Chilwell at his disposal who has already made that position his own. Thiago Silva and Edouard Mendy have also come in and made a real difference. Kepa has unfortunately completely lost his confidence and looks set to play second fiddle to Mendy, who has already kept three clean sheets and made several impressive saves.

That needs to be combined with the talent in the attacking areas. Chelsea had promising players last season and they have invested to try and sharpen the attacking edge of the team. Chelsea would either create a lot of chances and fail to convert them or would struggle to break sides down. That hasn’t been so much of a problem this season for Lampard and his men as they have regularly found the net this season. However, when they have been playing an expansive attacking game, they have been defensively weak and too prone to individual mistakes which have cost them games they should have won. The positive aspect of the two most recent games has been the solidity of the defence compared to earlier games this season. That might be to do with the personnel brought in. Thiago Silva is still a very good centre-back, rarely caught out of position and still strong in the air and the tackle. Edouard Mendy is a good half-a-foot taller than Kepa, has a better reach and is able to dominate his area, come and claim crosses and more. But, by putting the focus on the defence and on not conceding, Lampard isolated the attacking players and left them with very little to work with.

Lampard has to find the balance to get the team defensively tight and still able to attack with the verve and vibrancy that the players are absolutely capable of. If the team can combine the attacking performance of the first half against Southampton and the defensive performance from the last two games, Chelsea might really start hitting their stride.

The government is being made to look really, really stupid and quite mean by Marcus Rashford.

I lightly touched on this earlier and I’m not going to go too much into detail here, except to say that who would vote against guaranteeing that all school children would be able to eat at least one well balanced meal a day? The government is now saying local councils can pay for it out of the extra funding being sent their way, but that funding was never intended for free school meals. Meanwhile, local councils and organisations are stepping up and doing their bit to bolster Marcus Rashford’s campaign.

The government’s decision not to extend the scheme for free school meals brings us back to a time of the Tories being ‘the nasty party.’ Some of the responses to Rashford’s continued efforts have just demonstrated how out of touch some members of the Conservatives are. They seem unable to compute that parents may be in a situation, through no fault of their own, where they are unable to provide regular food for their children. Its not laziness on their part, its not a ‘freebie’ to ensure that every child in the UK is able to eat, its yet another terrible consequence of the pandemic and of many families’ everyday realities. The number of children going hungry in Britain is rising. The government needs to extend the scheme into next year, and then look for a more permanent solution.

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