Football Media Watch: Opportunity knocks for France

FRANCE may have gone wild with delight in response to the country’s second World Cup win, but there were still some dark clouds to contend with as Didier Deschamps and his players danced in the rain. CNN said France’s World Cup victory, with a team made up primarily of black and Muslim players, “may have been perceived internationally as a collective celebration of an ideal of social mobility and racial equality, but that vision is deeply contested”.

Over half of French people believe that Marine Le Pen, leader of the far right in France, represents a “nationalist and xenophobic” party. Worryingly, a lot of folk look to her idea of “nationalism” as the way ahead. CNN added that if French nationalism needed a focus for its inspiration, starlet Kylian Mbappe fits the bill. “He is, in many ways, the embodiment of the ‘French dream’.” Writer Myriam Francois warned, though that, “in today’s France, it simply isn’t enough to hope this victory can plaster over the cracks”.

Back in 1998, when France won the World Cup on home turf, the team was nicknamed, “génération black, blanc, beur (the black-white-Arab generation)”. This “rainbow team”, led by Zinedine Zidane, of Algerian descent, was supposedly the future of France. The Guardian’s Andrew Hussey commented that, “this moment did not last long and since then French society, under threat from terrorism and its own internal problems, has undoubtedly become more splintered than ever”.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – JULY 15, 2018: France’s President Emmanuel Macron (C standing) celebrates a goal as FIFA President Gianni Infantino (L) looks on at the final match of FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium. Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS

Another Guardian writer, Iman Amrani, said France squandered the unity created by the 1998 win. “The World Cup wasn’t enough to fix the underlying problems and, 20 years on, France has the same ingerdients of terror attacks, the far right – and a diverse, winning national football team.”

She added: “The fact is that, as wonderful as football is as a sport, the jubilation of a World Cup win can only be ephemeral, so long as politicians don’t build on the energy it creates. This national win could only be a catalyst for change if Macron decides to act on it.”

Bloomberg reported that while the feel-good moment of a World Cup win can bring the nation together, it won’t necessarily translate into a sustained economic boost. Nathalie Henaff of Limoges University, said:“The victory will clearly impact the social cohesion in France: It brings people together, it creates a sense of national community. French people will consume differently, spend more time outdoors to celebrate, change behavior for some time, so we will witness a transfer of consumption. For the economy, it will be marginal. It’s a wash.”

Hermes’ Ludovic Subran forecasted the success may add 0.1 percentage points to France’s GDP. The economy expand 1.9% instead of 1.8%. France’s finance minister, speaking before kick-off in Moscow, said: “A World Cup victory gives French people confidence. There is a part of irrationality in economy, that thrives on confidence, desire and enthusiasm.”

Meanwhile, the Independent wrote that French president, Emmanuel Macron, is hoping for a popularity boost following France’s triumph. He was conspicuously in the limelight throughout the competition and staged a dramatic celebration in the VIP section as France won. Truly, he recognised that football is the game of the people!

Photo: PA

The bubble just keeps inflating

Who says football's one big bubble...there's two, at least
Who says football’s one big bubble…there’s two, at least

Apparently, when people talk about what makes them proud of Britain, they will respond, “The Premier League, the BBC and the Queen”. These were the words used by Richard Scudamore, the Premier League’s Chief Executive in response to the surprise/delight/outrage/disbelief (delete where appropriate) reaction to the record £ 5.14bn TV deal being trousered by the league.

What a load of nonsense. For every person who watches and follows the Premier, there are dozens who find it a bloated, ego-driven and self-serving industry.  And for every royalist, there’s a republican-type who finds the monarchy an outdated institution. The Premier, and Mr Scudamore’s comments are very much of their time, an age of greed, hubris and self-delusion. Next the Premier will be sticking pictures of starving kids in Africa on its website to try and convince people that it is a philanthropic organization populated by missionaries.

However, the money is there and the amount being paid to the Premier is classic supply and demand. The Premier has a good product – arguably the best marketed football league in the world – and someone is willing to pay top dollar for it. You can’t blame either party.

But where it will all go horribly wrong is if the money merely gets siphoned the way of the post-Bosman generation of players. Already among the most overpaid employees in the history of sporting capitalism, footballers are in danger of being weighed down by their Rolexes.

Premier clubs do not need to pay their players any more than they do. Indeed, a pay cut would be more appropriate in the current climate. But as the mammoth TV deal was announced this week, you can be assured that smoked-glass limos were drawing up at the country’s leading clubs as agents (also with anvil-like watches on their wrists) eyed the opportunity of an enhanced deal for their clients. In other words, players will be looking to capitalise on the cash sloshing around the boardrooms of England.

And there’s talk about the money being passed down through the system to help grass roots football. At present around 5% of Premier income filters down to that level, so there’s no guarantee that the latest windfall will be of great benefit.

The crazy thing about football is highlighted in the relative wealth of the Premier’s clubs. Deloitte predicted that all 20 would feature in the top 40 of the European wealth list next year. That makes Burnley, for example, richer than Ajax! Put your European Cups on the table, Turf Moor!

The TV deal should provide an opportunity for some clubs to bring down their extortionate prices. The perhaps that influence may trickle down to the non-league scene, where prices have also become inflated. Will is happen? Doubtful.

Is the Premier a bubble just waiting to burst? As much as we’d like to think so – in order to bring some reality back – there’s little chance of it happening soon. While the TV companies have money to burn, they will always pay a premium for premier.