Monday, May 10, 2010

Less Than Perfect

I read an interview with Richard Scudamore on Saturday. Don’t ask me why, I knew it was only going to annoy me. What did he say? Oh, the usual crap. Regulation is evil. Game 39 was a tip-top idea and it’s the fans’ silly fault it died. People who say the top four is too static have short memories, because Everton finished fourth five years ago. No Richard, we do remember that: we just think it’s not really enough to disprove the point.

One comment stood out though, which – considering this is an interview with Richard Scudamore – is a testament to just what an amazing piece of bullshit it is: ‘There is a huge demand in this game to get your chequebook out, because people actually realise there is an almost perfect correlation between the spend and the league table position. Almost perfect.’

This manages the remarkable twin feat of being half factually wrong, and half factually right yet morally wrong. The correlation is ‘almost’ perfect in the way that Newcastle United ‘almost’ qualified for Europe in 2008/9, but in fact got relegated. Scudamore’s use of the word ‘almost’ is, in his own terms, ‘almost perfect’. Yet whilst the idea that there is strong consistency in the correlation between spend and league table position is clearly untrue, a correlation does exist – and it’s not a good thing.

Scudamore believes anything is a good thing if it encourages more money to flood into Premier League football in any way, regardless of where it comes from or goes, and so in his mind a demonstrable link between investment and success is indeed a good thing. But the flaw in this is so glaring I feel I’m insulting your intelligence by pointing it out: if the correlation is as strong as he says it is, why bother playing the matches? You could just look at the clubs’ balance sheets. The main reason to play the matches seems to be to make all that money back, not to find out who wins.

Despite contriving to lose 1-0 at home to Blackburn yesterday, Villa have finished sixth in the Premier League again, just like we did the last two seasons. We’ve been aided by Hicks and Gillett putting the LOL in Liverpool, but Tottenham and Manchester City have been more of a threat than previously, so it’s been slightly harder to finish sixth this time. We’ve achieved that because money has gone into the team. Despite Barry’s departure, it’s a better squad with a more solid defence and more dimensions to its play. So we’ve spent money to stand still. We’ve spent more money on the same thing. And does that mean it’s worth more? When do we get that money back, exactly?

Scudamore seems to live in a world where the people who put the money in don’t expect to get it back, or if they don’t it’s not his problem. This is, after all, the man who says Manchester United is ‘absolutely one of the best-run clubs in the world’ and finds it ‘quite hard to get animated’ that the club is in debt to hedge funds charging insane interest rates. Let’s see how many clubs go to the wall before he changes his mind, or before the Premier League changes its staff.