While I’ve already voiced my feeling on the recent crackdown on Premier League highlights, the more I’ve thought about it and considered the contrasting (and intelligent) points of views offered, the angrier I’ve actually gotten about the whole thing.
I’ve exbounded on my ruminations in comments both here and over at David J. Warner’s blog at AOL Fanhouse, but want to bring them together in one post and cogitate on the matter some more. I think what bothers me the most about the Premier League tight-fisted video stance is that its merely symptomatic of the ceaseless mistreatment of Fans.
The marriage of commerce and sport is nothing new. The struggle between the two is been around for decades, is well-documented and has probably even become passe, even grudingly and/or commonly accepted here in the United States. Yet, apathy towards a concept doesn’t particularly mean that concept is well-conceived or even welcomed.
While I certainly believe in capitalism and a free-market economy, I also believe that business is not strictly numbers in red and black ink, but should take into account the very human aspect that goes along with it. This isn’t the NASDAQ; millions of shares of coporations aren’t being exchanged electronically in the blink of an eye for the sole purpose of profit. This is a game. It’s a sport that’s followed by people with emotions, who for better or worse, are emotionally tied to their favorite clubs. They exude a passion you don’t get from a Bear Stearns analyst talking about the effect sub-prime loans are having on the bond market.
While we can accept that the sport has become Big Business (‘big’ being an understatement), the fact remains that it’s not ALL Big Business. It’s no secret that the Premier League is currently experiencing a boon like never before. Billions of pounds are following in their (and the clubs’) coffers from the new global television deals. That’s right, television deals. Who watches footy on the television? The Fans do, that’s who.
This ‘business’ still all revolves around a game being played and the Fan rooting that team on. What happens when the Fan doesn’t root the club on? History is littered with enough deceased teams and leagues to answer that question a thousand times over.
Contractual obligations aside, WE (the fans) built the game, WE support the game, WE are the ones who drive the market and it’s US who truly OWN the game. At the base of the problem, I believe, is the continued explotation of the Fan (in all aspects, from TV to merchandise to ticket prices) when it is the Fan who is central to EVERYTHING. The Fan is the Alpha and the Omega and yet are treated as a renewable resource which can be continually consumed and spat back out once they’ve been relieved of their value. And the sad thing is, we allow ourselves to be continually subjugated by the very people who should be answering to us.
The Premier League will struggle to acquit itself of these types of charges as its hands are now stained with blood (as in ‘blood money’) from recent Tevez/Joorabchian/West Ham transfer debacle and the Thaksin/Man City take-over. More than ever, its become blatantly apparent that those in charge of the game do not have its best interests at heart. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, as they’re only following the lead of uber-corrupt FIFA, but they truly are in it ‘For the Love of the Money’ not ‘For the Love of the Game’.
But, the money men will never see it this way. You see, they’re (and I’m grouping everybody together here… the PL, the satellite providers, the flagship websites, etc.) doing us a favor by bringing us the game we love, in high defintion and with the lastest trends and state-of-the-art production value, for an incredibly affordable price. They’re not interested in profits, they’re much more concerned about customer service and making sure the masses are placated. Surely they can’t be blamed for trying to help us, can they?
As a wise man once said, “Bitch, please!”
So that brings us back to martial law now being imposed on internet soccer videos. Instead of fighting against the quick peep shows that video highlights are, how ingenious would it be if the Premier League and its partners were to harness the power of the YouTube/DailyMotion-type sites and the immeasurable blogosphere for their own good? Seems to me, that by continuing to allow bloggers to promote your league, games and players, you’re basically securing a remarkably extensive public relations workforce to create a viral marketing campaign for FREE.
NBC learned their lesson the hard way by initially dragging their feet and stubbornly refusing to allow clips of their shows on YouTube until they realized the ground (i.e. profits) they were losing by keeping small tastes of what they had to offer from the masses. Eventually, they wised up and joined the crowd. David J. Warner makes a great point about MLS having its own YouTube station and how Comedy Central created an online video site which allows its ‘product’ to be used (i.e. marketed) by MySpace users, bloggers and their brethren.
Shuttering access in this specific way demonstrates a complete disregard for any understanding of what actually makes the sport (any sport) great – the Fans. And it’s those Fans who can help market the game (and grow profits) in emerging markets if the Premier League, its peers and all their associates exercise some fucking foresight.
The Premier League and their contemporaries need to wake the fuck up. Asia and America are two cash cows ready for the milking, but going about growing the ‘brand’ with such archaic measures as cracking the internet whip isn’t going to be nearly as effective. People can drone on about copyright infringement and the PL’s responsibility to protect those contracts until they’re blue in the face; but simply put, it would be much better for business (as in Big Business) the grip was loosened and the money men learned to go with the (information) flow instead of struggling against the rising tide. Surely, we’re consumers, but we’re not victims. There is no reason we have to share our sport completely on their terms.
It’s better to do it with us, than against us. And by ‘us’, I mean the Fans. It’s time you realize that fundamentally, when the rest of the fat is rendered, WE are at the very center of it all. We are the soul. Continue your malapropism and you may finally find out just how crucial and influential we are to your bottom line, to your business, which is OUR SPORT and OUR LOVE.
Can you hear me all the way up there in that ivory tower?
What’s that? It may be ‘our game’, but they’re ‘your broadcasts?’ and ‘your millions of dollars spent in making it possible’?
I forget, who made all this possible? Do sporting events who don’t have any spectators get much airtime?
This is probably cliche and completely unoriginal, but I’ve always loved this speech and the following video clip is simply too perfect not to incorporate….
(NetResult & Premier League, what do you think the chances are that somebody will buy or rent a copy of ‘Network’ after seeing this? I say ‘pretty fucking good’.)
I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!
So, what now?
If we were talking about a grocery store brand, I’d say switch to a competitor. Maybe it would be time to explore the Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A, Dutch Eredivisie in greater depth. It certainly would make me a better football fan.
But, such a suggestion is foolhardy. Nobody, even me, is going to abandon their beloved club just because they can’t watch free highlights whereever and whenever they want.
Instead, I propose this; write to the Premier League… firstname.lastname@example.org
30 Gloucester Place
Write to their henchmen at NetResult… email@example.com
583 Fulham Road
Write the business end of your club, who are shareholders in the Premier League.
Tell them all exactly what you think. Give them all the negative press they deserve. (It’s not the same as badmouthing the players or the footballing side of your club) Tell them what you think and what you want. Rally against this bullshit. Continue to raise your voice.
This isn’t just about 60-second internet highlights. This is about OUR game and the way it’s being treated. We should demand concessions. We should demand more value for our hard-earned money which we see fit to spend on the sport we love. We should refuse to continue to play the silent victim.
Regardless of the outcome, despite the fact that change happens in tiny increments, it’s time to make our voices heard. For too long we’ve just bent over and taken it. I’m quite sure plenty of others have previously been on this soapbox and used some of the very same words as I have. Maybe nothing has changed, maybe nothing ever will. But I have to believe that although it may be a losing battle, it’s certainly one worth fighting.
This is our fucking game and it’s time to reclaim it.
In you’re so inclined, please feel free to repost this (with proper credit) or link to it.