Monday, 2 February 2015

Sky's Game

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big supporter of democracy - but even when the change.org website, where people can set up petitions whose issues will be discussed in parliament if they reach a certain number of signatures, was introduced, I dreaded being presented with links for pointless and ridiculous issues that aren’t really important.  Sky Sports have got into the act by using the website to promote its bi-annual coverage of transfer deadline day. Over 10,000 people have already signed it. The cause? Make the day a bank holiday, so people don’t have to work and can tune in to watch excitable be-suited men and their good-looking android companions (that Sky seem to have an endless production line of) giving us ‘transfer updates’ as young men’s careers are gambled with by clubs who want that extra player for the last few months of the season. The players may get their dream moves, but it’s really the media and agents who are the ultimate winners – Christmas is three times a year for them it seems. Of course it's only a jest, they aren't being serious, but it just sums up their promotional tactics, using a website that has hundreds of worthwhile (and genuine) causes that need signatures.

The hypocritical thing is though, I’ll probably tune in to a bit of it just to see Sky trying their best to whip up interest and non-stories, amongst the rareness of actual news. It’s event telly - something which the likes of Big Brother can’t match for excitement. This is a big transfer window for Wigan Athletic and yet, you can argue that not doing proper scouting and gambling with players is one of the major reasons why we’re struggling at the moment. The club may have panicked, but they’ve panicked because there isn’t enough time and that, is solely because of the transfer window. One of the most attractive aspects of the event, is seeing the general public make a nuisance of the day. Be it people tweeting and texting false rumours, to seeing them take the mickey out of reporters during a live broadcast from outside a training ground. Sadly, Sky have recently taken the decision to stop reporters from reporting near supporters, stood outside (who of course, they never encouraged to turn up in the first place) after a number of high-profile incidents (most notably, one reporter getting a dildo-in-the-ear last August), so is it even worth a watch anymore?

There have been calls from inside the game that the deadline should be abolished. Previously, the old deadline used to be around March, giving clubs the vast majority of the season to construct their squads and take their time (and actually properly scout) before signing a player. Instead we get a mad rush of business at the end of January, as some clubs probably overspend and gamble, putting their futures at risk. With all sensible ideas, I think the idea of changing the current window will get pushed to the back of the dusty shelf, as the media will continue to consume football and people will continue to be attracted to it, their views being shaped by the media's vision of the game, rather than by their own volition. I think that’s incredibly sad, as we have a generation that are now reliant on these media events for their football knowledge – many of these people can’t afford to go and see their teams play, so have to turn to television and the internet. How much the fault of this is Sky and the media, or the greed of the clubs, is probably equal - but you can trace the genesis back to the advent of the Premier League and the involvement of Sky Sports - and instead of helping the game to develop for the people who love it, it has helped to price them out (but it’s okay – they can watch it on their telly!)

It’s not been going all Sky’s way though - the continuing growth of BT Sport is making them feel uncomfortable no doubt, and their last ‘promotion’, ‘SkyBet Transfer Fund’, ended in farce when a club with a transfer embargo was declared the winner. They can spend the ‘transfer funds’ on wages though, so it’s all fine. You get the feeling that Sky need a big transfer window (more so than Wigan Athletic) to try and drum up interest of their coverage of football for the reminder of the season. Unrelated to the transfer window, I think there’s another question to ask, as to why a betting company (which is a subsidiary that is owned by a company that also screens the games) should be allowed to sponsor The Football League, as well as offer one football club extra funds. Naturally, this has been swept under the carpet.

Democracy? It’s not for everybody it seems.