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27 February 2019

With the Prem feeling the pinch, it’s time to monetise everything – even players’ tattoos

The clubs are clearly struggling. I was shocked when they only managed to give retiring chairman Richard Scudamore £5m as a parting present. Cheapskates.

By Hunter Davies

I feel we have got to get behind the Premier League and help it make more money. It is our duty, as fans. The clubs are clearly struggling. I was shocked when they only managed to give retiring league chairman Richard Scudamore £5m as a parting present. What sort of gift is that? Cheapskates.

And I do feel sorry for Man United, once the world’s richest club. They have dropped to number three, behind Real Madrid and Barcelona, earning only €666m last year. What use is that?

No wonder poor old José moaned all the time about his rubbish players and not being allowed to buy any decent new ones, boo hoo.

And do a spare a tear for Mauricio Pochettino – he has not been able to buy a new player since, oh God, for ever. Arsenal and Chelsea are much the same. Pep Guardiola, last season the best manager of the best team, says he needs more money to compete with the really, really best teams – Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus, top dogs in Europe for ten years.

The Prem is watched by 4.7 billion people in 185 countries and in 25 years the net worth of the league’s 20 clubs has increased from £50m to £10bn today. Piddling figures, no wonder they want more.

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As for the players, how can a Prem player survive on a measly £350,000 a week? Or a chief executive rub along on £2m a year? No wonder cries for help ring out from all the Prem clubs. Hence I have been lying awake thinking of things they might do.

1) Turn themselves into charities. Then get a slot on the Radio 4 Appeal on Sunday morning. Don’t forget to write “Save the Prem” on the back of the envelope.

2) Sponsored tattoos. All that body space on the pitch, a lot of it still blank. Beckham has covered every inch of his lovely skin but many of our current players are still practically naked. We know that their bodies are owned by the clubs, which can buy and sell them, and so could easily sell advertising space on their best players. Then, when the players go down in agony, the stretchers rush on and the cameras linger on their naked thigh, we will see in close-up BET WITH LADBROKES! When a player has to change his torn shorts on the touchline, we often get a quick glimpse of his bum (Ohh, Ivy). In future, each cheek will exhort us to VISIT RWANDA.

3) Drink socks. You might not have noticed but a new fashion, started by Kyle Walker, is for players to cut holes in the back of their stockings. The players have incredible calves (do sit down Ivy) and in the heat of the game, their socks become uncomfortable, getting tighter and tighter. Hence cutting little holes in them to let the air in. It has led to a small army of Filipina women in the depths of each stadium, who usually do eyebrow threading, cutting holes in all the football socks. At the moment, the holes are being wasted. Obviously true fans will rush to buy a smoothie drink made out of the holes. Or at Arsenal, vegan soup.

4) Turning stadiums into advertising hoardings. It is pathetic, really, how little advertising there is inside our grounds. Those flashing electronic advertising boards around the sides of the pitches are only about four feet high – enough though, to annoy fans and distract players if the advert is the same colour as their team shirts. I always assumed these electric boards must cost a fortune, but during the FA Cup fourth round, even lowly Accrington Stanley had them. Much better to turn the whole stadium into a giant screen and get rid of all the seats. Wow, the money that could be made. Think of Old Trafford, towering into the sky, with no people, just commercials. Fans are such a waste of space and time, having to provide them with lavs, and listen to their boring chants and occasional booing.

The global audience, in those 185 countries, will still get the game itself, with sound effects added, plus monster advertising. Which, after all is the point of modern football. To make more and more money. 

This article appears in the 27 Feb 2019 issue of the New Statesman, How Brexit broke politics