Thursday, October 16, 2014

Premier League pricing, Guardiola opens up, farewell Big Boss and hello new Vélodrome

Stefan Szyminski, joint author of Soccernomics/Why England Lose, the Freakonomics of football, believes Premier League ticket prices are merely keeping up with rising demand and are not therefore intrinsically overpriced, as many have argued.

"Most clubs are constrained by capacity and many games are sold out," he says in his webpage, "so extra demand is choked off by raising prices".

Wrong Stefan - demand is not choked off and prices do not automatically have to rise to keep up with it. Rather, English football has been exploiting the unique brand loyalty that is supporting a team ever since the Premier League turned clubs into rapacious capitalists. A true club does not exploit its own members.

If demand is rising because England teams are now full of foreign stars, whose elephantine wages come from increased ticket costs rather than TV money, now that is another argument. But it is highly unlikely fans enjoy paying ever-larger sums for the product, to use that awful word, well aware that similar leagues or entertainment options come much cheaper.

The correlation between increasing attendance and rising ticket costs is not a simple economic equation of cold, hermetically-sealed logic.

Football fans are more like devout churchgoers than pure brand-comparing customers whose choices come more from the head than the heart. It would be convenient if a cradle-to-grave, die-hard Arsenal follower could swap the Gunners tomorrow in favour of say, the more affordable Barnet F.C. up the road, but fandom does not work like that. That paradox allows irresponsible club owners to exploit supporters with ease.

There is no reason why English football clubs could not sell more reasonably-priced tickets. When I was a teenager our clubs dominated Europe while charging prices kids could afford. They still charge sensibly in the Bundesliga after all and their league appears to be in pretty good health, with the highest attendances in the world to boot.

Szymanski retorts however that German tickets are too cheap and in some cases fuel a black market, as if no such touting exists in England. In other words, the market must rule, end of story.

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A new book on Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich is released today, penned by Catalan journalist Marti Pernanau.

An aura surrounds the former Barça manager, for that golden team he forged in the Cantera of the Camp Nou, and it no surprise to learn he was snowed in by job offers during his year-long self-imposed exile in New York City.

Alex Ferguson wined and dined him, Roman Abramovich courted him for Chelsea of course, but he agreed to coach Bayern from the 2013-'14 season back in 2012. It
seems the best fit for him.

Elsewhere, Guardiola curiously lambasts tiki-taka as a "useless" way of playing and calls Bayern's mauling by Real Madrid in last season's Champions League "the biggest f*ck-up of my career."

Extrapolating, he says that possession for possession's sake is pointless unless it leads to a goal and that Barcelona's pretty passing had a clear purpose in moving the majority of their team into the opponents' final third.

Once that has occurred, "The secret is to overload one side of the pitch so that the opponent tilts his defence to cope,"says Guardiola. "And when we've done all that, we attack and score from the other side."

Thus far, his reputation as a miracle worker remains intact and he remains the most sought-after manager in world soccer, but aged only 43, the Catalan still has a long way to go in coaching.

Having bagged two Champions Leagues, two Club World Cups, three Spanish league titles and two Spanish Cups by the age of 40, creating what some said was the greatest team of all time, has he already achieved too much, too soon?

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Stephen Keshi has been fired as Nigeria coach. 'Big Boss' won the 2013 African Cup of Nations for Nigeria and became the first African coach to take a team to the knock-out s
tages of the World Cup Finals this year, where the Super Eagles lost 2:0 to France.

One point from three games in qualifying for 2015's African Cup of Nations and an ongoing wage dispute with the federations led to the parting of ways. Shaibu Amodu takes over the national team for the fourth time.

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Keir Radnedge reports that former FIFA Executive Committee member, head of the Brazilian Football Confederation and bribe-taker extraordinaire Ricardo Texeira could be heading back to football if his pal wins the forthcoming Brazilian presidential election. God help us...

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The new Stade Vélodrome opens in Marseille today (pic from Marvellous Provence), with a capacity of 67,000 ready for Euro 2016.

OM's ground is one of world football's most distinctive arenas. Let's hope the new home keeps its spirit alive.


-Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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