Saturday 18 November 2017

Some things matter more than the advance of corporate forces

Dion Fanning

Garry Cook is irreplaceable. Even now we pine for him as Manchester City reveal that their investigation into the Carlos Tevez affair concludes that, yes, Carlos Tevez has a case to answer.

Cook would have brought a certain panache to these proceedings, a corporate otherness that few can match.

There are some who are trying to break away in this competitive field. Daniel Levy will always be there or thereabouts and a personal favourite is Adrian Bevington.

Bevington is managing director of Club England. I have no idea what Club England is but I would like to think it grants access to a lounge with a strict sports casual dress code where men banter endlessly about their golf swing. The FA website explains Club England. Naturally, it has a role.

"Club England's role is to develop a strong, consistent approach across England's 24 representative teams including men's, women's, youth and disability sides." This doesn't bode well.

"In other words," the website drones on, "it is set up to create a 'Club Culture'." Which club it doesn't say. Presumably not the kind of club where one of the players shoots an air rifle at somebody on work experience or where the captain sleeps with the ex-girlfriend of a former-team-mate. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Bevington, I now know, is the top man in this structure. "All team operations, security and medical staff merged and reporting into the Club England Managing Director Adrian Bevington, who in turn reports directly to The FA General Secretary Alex Horne."

If this bullshit was drawn up on the back of a cigarette packet by a man in a cab on the way home at the end of a long day following a trying week when his dog had died and his wife had run off with the vet who failed to save the dog then you might think it was worth trying for a couple of weeks. If only out of pity.

But when it is the undoubted result of a new over-arching strategy formed following extensive consultation with focus groups who appreciate the desire for a unified vision going forward then it becomes part of the insidious advance by things that don't matter into things that do.

Liverpool's Ian Ayre joined this race last week when he suggested that clubs strike their own television deal on the overseas markets. He clarified his comments yesterday saying he wanted a debate about the distribution of overseas tv money not a breakaway.

Earlier in the week, Ayre enrolled the laws of the market to make his point. The logic of the market says that nobody in Asia wants to watch Bolton-Wigan, they want to see Liverpool-Manchester United. This may well be true.

Of course, we have all been driven down by the relentless and cold logic of the markets. The markets are logical all of the time. They are unrelenting in their logic, irrefutable and pure in their logic. They have broken down logic into a hundred million pieces but it always lacks humanity and it has destroyed the world.

"If Real Madrid or Barcelona or other big European clubs have the opportunity to truly realise their international media value potential," Ayre said, showing he had absorbed the nuances of language they teach at Corporate school, "where does that leave Liverpool and Manchester United? We'll just share ours because we'll all be nice to each other?"

Barcelona and Real Madrid's refusal to be nice is destroying Spanish football. Liverpool know there are times when being nice, to use that offensive word, or respectful or knowledgeable, matters.

If financial logic was the only consideration then they would already be sharing a new stadium with Everton. But Liverpool fans rightly object to that proposal as it would violate the history of the two clubs and in football, unlike in business, history matters.

Liverpool are trying to find ways to catch up. Ayre has been a vocal supporter of UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations and Liverpool want to take advantage of their own strengths. They have a lot of catching up to do.

This is Liverpool's problem. The club whose shop stayed shut the day after Istanbul is now trying to behave like all the rest. Last week they succeeded. Ian Ayre sounded like Levy or Cook and in doing so showed that Liverpool have come a long way.

Ayre is a man who was exposed to George Gillett and Tom Hicks, or their deeds, on a daily basis. He was a man who, along with Christian Purslow and Martin Broughton, defied the owners of the club and saved it from destruction

Ayre did even more because, as John Henry revealed last week, he also went on to rescue Liverpool from Purslow's greatest mistake, the appointment of Roy Hodgson.

Ayre, Henry revealed, encouraged Kenny Dalglish's appointment when they were unsure.

Ayre has seen what can happen to a club when it's torn apart by speculators and this sense of injustice might drive him to ensure it never happens again. Ayre may also feel that after all he's been through he's entitled to some offensive behaviour of his own.

So he made his statement, perhaps to out others on their toes, undoubtedly aware that he'd never receive the backing of the 14 clubs in the Premier League who'd want to make the change.

They aren't thinking of the greater good but their own needs as are clubs like Chelsea and Man City who know they don't have the global popularity of Liverpool.

Ayre joined this battle of self-interest and remarkably many Liverpool fans supported him, dismissing notions of the collective as a failed philosophy when what they really meant was it had failed them. Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United had more money and they had more success. They believed in the market even if the market didn't always believe in them.

Ayre sounded like all the rest. He made his soothing noises in the numbing language of Corporatespeak, a language that means nothing and everything. It is deathless prose and a lifeless philosophy. Going forward, it will destroy us all.

dfanning@independent.ie

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