Mails: Heartbroken over FA’s Wembley betrayal…

Date published: Thursday 26th April 2018 2:20

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Wembley woe
So I couldn’t have today’s news pass without having my say. The news that the FA is “considering” an offer to sell Wembley is not only from a taxpayers’ perspective disgusting but from a personal level it is absolutely heart breaking.

Those of us that are old enough will remember the outrageous bureaucracy and frankly inexcusable delays that were involved with the building of the new Wembley. We were sold lies on costs, creativity and completion dates day after day but because we all loved Wembley we begrudgingly accepted them believing that the new Wembley would be all that was promised and more. “The iconic towers will stay” we were told and they went. “We’ll keep the history” we were promised and it wasn’t. “It will be for the fans” we were told only for the best seats in the house to be touted out to the elite for the tidy sum of £10,000 a year. What we got was an off the shelf stadium where we were made to feel like unwelcome guests and a far from iconic lemon slice over the top.

For me, Wembley was one of the first places that I’d look forward to going to as a kid. The anticipation of the day, the excitement of that walk up to those towers and the somehow cosy but intense atmosphere in equal measure that the old Wembley had made it a place that I truly held dear to my heart. Family that have long since left this earth would take me and my sister to see Shearer et al in their prime and back then such was the feeling with the England team that a nothingy qualifier or friendly was another opportunity to spend time with family seeing some true icons of the sport.

Now I know that clubs have moved and fans have gone through heartbreak saying goodbye to their memories not just of their team but of family and friends, but if there was one constant that I thought we could all rely on it was that we’d all be able to go back to that one place where we’ve had both best and worst memories of the game with those same familiar faces. Everything has it’s price has never resonated more than today. If this deal does go through I’ll hold no ill will toward Shahid Khan. End of the day him buying the stadium didn’t kill off Wembley as the FA’s unadulterated greed and wilful blindness to what Wembley truly represents read it it’s last rites long ago. I’m sad but by no means surprised.

For me football has always been about memories, not money. I guess I’m old fashioned like that.
Anthony, Kilburn

 

Why Arsenal need the Europa League
In the 22 years that Wenger has been at Arsenal he has got to two European finals and lost both.

In that time his three chief domestic rivals have done much better. Chelsea have won the defunct Cup Winner Cup, Super cup, Champions League (with Di Matteo!) and Europa league. Liverpool have won the UEFA Cup, Champions League, 2 Super cups and are currently on for a 3rd Champions League final. Manchester United have won 2 Champions Leagues and the Europa league.

Sure Manchester City haven’t won anything in this time but equally City where in the third tier when Wenger won his first double. As for Spurs, with respect they’ve won nothing of note domestically over this time, let alone in a Europe so let’s not worry about that.

The greatest manager in British football Sir Alex talked openly about how he felt his United team under achieved in Europe. I’ve never heard Wenger talk on the subject but it must eat him insider that during his period of greatness Arsenal never won a European title. Although technically the closest was the two finals and especially 2006 where we were leading until deep into the second half. For me the one that got away was in 2004 when the ‘invincible’ uncharacteristically lost to Ranieri’s Chelsea in the quarters, had they got through they would have faced a weak Monaco team in the semi’s and potentially Mourinho’s Porto in the final. Sure it’s not a given we would have beat either of those teams but it would have been with arguably Wenger’s greatest team who were brimming with confidence.

Back to this season though, as a supposed giant club it’s crazy that we have not won anything in Europe in nearly a quarter of a century. This is the reason why Wenger and Arsenal need to win the Europa league to put us back on the map in terms of Europe.

The idea that the likes of Simone or Ancelotti would not come to the Emirates because we could not guarantee them a whopping 6 games of champions league football for one year is rubbish. This team has got into the champions league 19 out of the last 21 years. Manchester United not being there did not stop them getting Van Gaal, Mourinho or Pogba (who let’s not forget was the world’s most expensive player at the time), Klopp going to Liverpool or Conté going to Chelsea.

What makes us look unattractive is the last decade of being comprehensively out played in Europe every time we have faced a reasonably good team in a two leg tie. Reversing this and adding European silverware is what Wenger needs to achieve to change him from being a manager that was great in his first decade but poor in his second. 3 FA Cups, a couple of Community Shields, a league cup final, 8 seasons of Champions League, a second place in the Premier League (which Mourinho is now proclaiming as success) and a Europa League is not a bad decade. I know another team in North London that would be delighted with such a haul in the next ten years. However replace the Europa League trophy with another mauling in a high profile 2 legged European tie and it starts to look whole lot different…
Paul K, London

 

Stopping Liverpool
So Brian, LFC claims in this morning’s mailbox that the only thing stopping Liverpool from European glory this season…..is the injury bug”.

I don’t know about anyone else, but this is the sort of blind optimism that draws neutrals AWAY from cheering on Liverpool. And surely the fact that Liverpool’s squad is paper-thin (see Solanke/Ings as the stand-ins for any two of the attacking three), is an indictment of Klopp’s recruitment policy?

Take Bayern for example. They took to the field last night without, for varying reasons, Manuel Neuer, David Alaba, Arturo Vidal and Kingsley Coman, while both Arjen Robben and Jerome Boateng went off injured before half-time. Yet, they could still introduce €41.5m Corentin Tolisso, €25 million Thiago and a player seen as a mainstay of the German national team for years to come, Niklas Sule.

Meanwhile, the injury to Ox, a player with circa. 6 months of good form in an otherwise underwhelming career to date, to add to those of Emre Can and Adam Lallana (who has been unavailable for most of the season anyway) is seen as the “only” detriment to Liverpool bringing home the big one, and by extension a crippling blow to England in Russia as well?

Besides, I would have thought Real Madrid winning the away legs against pre-tournament favourites PSG, finalists in two of the last three years Juventus, and perennial contenders Bayern, and not even playing all that well last night, shows that they are still the team to beat.

But yeah, it’s just the injury list that will potentially deny Liverpool glory.

Don’t get ahead of yourselves yet lads. The Stadio Olimpico is like “A European night in Anfield” for every match.
Brian, (front 3 win matches, squads win trophies) Wexford

 

…I agree with Bryan. Definitely only the injury bug could prevent Liverpool from winning the Champions League.

The only possible way Real Madrid or Bayern Munich could compete is if they possess goalscorers of Jake Livermore or Solomon Rondon’s calibre. A prospect so ridiculous, I don’t know why I mention it.
Andy (may as well give them the trophy now), MUFC

 

Show some respect
For the last few years whenever English teams failed to get past the quarters it was because there are no easy games in the Premier League/the league is too intense/there are too many games.All absolute rubbish of course,funny how there was none of this talk when English teams did well from ’05-‘11.4 semi finalists in ’08 & an all English final as well as finalists in ‘07,09 & 2011.
Since 2011(bar Chelsea)English teams simply didnt perform.

Then today,Keg says City didn’t do well as the league is too easy & they don’t get enough of hard games.You can’t have it both ways.With respect,the Scottish,Port ugese,Northern Irish,Icelandic leagues are(to name a few)relatively poor leagues & you still have to be a talented,driven,committed player to get near being a pro in these leagues.Do people realise how mentally strong you need to be to become a pro in any league?There are thousands of guys who would snap you in half to get a pro contract

For people to be sneering about teams in the top leagues in Germany,England,Spain,Italy beggars belief.Guys who have made it to the very top in any country deserve admiration & plaudits.Every training session is analysed to death,every game is analysed on tv,on radio,on social media platforms & any drop in form means the player will be repaced,hit mid thirties & no matter your status,your reputation(Keano,Gerrard)clubs will show no loyalty & will show you the door.

It really grates me the lack of respect shown pro players by keyboard warriors.To sneer about “easy games” in pro sport is highly disrespectful.Opposition teams may set up wrong or naively but players still have to take advantage,they still have to be fit,talented & incisive.Keg sounds like the sort of guy who shouts at the tv with a pint of coke in 1 hand,big pack of crisps in the other while struggling to fit into his XXL jersey with his own name on the back.
Ferg, Ireland.

 

Hi Keg Baridi, Nairobi, Kenya, a few questions mate. The Mighty Man United are the only team to win at the Etihad for two years? I assume Basel don’t count because they won their in the Champs League? I also assume Liverpool don’t count because they were too recent? I’m also therefore assume Chelsea winning there last season doesn’t count because Chelsea went on to win the league so can’t have been considered Mighty as they didn’t finish nearly 20 points behind City?

Another thing, Bayern beat another German team in the Final so it figures? Doesn’t beating Juventus & Barcelona (Dortmund beat Real Madrid in the other Semi) in the quarter & semi-finals count? Obviously beating Arsenal doesn’t count though so you can have that!
John

 

Big Sam and bears
Winning in any business is complex. Not just football. Do you have the right strategy, do you have the right people to execute the strategy? Perhaps you need to completely disrupt the market, turn it on its head to win. And football is no different.

One of the wonderful things about football in the last decade or two have been some excellent books that really get under the hood – like ‘inverting the pyramid’, and ‘Soccernomics’ (itself influenced by the great ‘Moneyball.’ What they tell you is there is a lot more going on than simply having great players to win. It just after all a team game.

‘Inverting the Pyramid’ showed how astute managers looked at the current game plan and found a new, disruptive strategy to beat the then current way of playing. For England, think Sir Alf. Sure, he needed talented players but when you reach the last few rounds of a major tournament, they are all talented. So it needs more.

I read an article this morning listing all the players Sunderland acquired giving them a rating. It was interesting how a player might have performed decently for one manager but discarded by another. When you looked at it closely you could see that they were shoe-hornimg players into their desired style. Allardyce was slotting in those that could offer a solid defensive game plan, nothing more. Allardyce’s philosophy reminds me of the story of the two men in a forest that come across a bear. One gets down to lace up his runnjng shoes. The other laughs and says you can’t outrun a bear you idiot. The first one responds that he doesn’t have to outrun the bear.

That sums up Allardyce. Pick a team to play a style that bests the bottom three and you are safe. Nothing more. Unfortunately we live in an era of greater football information than ever before. Sure there is the red top, click bait dross but there are also incredible websites (like Football365) and others that get into tactics, data and much more insight. The average fan is much more aware of what is possible and that managers can make a difference beyond simply avoiding relegation at all costs. But it takes nous and it takes bravery. Sam doesn’t exhibit either of those characteristics as he is more worried about his image than the team.

Compare Allardyce to Southgate. England may not do well at the WC but it won’t be because we play two banks of four so as not to risk defeat.
Paul McDevitt

 

…A bit late to the party on this one, but is everyone aware Everton are above Leicester in the league table.

I realise Big Sam provokes quite the reaction, but maybe a little bit of credit is due….
Mick Tonks

 

 

Final straw
I’m in disbelief at the prices set for the FA Cup Final.

In 1997 I watched Kilmarnock lift the Scottish Cup alongside my dad, papa and uncle. It is comfortably the greatest day I’ve ever had courtesy of football. That the FA seems OK about prohibiting similar family experiences is just sad.

If anyone would like to leave a note for the FA, however trivial and ineffective it might be, head here.
Doug, Glasgow

 

More ticket woes
I’d like to share my thoughts on the state of ticketing in football, specifically at Liverpool FC. Apologies in advance, its quite the essay!

Before anyone screams I’m some capitalist pig encouraging the club to increase ticket prices as a solution and, therefore, marginalising the working-class man who represents the identity of our support – I’m not! I totally get there must be a balance; football at its core should be an everyman’s sport and, in an era of corporate hospitality-this and global sponsorship-that, it is essential that we don’t forget the roots of the game and ensure it is available to all that want to consume it. But still, something must change.

Let me start with some context; I used to live in the UK and regularly attended games at Anfield, either through a regular match ticket at face value for the smaller games against the so-called “lesser” teams, or through hospitality for the bigger games. All this officially through the club.

I now live in Kenya (beautiful country, thoroughly recommend a visit!) but am fortunate enough to visit the UK several times a year, at times even planning my travel around games. However, since I no longer have regular attendance on my member’s card, purchasing tickets officially through the club is next to impossible. And so, what choice does a boyhood Red have when all he wants to do is sit under the lights of Anfield in a Champions League Semi Final and sing his heart out while his team play some scintillating football? Of course, get a ticket by any means necessary (caveat: no violence, no theft)! Which brings me to the subject of this letter.

Touting is illegal, but it is flourishing. The progression of technology, specifically the internet and social media, has meant that your average tout can now ply their trade online with the protection of anonymity behind a computer screen. Websites such as Ticketbis and FootballTicketNet provide a platform for willing buyer – willing seller; flogging their tickets at ridiculous prices that obviously some suckers (including this writer) are willing to pay. These prices obviously vary in multiples, from 2.5-3 times face value for games against your Stokes and Brightons, to 7-8 times face value for your Chelseas and Man Uniteds, to 20-100 times face value (yes – you read that correctly!) for your Champions League Semi Finals/Finals.

Extortion, I hear you say! Well, yes but the Beautiful Game has become a global product, consumed by the millions. The Premier League is at the centre of that, and TV Rights deals alone give an indication of just how valuable a product it is the world over. Couple that with how easy it is to be a football fan, wherever in the world you live, there is now a growing hype around experiencing it. Just like when you go to Paris, you want to get to Disneyland (if you have kids anyway). It’s similar with Football – when you get to the UK, you want to experience a European Night at Anfield, or go watch Mo Salah play. Yes, some of these fans aren’t the most passionate and may contribute little to the atmosphere, but should that restrict them from attending games? Are they not just an innocent by-product of the globalisation of football? Imagine being told you can’t get tickets to Disneyland because you’re only interested in Mickey and Minnie, or can’t sing any of the Disney tunes? I digress.

Coming back to touted ticket prices; whether that’s their life savings to attend one game or they’re the Warren-Buffet types and money is no object, there are obviously people willing to pay these prices to watch a Liverpool game. The aforementioned technology has meant that these ticketing touts now have global reach; whereas before you’d have to take a gamble, go all the way to Liverpool and plod the streets in the hope of finding a ticket (note: its pretty easy); now you can simply go online, enter your hotel information and payment details and BOOM, £600 quid later, you’re sitting in some restricted-view seat in the top-left corner of the Annie-Road end watching little red dots run around with what you assume is a ball trying to score in a net that for at least 45 mins, you’ll take the word of the rest of the stadium has gone in until the guy on the PA system can verify!

Just skim through review sites like TrustPilot about peoples’ experiences of these touting websites and you’ll see how unregulated, uncontrolled – almost a gamble this industry is. If you understand how they work, and set your expectations correctly, they’re not half-bad. Yet, given my circumstances (and I’m sure there are many more out there in a similar position) they’re the only realistic hope of getting a ticket and so I’ve made my peace with them. But having to take a taxi 2 miles to pick up your tickets (at your own cost), ridiculous seats for what you’re paying, customer service that doesn’t even pick up the phone – these are the norm with these sites, and hundreds if not thousands of people are experiencing this on a weekly basis. I’ve been fortunate not to ever have received fake tickets or no tickets at all, but that is another real risk. (That, and you don’t get refunded despite these websites giving you 125% money back guarantees!)

As much as I love my club, this problem primarily stems from them and the ticketing policy. Obviously, there are not enough tickets to furnish the demand and so supply is constrained. This aspect isn’t the clubs fault – and a new stadium with even 50,000 – 100,000 more seats still probably wouldn’t fix that. But with this big a gap between supply and demand, it should be the club’s responsibility that those tickets they are selling are going to people who will be genuinely attending the game.

I’m no expert on this, but I can claim to have some perspective. My two cents is that the solution has to tackle two key problems:

Eradicating the secondary ticket market – this is simple in principle but tough, though not impossible, in execution. Clubs would have to personalise all tickets with a form of the buyers’ identification, and restrict entrance into the stadium on verification of that ID. Whether that’s a fingerprint reader or someone checking your ticket against a form of ID a-la getting into a nightclub – this would eradicate the majority of sales through the secondary market. Furthermore, season ticket holders with members’ cards should be restricted to who or how many times they can sell their cards.
Enabling fair and wider access to tickets for all, especially irregular fans – These are the enablers of the secondary market; the willing buyers (suckers)! The logic should be to enable as many people to buy as possible, and to price as fairly, but as ruthlessly as possible. It could even mean the club creates its own secondary market, but managed so it’s fair and transparent which touting is not. Some simple suggestions that could be explored – allocation of say, 250 tickets, to the 250 highest bidders through an auction, or allocation of a few season tickets to fan clubs from other cities/around the world (we have an official one – KopKenya – here in Nairobi), or even an allocation of tickets only sold on match day at the ticket office.
The list goes on but I’m sure there are more able people around who can come up with a proper system behind this; but the point remains that the current ticketing policies and processes have not kept up with both technological advancements and the globalisation of football. Change is needed, and it certainly needs to be drastic. But it is with a glimmer of hope that I believe we can be influencers and the pioneers of change, bringing an end to the horrible, extortionate world of ticket touting. I am more than happy to play my part, but the club have to show a commitment to meet us halfway. Until that happens, they can’t expect me to stop buying tickets from touts, online or in-person, when it’s the only I was able to watch the Champions League semi final vs Roma under the lights of Anfield! ALLEZ ALLEZ ALLEZ
Billz, LFC (holy f**k, we could actually win it you know!), Nairobi

 

Lookalikes
Just wanted to put forward my two cents for the now-regular F365 feature, ‘Who does Eusebio Di Francesco look like?’.

I caught a glimpse of him while catching up on the match highlights and my thought was “The guy from The Shape of Water (the old beardy guy, not the fish) playing Kurt Wagner in a Lambchop tribute act.”
Dan, (The Shape of Water is basically a more explicit Free Willy, isn’t it?) Brighton

 

 


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