When football was invented in 1992 by a brave, visionary group of television executives, none of them could possibly have foreseen the juncture at which we now find ourselves, on the cusp of the sixteenth season of what those founding fathers lovingly called ‘the Premiership’.
Looking back on those days is like watching footage of the Wright Brothers first successful flight: how did this unlikely contraption, firstly, stay airborne, and then, eventually, soar?
Back in 1992 most of the early footballers were actually British or Irish, and all the clubs were owned by British people – sounds ridiculous, I know, but check the record books if you don’t believe me.
Quite how the humble but ambitious TV men persuaded millions to watch what must have been horrifyingly unsophisticated football, practised by podgy, ale-quaffing Brits rather than lithe, pasta-slurping foreigners is unfathomable now.
But here we are, 15 years later, and this thing called football is better than ever. We know this because the TV people (now called Sky) are paying £1.314 billion of lovely cash to show it to us, and other TV people called Setanta are paying £392 million to show us even more of it, and people from foreign places (where the footballers come from) are paying £625 million to show it to other people from foreign places (presumably so they can learn how to be footballers when they grow up).
Some people – you can’t please everyone! – don’t like how great football is now. They think it’s a bad thing that, say, Pol Pot, could, of an afternoon, after a morning spent pottering around massacring a few hundred thousand bourgeois intellectuals, fetch up with his life savings and buy himself an Everton or a Derby County.
A bad thing? They wouldn’t be saying that when Pol Pot’s investment secures a tidy little £16 million deal with add-ons for Steed Malbranque!
Some people – honestly, I know, but we live in a democracy, what can you do? – don’t like how all the lovely footballers get all the lovely cash. Duh, hello? Have you seen Footballers Cribs? How could you possibly expect Robbie Savage to maintain that wonderful home on anything less than £40,000 a week?
Could Sheree Murphy have had that 360 degree mirror in her downstairs toilet on an Emmerdale salary, without Harry Kewell chipping in with the few quid for housekeeping?
Some of these people – were Pol Pot’s methods so wrong? – even think that the TV people put too much football on, which is ridiculous, given that a) as we know, the TV people invented football, you cricket-loving pinkos, so they can do what they like!…..and b) have you seen the telly lately? It’s rubbish! Even Big Brother is crap this year. And it’s either that or bloody CSI! More football please!
Yes indeed, fifteen years on from the birth of football, and what a fine young adolescent it has become! Not surly, irresponsible, strange-smelling, pock-marked with unsightly boils, vaguely repulsive and utterly self-centred like many other adolescents at all.
Oh no, not at all.
Tommy Martin is the editor of the excellent blog Tom’s Sporting Almanac