Sepp Blatter has obviously never been to London Road on a wet and windy Tuesday evening to watch Peterborough United play. If he had, he’d realise 15 minutes is more than ample for anyone to stand on the terraces during halftime as inane announcements crackle over the PA system and a group of 11-year-old girls twirl batons in the air. This week the FIFA president, and football’s most powerful man announced his next plan to “improve” the game: adding an extra five minutes to the quarter of an hour break. How, exactly, will this benefit the game?
The official party line coming out of FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich is that the proposal is designed to help the players, and give them an extra few minutes to recuperate, especially in the bigger arenas where walking from the dressing rooms in the bowels of the stadium to the pitch can be a bit of a hike.
It would also give the prawn sandwich brigade an additional five minutes in hospitality to quaff another glass of champers and give them ample time to get back from the radiators of the hospitality area to their seats. They’ll probably be the only fans likely to see any benefit to the proposed scheme that is one of seven new rule changes on the agenda at the International FA Board meeting in Belfast next month.
Indubitably it as a plan to milk yet more revenue out of the game to swell FIFA’s coffers. That extra five minutes is worth millions in revenue to advertisers.
Two years ago in Johannesburg at a Soccerex meeting – the sport’s largest business-to-business shindig, Blatter spoke of “selling the product” of football and said the world’s most popular game “has been developed with television and its second big partner is what are generally called sponsors, but which we call partners.
“We want to have partners in our game, and everybody is involved in give and take.”
You give them an extra five minutes, Sepp, they give FIFA a few million.
Will the move even benefit fans at home? An extra five minutes of beer adverts or chocolate bar commercials of children twitching their eyebrows in no way whatsoever brings anything to anyone’s viewing pleasure. Do we want an extra five minutes of Mark Lawrenson on the BBC at halftime spouting bollocks?
It doesn’t even bear thinking about.
Vehemently against the proposal, the Football Association are treading a political tightrope with their bid for the 2018 World Cup and all a spokesman would say was that “it is very unlikely we will be supporting it in the discussions next week.”
It was a statement echoed by the Premier League’s chief executive Richard Scudamore who stated that “it is all very well for a percentage of people who can escape back into the warm and do various things in that time and I am sure it has got some merits somewhere but I think we support the Football Supporters’ Federation [who were also against it] here.”
Not many Peterborough United fans will be grateful for watching an extra five minutes of standing in the cold while Peter Burrow, a man in a giant rabbit costume evidently with no shame, gets penalty kicks fired at him by spotty kids in the hope of winning a prize.
Even if Blatter’s half-baked idea is for altruistic reasons of benefiting the players, it just simply won’t work. The players need to keep active during the break and, yes, it’s only an extra few minutes, but every little helps. Five minutes could result in an injury.
There’s also the issue of players’ motivation. The line between success and failure is so fine that managers are going to find it hard to keep their team pumped up for 20 minutes in the dressing room.
The only side to benefit is the one coming in under the cosh – it takes the heat off them.
Although it probably will never come into fruition, if it did it would be the sponsors and FIFA who would be the real winners.
It isn’t the first time the madcap president has had a case of verbal diarrhoea. Barmy Blatter’s other suggestions have for improving the game have included introducing four quarters rather than two halves, having two referees and using bigger goals.
Sepp, take five before you open your mouth in future.