Fire up the Bentley, pop open the Cristal, build a basement extension all the way down to the molten centre of the earth, because the greatest show on earth just got five billion quid greater.
“It’s obscene!” a cabbie told me on Wednesday. “It’s disgusting!” my barber said yesterday. (“The trouble with the world,” someone definitely once said, even if neither I nor Google can remember who, “is that all the people who know how to run it are driving our taxis and cutting our hair.”)
There have been a few uncommitted murmurings, in the wake of the news that Sky and BT Sport have parted with a full £5.1bn for the privilege of broadcasting three seasons’ worth of Premier League football, about the money going on reducing ticket prices and on grassroots football, and some even more uncommitted pledges that this money won’t just go straight into the obscene, disgusting pockets of the obscene, disgusting players. Except, of course, it definitely will, and maybe, just maybe, quite right too.
This latest, overwhelmingly huge number to dominate both the front and back pages of the newspapers has led to all the old arguments being trotted out again, about a return to the good old days, when it cost less than the price of a cup of tea to jam into the death-trap terraces in order to cheerfully beat the crap out of one another, before Rupert Murdoch came along with his satellite dishes and connived a way to turn the nation’s favourite sport into his own personal, gigantic, rustling money nest.
Football very obviously is not perfect, and we’ll come on to that shortly, but one clear injustice in it all is the recasting of the Premier League footballer as the nation’s favourite pantomime villain.
There he is, with his blacked-out Bugatti and fist-sized wristwatch, stuck in his Beats by Dre world, hiding behind sunglasses that cost more than your summer holiday. What do they know of the world, these young men who earn in a nanosecond what an NHS nurse could make only if she carries on working after the collapse of the sun?
More than most, actually. These are the extraordinarily talented men who have made it to the very top of the toughest and most ruthless meritocracy out there.
Yes, they just kick a ball about, but they deserve it.
Why do so few posh people make it as footballers? Because it doesn’t matter who you are or who you know. It matters solely how good you are. Even Johan Cruyff’s son, and Sir Alex Ferguson’s, got found out in the end and there was nothing anyone could do to help them.
Remember that bloke who turned up at Southampton pretending to be George Weah’s cousin, and having effectively invented the airshot header was laughed off the pitch within 15 minutes?
In any other walk of life, it’s idiots like that, with the right connections and a bit of brass neck but no talent whatsoever, who are running the world.
If the planet’s mega footballers don’t act with the unctuous entitled discretion of someone born on 300 grand a week, then good for them.
And in the great international Premier League, there are near countless tales of unimaginable hardship that their idle detractors couldn’t care less about.
Look at Diego Costa, or Alexis Sanchez, propelled from unimaginable poverty to unimaginable wealth by talent alone, young boys who grew up knowing football was their only way out. They know infinitely more about hardship than any of their many detractors do.
There is a curious logic currently doing the rounds. One that wants to go back to the days when football was the working man’s game, when the players ate a fry-up before the match and quite often went on the piss with the journalists afterwards, but one that also wants players to be role models, to inspire young people.
But if all the riches of the Premier League glittering in our own back garden doesn’t inspire the kids to get up and have a kickabout, then nothing will.
There is no going back, and in the meantime, if shadowy foreign oilmen want to squander their fortune meeting the outrageous wage demands of working-class heroes, then long may it continue.
It’s a far better deal than any trade union ever managed.Reuse content