The Last Word: Supporting a second smaller club could be just the ticket

Forget the Cissé perfume that costs less than entry to Arsenal and smell proper football again

Protest is built into the business plan. As dissident Manchester City fans spend this afternoon in the pub rather than at the Emirates, a poor wretch at the Premier League is doubtless devising a rebuttal strategy for anyone who dares to doubt the incipient generosity of the Attendance Working Group.

Richard Scudamore's Marie Antoinette moment will probably involve a variation on the theme suggested by Stoke's chief executive, Tony Scholes: a free away travel initiative which will cost constituent clubs up to £800,000 of the £61.9 million TV income they are scheduled to receive next season.

It is a laudable idea, corporately responsible and focus-group friendly. The problem will be finding unanimity and creating a sense of urgency. The proposal will not be voted on until the summer, by which time football clubs will have concocted new methods of disposing of the disposable income of their supporters.

The tat already ranges from a tasteful wedding garter peddled by Tottenham to a Mr Potato Head in Manchester United red. Loyalty is a grow-your-own Anfield (a packet of seeds and a cardboard stadium) or a Manchester City nodding dog, which bears an uncanny resemblance to David Platt, Roberto Mancini's dutiful assistant.

Someone must buy this stuff and keep sweatshops solvent. Is it any wonder clubs barely bother to camouflage their contempt? Arsène Wenger, an economics graduate from Strasbourg University, argues that anyone who demurs from paying the going rate at Arsenal "can choose to go to Man Utd... or Man City".

As so often these days, Wenger is half-right. His logic works for the tourists courted by big clubs. Their visit to Old Trafford or the Emirates is a passive experience which creates a vacuum of neutrality. Allegiance can be transferred without offending tribal loyalty only if it takes the Pre-mier League out of the equation.

Then there is a real opportunity to alter the dynamics of the market. If the current spasm of outrage at ticket pricing is to be relevant, affirmative action is required on a consistent and co-ordinated basis. The Premier League can continue to exist as a slickly produced TV soap opera; it is time to revive the notion of supporting a second club in the lower Leagues.

The tradition already exists to a limited degree on Merseyside. To steal the sentiments of a banner I saw at Tranmere, a club so cost-conscious staff literally ration the tea bags: "Where there is faith, there is light and strength". Prenton Park is a symbol of its community.

Clubs such as Bury, Rochdale and Oldham shiver in the shadow of Manchester's giants, but are a reminder of what football has sacrificed in an age of homogeneity and global opportunism.

London has alternative attractions which do not require a mortgage. A visit to the New Den is both a forbidding and a reaffirming experience. Brentford are a quietly progressive club with a far-sighted youth policy and an emerging manager, Uwe Rösler. Even Barnet have the macabre fascination of watching a legend, Edgar Davids, in penury.

The alternative is the pretension embodied by Djibril Cissé, an under-achieving footballer in an underwhelming team. The Queens Park Rangers striker, who acquired the title of Lord of the Manor of Frodsham in his Liverpool days, wishes to share his good fortune with the great unwashed.

Mr Lenoir, his newly launched fragrance, is described as "woody, spicy and amber". It apparently derives from "a blend of notes of bergamot, lavender, black pepper, cashmere wood, cardamom, labdanum, patchouli, vanilla and musk".

At £59 for a small bottle, it is cheaper than an away ticket at Arsenal. Bargain.

Dangers must be tackled head on

It is dangerous to make direct comparisons between rugby union and American football, but they are ominously instructive.

Each is a confrontational sport, shaped by a similar culture. Big boys don't cry. They get up and get on with the game. Concussion is accepted as a hazard of working life.

The endgame occurred in midweek, when neuro- scientists at the National Institutes of Health, an American research facility, released a starkly significant report.

They had analysed the brain tissue of Junior Seau, the gridiron star who committed suicide in May, and concluded that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a degenerative disease typically caused by multiple hits to the head.

Patients with CTE, which can only be diagnosed after death, display symptoms such as impulsiveness, forgetfulness and depression. The disease is thought to be central to a spate of suicides among NFL players, reported by Tom Dart on these pages last week.

Rugby lacks the relentless percussive punishment endured by linemen like Seau. But hits are getting bigger. Careers are getting shorter. The temptation to take one for the team is acute.

As we enter the Six Nations season, that traditional rite of passage, warning bells should be sounding.

Dive bombing

Tom Daley's television show Splash! is derivative, daft and demeaning. At best, it is infantile brain-rot. Yet compared to David Sparkes, who criticised the bronze medalist's participation but whose stewardship of British Swimming has been an unmitigated disaster, it has class.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on