Liverpool get reality Cech in exciting draw

Petr Cech gets down to deny Christian Benteke from two yards out

Petr Cech gets down to deny Christian Benteke from two yards out

Well, it’s another clean sheet at least. One of the more entertaining 0-0 draws one may ever see, but the lack of being able to finish is still a worry.

Christian Benteke missed a sitter from two yards, even though some credit should be given to Petr Cech for wonderful reactions, and Philippe Coutinho hit the post and the bar. Encouraging, but Bentekkers needs to get going soon and Daniel Sturridge can’t return soon enough.

Defensively, Liverpool were sound (not a phrase I ever thought I’d type). A couple of minor hiccups from Simon Mignolet towards the end and a disallowed Aaron Ramsey goal was as bad as it got, although Martin Skrtel went perilously close to sticking it past the Belgian.

Arsenal Player ratings

Petr Cech – The Helmetted Stopper made multiple outstanding saves to bail out his defence on more than one occasion, notably the Benteke chance above and a fingertip save to deny Coutinho. 9

Hector Bellerin – Attacking he looked good, when Arsenal wanted to pass to him. Doing his actual job, he looked less confident and gave the ball away multiple times. 5

Calum Chambers – Never really managed to settle in and made some poor passes in the first half. 5

Gabriel Paulista – Gave the ball away in his own third more than once, but improved in the second half. 6

Nacho Monreal – Kept debutant Roberto Firmino in his pocket all night and looked threatening going forward. Made a good run in the second half and nearly got his reward. 7

Francis Coquelin – Did his duty. Nothing spectacular, but needs to focus on defending and not enter an opponent’s half ever again. Lucky not to give away a penalty for a foul on Benteke. 6

Santi Cazorla – Probably Arsenal’s best outfield player tonight. Pulled the strings in midfield and supplied an absolutely gorgeous through ball for Aaron Ramsey on his offside goal. 8

Aaron Ramsey – Tried too hard and struggled against Liverpool’s full backs. Took his goal well, only for it to be wrongly disallowed by the flag of the linesman when he was clearly level. 6

Mesut Ozil – Big Game Houdini himself didn’t quite do a vanishing act this time, but he didn’t really orchestrate much. Tried his signature short through passes a lot, but to no avail. 6

Alexis Sanchez – Usually a threat but not so much tonight. Put some good crosses in for Giroud however he also didn’t fare well against Clyne and Gomez.

Olivier Giroud – How he didn’t get on the scoresheet we will never know. Was denied by Mignolet from six yards but in fairness, he didn’t have any other clear chances; just a lot of half-chances. 7


Theo Walcott (Giroud, 73) – Looked dangerous but didn’t have any chances. 6

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Coquelin, 82) – Not enough time to make an impact – 5

Liverpool player ratings

Simon Mignolet – Nervy towards the end but yet another good performance and more importantly, another clean sheet. Made a couple of good saves from Ramsey. 7

Nathaniel Clyne – Quiet going forward but was fairly good in defence. Definitely a better option than keeping Glen Johnson (although no right back is a better option than him). 6

Martin Skrtel – Dealt with everything that came his way, and stopped Walcott tapping in late on despite his interception nearly flying past Mignolet. 8

Dejan Lovren  – Surprisingly good. Not in a ‘he was good for Lovren’ way, in a ‘competent Premier League centre back’ way. 7

Joe Gomez – He doesn’t seem to like going forward and lost it a few times, but at the back he’s growing in confidence every single minute. Sumptuous defensive performance. 7

Lucas – A surprise inclusion following reports he was going to Besiktas for a year, he showed his worth and quietly sat in his defensive midfield role. Didn’t misplace a pass all night. 7

James Milner – Another unspectacular match, but he seemed a lot happier going forward knowing Lucas and Can were (usually) behind him. 7

Emre Can – Again, stayed in the middle of the park and ran things his way. Most passes were spot on, and his hair was once again perfect. 7

Roberto Firmino – The useless Adam Lallana was replaced with the equally useless Roberto Firmino. Barely touched the ball save for 5 minutes either side of half time, but was rather uninspiring. 4

Philippe Coutinho – Hit the bar from 10 yards out when he maybe should have done better, and then was denied by a wonderful save later on. The attack went through him, as it should. 7

Christian Benteke – That earlier chance aside, he looked better tonight. Strong going forward and good with the ball, but isn’t spatially aware. Needs a strike partner. 6


Jordon Ibe (Firmino, 63) – Another one dropped, perhaps unfairly, but didn’t really impress in his half an hour. 5

Jordan Rossiter (Lucas, 75) – Interesting time for him to make his Premier League debut, shirt tucked in and all, and looked assured. Definitely talented, just didn’t really get on the ball much tonight. 6

Alberto Moreno (Coutinho, 87) – How much longer before he gets a start this season? Made an 80-yard run forward in the last minute that could’ve been converted if he’d picked a pass. 6


Just where has all the money in football come from?

The financial aspect of sport is one that has often been the cause of controversy. Far gone are the days when top-level sport was still considered a leisure activity, with football being the frontrunner when it comes to British sport and the money surrounding it.

The top-earning players in the Premier League are Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie (both of Manchester United) and Yaya Toure (Manchester City), who earn around £250,000, £240,000 and £240,000 a week respectively. These figures are approximately nine times the average UK annual salary. To any member of the general public, whether they are football fans or not, this may seem like an absurd amount for someone who essentially runs around a field kicking a ball.

Some players, like Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner, says that players deserve such high wages because they aren’t allowed to do activities that may injure them, such as go skiing. However a lot of players prefer to remain quiet on the topic due to the nature of it, especially in the current economic climate. Retired striker Alan Shearer is one of the more recent people directly involved in football to extend his opinion on the matter, saying it isn’t right that players get paid so much.

On top of that, transfer fees are getting higher and higher every year. Gareth Bale’s world record transfer of £85 million from Spurs to Real Madrid set a benchmark that shouldn’t be surpassed for some time, but it could easily be. Players are becoming more and more valuable in the transfer market as they become more and more valuable to their teams, which prices them over and above what they would normally be worth. Another good example lately is Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian moved from Everton to Manchester United on transfer deadline day for £27.5 million, a figure that surprised fans and critics alike. They also agree that Fellaini has been quite substandard this season so far, and that United may have overpaid for the midfielder.

But the real question, in my mind, isn’t whether players should be earning so much. It’s how and why do they earn so much.

I consider there to be two main reasons for this: Foreign Owners and TV Rights. There then comes the question of whether spending will ever decrease.

TV Rights – Every Broadcaster for Themselves

 The other major financial factor surrounding football is the media. Since TV is the biggest broadcaster of the sport, this section will concentrate on that more than radio.

The three major broadcasters of football in the UK, Sky Sports, BBC and ITV, have fought over the rights for the Beautiful Game for years, with Sky often winning out for the right to show Premier League games. With other channels such as Setanta and ESPN entering the fray in recent years before opting out, it remains to be seen whether big-spending BT Sport can hold firm.

The evidence from the past year suggests they can, with the new-boys spending around £750 million last year to show 38 games per season for the next three years. They then shocked the footballing world in November by paying nearly £900 million across three years to be the only UK broadcaster allowed to show Champions League games.

The infograms here show how much UK broadcasters have spent to show football, whether it be live or highlights, for the 2012/13 season.

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the Premier League this season

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the Premier League this season

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the FA Cup this season

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the FA Cup this season

Football League

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the Football League this season

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the Champions League this season

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the Champions League this season

As it stands, according to the FA, 50% of revenue is divided equally all 20 clubs, 25% is awarded depending on a club’s final league position, with the final 25% distributed as a facilities fee depending on how many games are shown live on TV. Income from any foreign broadcasters, such as Al Jazeera Sport in the United Arab Emirates and NBC Sports in the USA, is divided equally amongst every Premier League club. Last season this amount was £18,391,726.

The amount it costs per season to show football has increased every single year, meaning that Premier League teams earn more and more revenue each year from simply playing in the league. In the 2012/13 season, QPR finished bottom of the Premier League and earned £5.8 million from media revenue, along with an extra £0.75 million from the FA for finishing 20th.

The winners of the league, by contrast, will rake in approximately £72 million for their hard work as opposed to the £61.4 million Manchester United earned in 2013. They earned £15 million on merit for finishing top, and this amount decreases by around £0.75 million the lower down a team finishes. The ratio of earnings from Manchester United to QPR was 1.53:1. Each team also received nearly £14 million from the FA for competing on top of the overseas broadcast payments, a number which fluctuates from season-to-season depending on their income.

Arguably the most interesting statistic, and certainly the most useful, is that a team is paid a minimum of 10 ‘facility fees’ – no matter how many times they are shown on live TV. Last season, the sides on TV the most were Manchester United (25), Liverpool (22), Arsenal (22) and Manchester City (21). The facility fee was around £550,000. This leads to the conclusion that if a team wasn’t on TV at least 10 times a season, the broadcasters (which was only Sky Sports at the time) must feel that they will bring in more money from advertising and sponsors by showing a game involving better-supported sides and paying facility fees to the teams that missed out as well as those involved.

These figures are only going to continue to rise and it will only be a matter of time before broadcasters pay over £1 billion for one season of Premier League rights, which is an astronomical amount of money, even in sport. The chart below shows how much money each team made from broadcasting rights last season: Premier League amounts by team

As a rule here, the amount earned by a team is directly proportional to their league position; the higher up they finish, the more money they receive. There are odd exceptions, like Newcastle United finishing 16th but having the 13th highest income, but this is likely because of their 5th-place finish the season before. On top of being one of the most well-supported clubs in England, broadcasters will have hoped they could have had another similar season so they could be shown on TV more. The Magpies ended up being shown on Sky Sports 16 times last season, the 6th most in the league.

Infogram sources

Premier League:

FA Cup:

Champions League:

Football League:

Will Spending Ever Decrease?

Now comes the time for the Premier League, European Leagues and UEFA to put their heads together and work out the best method to regulate spending. Financial Fair Play was introduced by UEFA in 2011, which essentially stops clubs from spending more than they bring in. Money brought in includes prize money for winning tournaments and gate money, with money going out including transfers and wages. If a team fails to comply, they can be fined or banned from European competition.

However some of the richer sides, such as Manchester City whose owner Sheikh Mansour is worth over £20 billion, are able to rely income like on massive sponsorship deals to make sure they don’t overspend. Despite spending over £100 million and bringing in just £10 million in the 2013 summer transfer market, it is unlikely that they will get reprimanded by UEFA.

Another idea that has been considered, more so by the English FA than UEFA or any other European FA, is the Salary Cap. This system is already implemented in the MLS (Major League Soccer) in the USA, with no player able to earn more than $368,750 a year (approximately £225,000) and no team able to spend more than $2.95million (approximately £1.8 million). The exception to this system is the Designated Player (DP) rule, which enables a franchise to pay up to three players above the individual salary cap, with it only counting as $368,750 towards the team salary cap.

The salary cap also exists in many other sports, including the four major “American Sports” leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB), and Rugby League in England and Australia. The rule in the Super League in England has been much criticised in recent years for not being high enough and causing top class players, such as Sam Tomkins, to go to the National Rugby League (NRL) in Australia where the cap is higher. In some cases, such as with Sam’s brother Joel Tomkins and New Zealander Sonny Bill Williams, players change codes to play Rugby Union where the caps are considerably higher.

In the Super League, a team can only pay £1.65 million to the top 25 earners within the squad, whereas in the NRL a team can spend up to $5.85 million (approximately £3.26 million) to the top 25. This doesn’t stop the cap being breached in either league though, but it is far more common in Australia with seven teams being fined in July this year. The last Super League breach was by Wigan Warriors in 2007, although new Salford City Reds owner Marwan Koukash claimed he’s willing to break the cap if it isn’t raised.

To get an idea of whether this could work in the Premier League, I asked a group of New York Red Bulls fans, an MLS side, on Facebook about money in football in general, and whether the salary cap could work. The results were not only similar, they were quite unsurprising.

43% of the respondents said that they thought TV Rights were a bigger factor in the amount of money in football, 43% said they believed it was down to Foreign Owners whilst the remaining 14% said they thought it was down to both equally. I also asked them about whether they thought there was too much in money football, which provided me with a greater variety of answers because they were given the option to expand on their thoughts.

One of the respondents agreed that there was too much money in football, and went on to say: “Money will always have a pull on the game. But it is at the point where players move for money not to a great team that suits. There are so many examples of local Australian players going to the Middle East and Asian leagues to pick up their last pay cheques instead of helping the game in Australia.” However they also argued that the money is good for the game in certain aspects, saying: “Look at Tottenham, sold Gareth Bale for 90mil or whatever it was. They have since bought an entire team for that much.

As for the salary cap system, another respondent said that it works in the MLS because it provides parity and makes the playing field more level: “There is a limit to the amount of dominance you can have, which is vital. In La Liga and Bundesliga, Barcelona, Madrid and Bayern Munich all have a duopoly and monopoly of their respective leagues.” But when it comes to the Premier League, the overwhelming reaction was that it was too late for it to be implemented. One respondent said: “It is too far into the life of the league to make such a big change. In the current age of the mercenary footballer, many would most likely leave elsewhere for more money if they could get it.”, whilst another said: “No teams would be able to make it work at this point.

This interview with Clarke Carlisle, retired Premier League defender and former chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, on BBC HARDtalk encapsulates the financial aspect of football perfectly. (Video courtesy of YouTube channel News via BBC HARDtalk)

Foreign Owners – The Abramovich Effect


Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
Image courtesy of Mark Freeman

When Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, no one could have predicted the influence it would have over the next 10 years. The Blues spent big in the very next transfer window, spending an unprecedented £121 million, and won the Premier League for the first time in their history the next season before winning it again a year later.

After the success of Abramovich’s investment, many other businessmen started to buy, or bought more, shares of clubs. Some of the more high-profile takeovers included Malcolm Glazer buying Manchester UnitedTom Hicks and George Gillett buying Liverpool (who sold to John W. Henry, founder of Fenway Sports Group, just three years later in another well-publicised move), and Randy Lerner buying Aston Villa.

As it stands, 11 clubs in England’s top flight are majority owned by foreign investors, with another 15 clubs in the Football League also being having foreign owners. 13 of these are in The Championship and five of those have been in the Premier League under their current owners.

Whilst not all of these moves have brought success to the clubs, it definitely increased the already huge profile of the Premier League exponentially. It also contributed to making English sides more competitive in European competition, with a minimum of one Premier League side making it to the Champions League semi-finals eight times in nine years. Three of those sides went on to win the tournament and five were losing finalists. Not all of these sides had foreign owners, but the influx of them in the Premier League meant other teams had to adapt, usually by changing their playing style to make it more effective against bigger clubs.

At the time, Chelsea were accused of “buying the title” and spending excessive amounts. It could be argued that this lead to the introduction of Financial Fair Play (FFP), which UEFA introduced to regulate spending, but to squarely put the blame on Abramovich wouldn’t be fair on him, nor on other foreign owners who bought Premier League clubs soon after.

The criticism doesn’t stop there. In 2008, much-maligned FIFA president Sepp Blatter claimed that the “economic power of football is immense” and that the investment in the sport is out of control. Richard Bevan, head of the League Managers’ Association (LMA), said in March 2012 that Chelsea had become an “embarrassment” to the Premier League after Abramovich sacked manager Andre Villas-Boas just 257 days after he took charge of the club.

In a survey by Global Sports Forum published around the same time as Bevan’s comments, it was found that similar sentiments were echoed by fans. 52% of the 3,500 fans polled said that overseas owners do not have the best interests of a club at heart, whilst 63% said they don’t want foreign owners in their domestic league.

Hull City fans would likely agree with these stories after their Egyptian owner Assem Allam said that some fans can “die as soon as they want” after they opposed his idea to rename the club Hull Tigers from Hull City. At recent home matches, fans have been holding banners saying “We are Hull City” and chanting “City till we die” in response to the proposed name change, causing Allam to make those comments. The African has already rebranded the club Hull City Tigers for trading purposes, much to the disdain of the KC Stadium faithful. He also said he would be happy to put the club up for sale if the fans wanted him out, an offer that may be taken up in the near future.

In a somewhat less controversial move, Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov, who owns 30% of the club, recently said that foreign owners are good for English football. The Russian continued by saying that investors pumping money into the British economy can only be a good thing, and that if a team is successful, then there should be no issue with foreign owners.

This may be true for clubs like Arsenal with a long history and richer investors, but with smaller clubs like Birmingham City (majority owned by Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung) and Queens Park Rangers (majority owned by Malaysian Tony Fernandes) who have suffered relegations since being bought.

To view a timeline of when Premier League sides were bought by foreign owners, click on this link.

England v Chile pre-match: Frank Lampard’s 100th cap

Before England’s match against Chile on Friday night at Wembley Stadium, England fan Harry Brent discusses midfielder Frank Lampard’s international future. The Chelsea player received his 100th cap in September against Ukraine, but has since said he is unsure of his England career. Lampard, 35, is the eighth player in England history to earn a century of caps, and one of three in the current squad along with Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole.

Italy Head Coach Carlo Napolitano happy with team despite Tonga loss

Napolitano, left, next to Minichiello

Italy coach Carlo Napolitano, left, alongside captain Anthony Minichiello, reflects on his side’s 16-0 Rugby League World Cup loss to Tonga.

Italy coach Carlo Napolitano took charge of the Azzurri in 2011 and guided them through Rugby League World Cup Qualifying round in the same year, including a very impressive 92-6 win over Russia. After a short-lived Super League career where he played for Salford City Reds , Napolitano, who is also the technical director of the Italian Rugby League Federation (FIRL), moved to Australia where he coached in Queensland before becoming the Head Coach of Italy. Their 16-0 loss to Tonga on Sunday meant they could not progress past the group stage of the Rugby League World Cup finals, but the nation surprised a lot of people with their standard of Rugby and Napolitano has recently said that Rugby League in Italy is rising in popularity.

JN2053 Assignment 1

Who am I?

An 18 year old currently studying Sports Journalism in Preston, but Leeds will always be home.
I like pretty much every sport, as a sports journalist probably should, from more popular sports like football (both real and helmet) to the less “universally-liked” sports such as cricket. Sport is my life.
I also have a huge interest in other things outside of sport. Films are also one of my great loves, especially sci-fi and comedy. Which brings me to another part of my life: being a geek.
Geek, in this context, means sci-fi films and TV, comics, and just knowing random crap about them that other people don’t. This started about 2 years ago, about the same time as my film “obsession” (used somewhat loosely), and in July 2012 I made my way, with a friend, to the geek nirvana that is San Diego Comic Con. It cost an awful lot of money, starting with tickets (4-day plus preview night badges were £60, based on the exchange rate at the time), then factoring in somewhere to stay (went for a hostel. Couldn’t afford a hotel) and flights to San Diego made it a damn expensive trip. Doesn’t help that we went all out and went to Los Angeles for 8 days afterwards and New York for 5 more after that. Couldn’t justify flying 130 miles from “The Whale’s Vagina” to LA, so we took the stunning pacific coastline train there. Anyway, I digress.
All you need to know, really, is that sport is my life, but I am so much more than that.