Debate: Hypocrisy from football clubs calling for winter break while jetting off on far-flung money-spinning tours

Comment by Colin Rhodes

I guess we all know, and reluctantly accept, that football is about money these days.

Nothing is too trivial to be sponsored.

Manchester United get £40million just for allowing a well-known logistics company to have their name on their training kit.

On the United website there are so many official partners it requires two pages to list them all. I ran out of interest though when I got to the official savoury snack provider!

No doubt each Premiership club has water provided by official water suppliers and it’s not United Utilities.

I can forgive most of this as I’m clearly swimming against the tide when it comes to football and money but what I can’t stand is rank hypocrisy.

Every season at some point (probably around Christmas) Premiership managers, most noticeably Sir Alex Ferguson, Roberto Mancini and Arsene Wenger in the past, will moan about how tired their players are. They are playing too much football is the mantra; we need a winter break.

Yes I know two of them have moved on but you can expect to hear more of the same from Messrs Moyes and Pellegrini shortly.

 Some might agree. Personally, I think going to the match on a freezing cold day (or even better night) is one of the greatest pleasures of being a football fan. But we are all different and even I can see that the idea of a winter break might be a good one. It would benefit the national team if nothing else.

The hypocrisy part of this comes not from clubs claiming their players are playing too much football. It comes from the fact that those same clubs spend most of July and August in far-flung corners of the world playing matches against mediocre teams on bad pitches.

They aren’t doing it for footballing reasons it’s simply about selling and maintaining theirs brand.

And let’s not forget the risks of injury. Nastastic is out for at least six-weeks for City while Evans and Nani both limped off for United in Stockholm the other night.

This summer alone Manchester United have played in Bangkok, Sydney, Yokohama, Osaka, and Stockholm.

They have played six matches in 23 days and travelled many thousands of miles in the process.

Manchester City are a little less well-travelled but not much. This summer they’ve played in Pretoria, Durban, Hong Kong and Munich. They have played six games in 18 days some on pitches which were so could have caused serious injuries.

Most bizarrely of all City have just jetted out to Helsinki to play against Arsenal.

I’m not just having a go at City and United here, they all do it!

No doubts clubs will argue that it’s about connecting with their fans abroad and giving them the opportunity to see their heroes in the flesh. Very laudable but we all know it’s not about the fans or even about football. It’s about cold hard cash.

If clubs are so worried about the well-being of their players the answer might be to give them a proper break at the end of the season.

Most players at City and United are internationals who didn’t play their last matches until the end of May (or later if they were in the Confederations Cup).

They probably had four weeks off at most and, while that may seem a lot, most of them won’t get much more of a break until next summer.

My point in a nutshell is this: don’t go on about how tired your players are and then arrange a punishing multi-country pre-season trip for them.

Managers and clubs shouldn’t be surprised players are tired after travelling halfway round the world and then playing five matches in 18 days.

I’m not saying don’t go and see your fans in other countries but be sensible about it and stop blaming player fatigue on Carling Cup games and FA Cup replays.

Of course money and sponsorship are important but you need to balance that off against the effectiveness of the people who actually sell your brand for you: the players.

If clubs want a winter break because of player fatigue and tiredness then they need to play their part by recognising the impact long and distant pre-season tours will inevitably have on players who are already probably playing 60 odd games a season.

Image courtesy of MCFC Official via YouTube, with thanks

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.


Related Articles