Free Friday: Fair Play, Blatant Opportunism & The Power of the Exponent

Free Friday: Fair Play, Blatant Opportunism & The Power of the Exponent
April 3, 2020 Daniel Rhodes
In Free, Free Friday

Best posts of the week, as chosen by Chris Rowland and Daniel Rhodes:

1 – Ross on the complications of NOT resuming the current football season: (March 27th)

Finishing the season at all costs is a laudable ambition – and may yet come to pass – but it has immense complications.

The author doesn’t elaborate much other than mentions of shirt sponsors and kit deals. Are the immense complications of finishing more severe than the complications of not finishing?

We also had the David Ornstein piece today. No doubt the unnamed Chairman who wants the league scrapped on moral grounds is only concerned for the health and well being of everyone and is not from a club that will either gain a European place or avoid relegation.

The complications that I see of not finishing the season far outweigh any I can think of for playing the last 9 games.

They are as follows:

– Fair play: 

The season is not 9 games in. It is 9 games from the end. 75% complete. Is it not fair for all teams top to bottom of all divisions to finish out the season when safe to do so? The entire ethos of fair play and the integrity of the competition would be destroyed in my opinion.

– CL football if season is voided.

Next year’s places go based on the 2018-19 season. So that puts Spurs (8th) in ahead of Leicester (3rd). As it stand now Spurs could try to buy Tielemans and Chilwell for example for next season. The players likely answer will be “no thanks, I have CL football at Leicester”. Flip that on it’s head, give Spurs the £100M CL money and the extra allure of CL football and Leicester’s brilliant team gets picked apart. Is that not a huge complication?

-CL football continued. 

As it stands Man City (pending appeal are expelled from the next CL). Who then takes the CL place? Based on the  2018-19 season that would be Arsenal who finished 5th. So Spurs (8th) and Arsenal (9th) would take the CL places ahead of Leicester (3rd) and Man United (5th). Not complicated?

-CL football continued. 

Sheffield Utd, Wolves and Man Utd are all close to Chelsea with better recent form. Should they not be allowed the chance to finish 4th? The financial rewards for Sheffield Utd and Wolves would be huge and Utd need the CL prestige to attract better players.

-Europa league. 

With Arsenal being awarded the CL spot in place of City, that leaves the remaining 3 league EL spots for

6th, 7th and 8th last season. Man United, Wolves and Everton. Everton currently 12th take the place of Sheffield United (7th). So not only do Sheffield United miss the chance to fight for a CL place, their potential EL place would be taken by the team currently in 12th. That’s fair and uncomplicated?


So Norwich, Villa, Bournemouth, Watford, Brighton and West Ham are spared a relegation scrap. The 3 that eventually should go down are saved and earn the PL millions.

Meanwhile Leeds and West Brom are denied the promotion and access to better players and the millions of pounds that the PL has to offer.

Fulham, Brentford, Notts Forest, PNE, Bristol, Millwall, Cardiff, Blackburn, Swansea and Derby are all denied the chance to win a playoff to said better players and the millions of pounds that the PL has to offer.

The same relegation/promotions issues apply to league 1, league 2 and all the way down the football leagues.

Huge financial repercussions (West Brom’s parachute payments ending as an example), and players having to be sold off potentially to the likes of Norwich who can use their new wealth to buy Leeds best players. All very fair.

Does that sound less complicated that playing another 9 games when the time is right?

-Season ticket holders. 

If the season is void, do season ticket holders get free tickets for next season? The clubs won’t want to do that of course but if the season is voided and we start again, then the season ticket resets and starts again surely? Complicated enough?

-TV money

Do the clubs have to pay it back if they don’t complete the season? If it does, how will that effect new player signings and clubs ability to pay their wage bills.

If the season is voided, how many people will walk away from football and their BT/Sky subscriptions? Quite a lot I would imagine. This will then have severe impacts on future TV deals.

-Legal action. 

Would clubs up and down the country who lose out take legal action against the decisions. Messy and complicated.

– COVID-19 returning. 

There’s every chance this horrible virus returns again next winter. Do we then cancel and void the 2020-2021 season as well? Would it not be less complicated to play 9 more games of this season, then start 2020-21? If it runs into issues, then at least 1 of the 2 seasons go finished.

-The Fans

Would the faith and passion of the Liverpool, Leeds, Leicester and the other fans negatively affected ever be the same again?

To have years of support taken away from you.. Liverpool waiting 30 years to win the league, Leeds 16 years to get back to the PL, West Brom’s last chance to get promoted before losing parachute payments, Coventry who had their club and stadium stolen from them see a chink of light extinguished. Other clubs will have their stories.

-The players

Can the Liverpool players go again to such an extent? How many players will be picked off from Leicester, Leeds et al without the extra wealth and CL / PL football to offer.

The complications that I see of not finishing the season far outweigh any I can think of for voiding and starting again.

2 – WhatAgoal. WhatAnight on the same subject: (March 27th)

If they even think of voiding the current season, Liverpool fans across the world should petition their local broadcasters and then cancel all our subscriptions for next season and the one after that. A just boycott. Along with Man Utd our fans must be the biggest contributors to TV revenues. Let’s see how broadcasters react when they realise that their subscription revenues take a massive hit along with reduced advertising revenues as advertisers follow suit. And then let Jurgen and the club refuse media duties next season. This collectivist approach would be in keeping with the club’s ethos and history.

If for whatever reason, Liverpool Football Club doesn’t fight any voiding with all its might it would struggle to justify it’s This Means More branding and would probably demotivate players and fans for future seasons.

3 – Taskin/Tash on the need for the Premier League to sustain its credibility by concluding the current season: (March 27th)

There’s another strand to this debate which I think is important for the football authorities and the clubs to consider. In fact I’d go as far as saying it’s the single most important thing.

In this frightening new world of ours it’s become horribly apparent that the likelihood is that we will see a 2nd wave of Covid-19 at some point and/or a new virus or pandemic in the future. We’re evidently not quite as bullet-proof as we once thought.

Go back a few months and FIFA, UEFA and none of us will have ever considered this scenario, but it’s now very real. It’s for this very reason why no-one knows what to do next. If it had been thought about the scenario would have just been; Pandemic? Apply Rule xxx. Done. End of discussion.

But no rule exists, so whatever they do next sets a precedent for the future.

I believe there is only one answer and that is to continue whenever conditions allow. And I mean whenever.

If they void this season, they massively risk the credibility of the priceless asset that they are sitting on. It’s for this reason why I was so happy to hear them mention the need to protect the credibility of the leagues in their previous statement. That word, credibility, cannot be overstated.

To use myself as an example, I’m a member of the official site for the sole reason that I can watch highlights and full games. I’m a member of TTT so that I can read and talk about it. I travelled to the UK 3 times this season to watch normal league games (tickets which are sourced from a Season Ticket holder who pays for both league and cup games) and I spent money outside the stadium on both official and unofficial products. I was this close to being at the Atletico game on the 11th and I would have happily purchased Hospitality for the last league game if I’d been able to get through. I’m on the UEFA ballot for the Champions League final and would happily attend many more games and would and will spend more money if I have the opportunity.  I spent and am willing to spend all that money on this season because it means something to me about how we fair.

Would I invest all that time and money next year if I knew at the start of the season that it was entirely possible that the thing I was watching was potentially irrelevant and had no end? That it all may come to mean absolutely nothing at all? I may, but I very well may not. More importantly, many others who invest far more time and money than me, may not. Kids, the next generation of ‘captive fans’, may not. Especially if their parents talk them out of it.

Of course I’ve got a self interest in that I want the league to finish so that Liverpool claim the title. But I also believe I would (perhaps through gritted teeth) say the same if we were mid-table or, God-forbid, in the relegation places. In the end, it’s a sport and it’s about being fair. That attitude is an extension of why we applaud when our team concede possession to stop the play when an opposition player is injured. And why they in turn return the ball to us to acknowledge. It’s why an opposition player diving pisses me off so much and why I don’t like to see our players do it.

Simply put, the only right thing to do is to finish this season. Behind close doors or in 12 months if that’s what it takes. It simply must be concluded.

If sponsors, kit deals and contract renewals mean that kits and players may change ‘mid-season’, no fuckin’ problem.

To do otherwise is to put the whole game into doubt.  What’s it all for if what we’re contemplating is to say that, actually, all of this meant nothing and next season just might too.

4 – Paul Tomkins on the misleading nature of various sources and reports on Covid-19: (April 1st)

Those Spectator articles sound like they have a lot to answer for, as they’re being quoted in some of the nonsense above.

Many, many, many people are dying in certain hospitals in towns and cities that are overrun with the infected. That’s the reality. Stats can be skewed. We are trying to stop many, many more cities from ending up like London, New York, Barcelona, Madrid and Wuhan.

In badly infected cities, the extra numbers of deaths are clear from all the people being left to die, according to those on the ground in affected cities, because there are too many dying patients to be able to save them. This does not normally happen. As I said last night, they don’t normally convert ice rinks to morgues because there’s no room in the funeral homes and city morgues. (Doctors are dying at a rate they would not normally die at, and part of the reason we are doing this – which has included me not leaving the house for nearly 3 weeks now – is to help them to help us.)

The need for insane numbers of for ventilators and extra ICU beds in places like New York, northern Italy, London, etc, show what this virus does if it spreads in that area. The fact is that it hasn’t spread like that in all the other areas … yet. And if we stop it spreading by all staying home, that can’t then be used to say that the threat was never there to start with. It’s mind-boggling.

Plus, how many fewer road traffic accidents are there this month? I expect that those have dropped by 90%, albeit that’s a pure guess, given that car journeys will have fallen by that kind of amount. Part of the reason for the lockdown is to reduce all the A&E admissions from other situations.

And this is also not even the peak of the pandemic. Look at all the trackers to see how this is multiplying in cases and deaths. And if it’s multiplying, that means more and more deaths beyond “normal”. I noted last night that the peak of this, via the revised Imperial College figures which were so worrying it led to the reversal of policy in the UK, was to be 260 deaths in a day as of April 5th. We had nearly 400 deaths yesterday. While all will not be solely due to Covid-19, just listen to how so many of these people die. Use data and also use your eyes.

Had we had the usual number of traffic fatalities as well as more and more people being infected then we’d have a lot more deaths than normal, as there wouldn’t be any beds for all those other types of event. The system would fail, as it is failing in the worst-hit areas. Hospital ships are being brought in to New York. Is that normal? Ice rinks are being used in Madrid as morgues, is that normal? Ice rinks are being prepared to use here, is that normal? Just because it isn’t directly affecting or killing 40% of the population doesn’t mean it’s not a very real threat that is, at best, 8x as deadly as the flu and maybe a lot worse; and certainly worse if you can’t get treated for it because the wards are already overrun with the dying.

Those other accidents (RTAs, etc) are trying to be kept from occurring just to keep the numbers stable, and anyone with an ounce of logic could deduce that. Instead, people are being seduced by misleading information. It may not be as a bad as the Black Death BUT NO ONE FUCKING SAID IT WOULD BE. That is a dreadful straw-man argument. This was never going to kill 40% of the population. It was going to kill between 0.5% and 5%, by most estimates. It would, and will, kill fewer if fewer people were exposed to it, and if they are exposed to it over a longer period of time, rather than all at once. I find it absolutely shocking that anyone could even make such a suggestion, and it’s a horrible, horrible, horrible “opinion” piece.

You may not think it fake news, but it’s a dangerously misleading use of the statistics. I mean, am I the only one seeing the absolute logical twisting that’s going on to make it seem like this is just “normal”? Go to a badly affected city and have a look. Stop reading articles by “deniers” and listen to the people on the ground, and listen to the consensus of experts. If it all seems perfectly quiet and rosy where you are, be thankful. That doesn’t mean that there are not some seriously bad hot spots where 10% of those being treated are dying. Let’s hope it doesn’t get that bad in many other places.

People, please think before you post unhelpful information on this site. One of the reasons I don’t read anything on Facebook is that it’s seductive, and fuels conspiracy theories.

Stick to major newspapers and broadcasters like New York Times, The Guardian, The Times, Boston Globe, Financial Times, BBC, etc, where they have a history of better reporting, even if you don’t agree with the politics (and I don’t agree with all the politics of the aforementioned). Avoid clickbait news sites, or extreme right or left propaganda. Don’t listen to leaders like Trump, or the Chinese government. Or rather, take what they say with a grain of salt.

Try to find views from a range of scientists across a range of media. That’s what I’m doing. I’m no fucking expert on this, but I have called a lot of what has happened before most other people, by choosing a wise range of media to read (and reading a lot of it), applying logic and having a sense for data. Something like the Johns Hopkins tracker or John Burn-Murdoch’s on the FT are essential.

By all means share stuff that has a different angle, providing it’s from a trusted source or a trusted scientist, but we don’t need conspiracy theories. We also need to get a breadth of information and not just stick to lone websites, newspapers or magazines spewing a load of potentially harmful theories.

(Edit: if I’m extra cranky, please understand that I haven’t left the house or seen another person – expect through the glass of the front door – in 19 days, and I’m possibly losing my mind 😉 . But please, help us to keep TTT as intellectually robust as is possible, and don’t underplay the seriousness of this. Just because it isn’t the bubonic plague does not mean it doesn’t require extraordinary measures.)

5 – David: The Power of the Exponent (April 2nd)

It’s got to the point where I don’t like taking a day off. When you’re in day to day things appear more gradual, actions are more sequential. You go back after a day off and the pace of change is more noticeable and things appear to have been done, changed again or contradicted and picking up the pace and the ‘thread’ is hard; much of the day off is spent worrying about what you are going back to.

I don’t watch, listen or read much if any news media now. I get all the information I need to do what I need to do from my daily Trust bulletin and the Team Brief. Most media just makes me want to vomit. I did limit myself for a couple of days to just the World Service of the BBC, but then Kuenssberg turned up. Every time she opens her mouth I cringe with her overt middle-class-champagne-socialist-uber-liberal-not-so-hidden-anti-Tory-agenda. Because of people like her the BBC will end up being ripped up and the baby thrown out with the bath water. Oh, I while I’m on my rant, I am really, really pissed off with the WHO. They were too slow at the start because they didn’t want to upset China, and now they stand on their pedestal waving their halo screaming everybody isn’t doing enough. Can some one tell me who they are accountable too? The twats.

We had a dozen ITU beds a couple of weeks ago, now we have 50+ ventilator supported beds, two wards with high flow O2 (CPAP and such) to Cohort CV+ pts. Its highly likely they will be full in about 3 days, so quite a bit of effort is going into “what next”.  ED and the whole hospital has pretty much reorganised itself in the space of a week to mange and cohort covid patients and protect and treat the other emergencies that come through the door and Joe Public are really doing their bit by not turning up at ED with something that warrants and elastoplast and a couple of “there-theres”.  My reality is I have plenty of PPE of many flavours ( but last night we did run out of body bags – how about that for a harsh reality), I have guidance as to when I should wear it, but I can suit up for every patient I see should I want too. I have a number to ring to get a test should I feel ill or fit any criteria for self isolation.

We are mobilising an army of millions to fight something unique, bending systems never, ever designed to cope with any thing like it (nor could they be). Covid is nature at its most brutal, chaotic and random. As I take a scan the “real times” come through on my screen, slice after slice. They are rough and not truly diagnostic but I can spot pathology, sometimes a bleed, an infarct, degenerative changes and the like. Sometimes you get the punch in the gut – the large glioma in the fit healthy 20 year old, or the catastrophic haemorrhage in the otherwise fit and healthy 50 year old where you quietly find yourself hoping they don’t wake up. I now have another – its called “covid lung”, and the blows are more frequent by the day.

Please, stay a couple of meters apart and wash your hands a lot so we can get it beat and the pubs can reopen. I need a drink.

6 – ModyKidz had a view (from his window) of the stark and depressing reality of Covid-19: (April 3rd)

It’s been a week since we got back to the UK.  My elderly parents each are in the vulnerable / high risk category.  We will eventually stay with them and essentially shield / self isolate for whatever period. But at the moment we have quarantined ourselves in an airbnb for the 14 days required to ensure we are clear after consulting Public Health England.

The landlady has been very understanding looking after a vulnerable family member herself.  So there’s a supporting atmosphere. We managed to find a place a mile or so away from my folks who Facetime us as if we are living abroad. But knowing we are around the corner makes them feel better. Seeing their grandkids is keeping them going.

My brother and his family are closeby so there’s a steady stream of shopping and hot food that makes it’s way to our front door. Each time my brother drops off a box of supplies my kids run to the window and amuse themselves as he does a funny turn telling them to “stay back” even behind an inch of glass. The small pleasures you take and miss.

But we are half way through our quarantine period and you spend time watching box sets, reading, chatting or whatever it is to pass time. This includes net curtain watching though my excuse is it allows me to stand next to the radiator.  Unfortunately the reality of Covid-19 really hit home yesterday afternoon.

I saw a four person team enter the house opposite. I knew it was serious when first a paramedic went in with a minimum of equipment taped up head to toe.  You wish it was something else. But a little later the ambulance had gone and outside were four people. There was the paramedic, two gentleman who did not look like clinicians and then a nurse with her hospital lanyard in clear view even across the road.

After a minute they started suiting up using tape between the ends of the suit and their gloves, shoes, etc. Masks, goggles and hoods on this felt like a CSI team. I closed the curtains as my kids watched TV.  I sat with them and they asked why were four people standing outside the house opposite. It’s tough when you try to shield them not just from the virus but the inevitable outcome so many families are now experiencing.

So there was no point hiding the fact that someone opposite had tragically passed away likely from Covid-19. I did a quick search and found that in London there are Special body recovery teams set up for those who die at home. The four-person units will consist of a fire service driver, a health service clinician and two police officers. According to Sky News these are the Pandemic Multi-Agency Response Teams, or PMART, and are dispatched when victims die outside hospitals and there is a high probability they had COVID-19.  As the PMART entered the door was shut behind.

When talking to my folks later that evening I didn’t mention what happened. There was every chance my mum, who was a health care worker years back, knew this family opposite during the time she covered the area. I know this area too with my old primary school down the same road we are staying.

But so far, even with all that nostalgia on my doorstep, there’s no urge to venture out. My thoughts keep turning to the tragic circumstances opposite. Who were they? You want to reach out and express your condolences but that family deserves their privacy. I think once this is all over I’ll make sure to knock on my “neighbour’s” door opposite and pay my respects with my mum standing by my side.

Articles published since last Friday, with excerpts:

Monday March 30th:

This Is Guaranteed To Be The Most Memorable Season In Football Historyby Paul Tomkins.

Meanwhile, clubs and players who have failed in 2019/20 want their mess expunged, and in so doing lose nothing and, in the case of Spurs and West Ham, gain what they were in danger of losing (a return to the Champions League that was otherwise impossible and unearned, and guaranteed Premier League status); whilst others who are on the brink of greatness have to just suck it up. There is no common humanity to this; just the grasping of heartless chancers, in this age of grasping of heartless chancers.

You pay to see a two-hour film at the cinema and, after 90 minutes, the screen goes blank; and everyone is expected to trudge out and say “I don’t mind that there was no final 30 minutes”, utterly baffled by what they’ve just experienced. Next season can wait; it can’t happen without resolution to this season. Next season won’t make sense, won’t have meaning, unless this is satisfactorily resolved.

Uefa, meanwhile, will presumably be desperate for the money from the 2020/21 Champions League, and while they may delay the start to it, you sense they won’t delay too long.

Aleksander Ceferin, its president, said on Saturday that the 2019/20 campaign could be lost if it cannot be restarted by the end of June. He is already putting some kind of pressure on leagues to make a decision. Self interest must never come before integrity.

Harry Kane is apparently happy to hand back his 17 goals and a year’s worth of wages by annulling the season if it isn’t concluded by June; although I’m guessing that he hasn’t realised that his goals will be chalked off, and he will have to give back his earnings. He seems ruthlessly ambitious, which at times makes him seem like a total and utter gobshite.

İlkay Gündoğan sounds like a much fairer person, as German people tend to these days. Gündoğan told German broadcaster ZDF that it would be okay to award Liverpool the title. “You have to be fair as a sportsperson,” he said. I actually think most City players would say likewise, even if the fans would disagree. I’d like to think I’d say the same as Gündoğan if the situation was reversed.

If you’re losing a game 5-0 with ten minutes to go and it’s cancelled due to a storm or floodlight failure, you take the “final” result with good grace if the final ten minutes cannot be played at another time. If it’s 1-0 after 10 minutes, that’s a different story. Grasping, at this point, has to be set aside for fairness.

Tuesday March 31st:

March 11th 2020 – My Day at the Last Match – Atletico Madrid (H)by Tom Cannon.

In January I checked hospitality tickets and found them quite astronomically high for the Premier League but more reasonable for the  Champions League and after negotiations with the spouse settled on a match near enough to my birthday to provide an alibi for a footy trip abroad. By this time the Atletico fixture was on the books and it even looked possible we might clinch the league around that time. It was a pleasant surprise then to be able to procure two more tickets in the Gladwys Street Stand at Goodison Park the following Saturday for a very decent price. The thought we might win the league at Goodison was almost too much to comprehend. I was trying hard to tamp down expectations, but with the Reds on their second of two record setting winning runs it was getting harder to do that. Reading Tomkins Times I scoffed at Paul Tomkins’ irrational fears that the newly minted virus being reported in China might derail the league somehow; I dismissed those fears as pure ‘sky is falling’ histrionics.

Wednesday April 1st:

Voiding the Season: Blatant Opportunism, a Lack of Sportsmanship and Philosophically Wrongby Mark Cohen.

… it’s become apparent that the narrative surrounding this unprecedented stoppage and league resumption/completion is playing out with two essential ‘sides’ having formed. Void or Complete.

It is also worth mentioning, that either position is naturally drenched in self-interest. So it is important to tackle the argument logically, instead of listening to a bunch of talking heads on the matter. As should be clear, an Argument from authority, itself a well known fallacy, is an incorrect way to solve this.

An example of Argument from authority would be West Ham Vice-Chairman Karen Brady’s ‘voiding’ statements with her team only out of the drop zone on goal difference and with the toughest fixtures remaining. Her lofty position in politics here is her perch on which her Argument from authority is based. Her argument to void is so obviously premised on the fact she wants her team not to face a relegation battle. It is thinly veiled behind the supposed facade of government interest and a genuine care for the ill and the situation the world finds itself in.

In reality it smacks of blatant opportunism and a lack of sportsmanship, not to mention a pathetic attempt to sit on the back of a genuine and enormous human tragedy in order to save your poorly performing team from a relegation that is more deserved by the day.

Of course, a similar story could be said of Liverpool fans worldwide, who want the title awarded to the Reds and as such definitely don’t want a voiding.

We need to recognise this bias in our thinking, and do our absolute utmost not to let it sway our minds – if it is not safe to play, and if Voiders were genuine, and their ideas could pass intellectual muster, and they were the best, most efficient and fairest, then they should be listened to.

Thus, to repeat, its important that we act logically in our arguments and make a case that can stand on its own merit, regardless of the proponent’s position in society.

Pretty Confused, Huh? By Bob Pearce.

I’ve been working on a large writing project for a few months now, looking at how we see, think, talk and act. It feels like some of these chapters may be relevant at this moment time.

Pretty confused, huh?

Picture yourself going somewhere that you have not been before.

You may be worried that you could get lost.

So you decide to get yourself a map.

Stop and think about how this map can help you.

A map of this somewhere-you-haven’t-been-before will show how different and unfamiliar things and places fit together in a way that makes sense. It will give you some reassurance by removing some of your worry. It extracts some unexpectedness and plants some predictableness. It will help you see what to expect next.

A map will be using someone else’s experience to help you to plan ahead and take your next step in a town called ‘Unfamiliarity’. Instead of being limited to your own ‘knowledge’, and instead of having to discover what others have already discovered, and instead of re-learning what others have learned, you can now carry on where they left off. This means that, once you have your map, you don’t actually have to be in ‘Somewhere New’ to begin exploring. You can ‘walk’ around this picture that represents that place.

Now picture yourself going somewhere that you have been many times before. You won’t be worried that you could get lost. You have no need to carry someone else’s map. It will be enough to have memorised a map in your brain, learned and built from your own experience. Again, you don’t actually have to be in this place named ‘Familiarity’ to go searching. You can ‘wander’ around in your brain map.

If we were to judge a map by one question, that one question would not be ‘Will it be a complete and accurate map?’ It seems highly unlikely that any map has ever been ‘perfect’. Just try to imagine a map with-every-tiniest-itty-bitty nitty-gritty-detail. Think about how overwhelming that would be. It’s completeness and complexity would be very nearly as confusing as having no map.