To the rescue: Premier League is ready to deliver after Rio descends into sham
While the Olympics continue to be shrouded in controversy, big name managers like Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are set to make the start of the English soccer season unmissable
Kick-off for the 2016-17 Premier League campaign cannot come around quickly enough. For all its faults (and there are many), English football beats the “Greatest Show on Earth” hands down.
For the past week we have had to suffer the indignity of the Rio Olympics, a competition where every athlete competes under a cloud of suspicion.
The failure of the International Olympic Committee to ban the entire Russian contingent after Moscow’s spooks and goons were caught tampering with anti-doping tests renders the festival null and void.
Yet instead of making an example of Russia – and following through on its many promises to rid sport of the scourge “once and for all” – the IOC members buckled under fear of the loss of lucrative contracts that pay for their gravy train.
Russians are winning medals and Russia is riding high on the gong table, so how can we trust anything we watch in Brazil? We can only pity the clean athletes who are being punished twice due to the IOC’s pathetic response.
Many athletes - including Usain Bolt – pleaded with the IOC to ban Russia because they knew that anything less would cast a shadow over their day in the Olympic sun; they understood that if any Russian was allowed to compete, confidence in the system would evaporate and their performances also questioned.
So it has proved. The 2016 Rio Games are a sham. There’s good reason to doubt that what you watch is genuine. All the wonderful endeavours, the records broken, the medals grasped from the jaws of defeat. We can applaud such feats, but we cannot grant the athletes 100 per cent certitude when they step up onto the podium.
It makes you wonder what files lie in Moscow vaults on IOC members for them to capitulate so pathetically and quickly pass the buck to the 28 national committees. The IOC now rivals disgraced FIFA in the incredulity league. It is as guilty as Russia’s systemic and systematic doping for turning the “Greatest Show on Earth” into the grubbiest.
Admirably, the International Paralympic Committee has managed to keep the Olympic movement’s dignity hanging by a thread. It pulled no punches and banned the entire Russia team as punishment for Moscow “prioritising medals over morals”.
So, yes, in comparison the Premier League’s excesses appear little more than the follies of lotto-winning angels out on a Tsim Sha Tsui shopping spree.
There’s no denying the league’s massive egos, the expensive haircuts, the unintelligible tattoos, the pouting and strutting, the gauche WAGS, the insane wages and the country piles are morally questionable and distasteful.
Aside from a handful of unsubstantiated claims of doping, football remains clean; the shirt-tugging and diving are, in the great scheme of things, hardly worth the yellow cards shown to them.
Paradoxically, it is the mind-blowing buckets of money that keep English football clean.
The fans would not tolerate doping for a moment. They would vote with their feet, and a united walkout would see the cash cow that provides handsomely for the global advertisers, broadcasters, agents, shareholders, merchandisers and tax-receiving UK government keel over in a second.
Admittedly, the £89 million (HK$895 million) record transfer fee paid by Manchester United to Juventus for Paul Pogba induced more nausea.
The Premier League’s chairman Richard Scudamore admitted this week he has trouble justifying such fees and wages when the average fan’s annual salary would not match half a day’s earnings for some of the league’s biggest stars.
You can, however, at least explain why players and managers cost so much – market forces. With a shallow global pool of talent, English clubs have to pay top dollar to remain in, let alone win, the most competitive, lucrative, watchable league in the world.
It costs to put on five-star entertainment for a global audience for 10 months of the year, and this season all that filthy lucre will grant us gladiatorial battles between some of the shrewdest minds and talented feet in football.
The dugout contests will be just as enthralling as the battles on the pitch with such dynamics as Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte, Arsene Wenger, Jurgen Klopp, Claudio Ranieri, Mauricio Pochettino, Ronald Koeman and David Moyes going head-to-head.
Call it a boat of guilt, but the Premier League has recently become attentive to the people it serves. That the clubs are finally getting the game is a pivotal and cohesive force in many communities, especially inner cities.
For the next three seasons, each is to invest millions in youth and community development programmes, helping to instil can-do winning attitudes and respect by teaming up with local partners.
Because the richest league in the world knows where its future lies – in the people it entertains and inspires to be the next Pogba, and failing that, to watch his ilk.
The same cannot be said of the IOC, which has abandoned the clean athletes whose interests it says it stands for, never mind duping the fans.