category: England

For all the glory and the grandeur that goes with winning the Premier League, there is a growing consensus that what happens at the other end of the table is where the real drama lies. Whilst the title race can at times feel like watching a couple of millionaires squabbling over the price of a hot dog, the relegation battle has a lot more bite to it.

If the cost of missing out on the title is a place in the Champions League – in the style of Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal – then the difference between coming first and fourth is arguably not that great.

Compare that with what happens when sides are relegated. The salutary lessons of Portsmouth and Blackburn, who have suffered all the agonies of the damned since they slipped out of the top flight, suggest that there is far more at stake at the foot of the table than the top.

What’s more, it’s a much more dramatic and dynamic contest. Watching Chelsea and Manchester City serially steamroller their way through the season is not what the Premier League is meant to be about. We’ve scoffed at the serial domestic successes of the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid and, in years gone by, at the way Celtic and Rangers similarly dominated in Scotland. The drama of uneven contests is only occasionally even vaguely dramatic.

If Chelsea’s defeat at Newcastle is only interesting because it’s a break from the norm, we might as well just watch the traffic and wait for a yellow car to pass by. As impressive as unremitting excellence might be, it’s the human business of grappling with limited resources and the fear of failure that are what makes sport worth watching.

It also makes for a much more dynamic betting market. With more teams involved and continually fluctuating league standings, there is greater scope for punters to cash in on their insight. Comparing different bookmakers’ odds at somewhere like is a way to win twice over. The dynamism at this end of the table makes for a much more uneven marketplace.

Pinpointing sides’ weaknesses as well as their strengths requires a keener appreciation than is routinely offered by the media’s pampered pundits. It takes a more fully developed football intelligence to dig beneath the superlatives of individual brilliance and to get to grips with the real mechanics of team building. The bottom half of the table is football for grown-ups.

14076522643_15b1f38d26_z   by  wonker 

Watching a master craftsman at work is only one-part instructive. It is watching someone more like ourselves that we can learn something. Watching Cesc Fabregas will not teach me how to see a pass, but seeing how Burnley’s willing but limited Adrian Barnes strives to work around his limitations offers a template that I can begin to understand. And remember, the likes of Barnes are to all intents and purposes performing on a high wire with no safety net. There is no room for error at the foot of the table. It makes for a truly gripping drama irrespective of allegiance.

Year-on-year the backs-to-the-wall intensity of the relegation battle makes for far more gripping fare than the inevitable fading away of title contenders. We should give those struggling sides far more credit than that routinely offered by the media. It is them rather than the runaway millionaires at the top who make the Premier League the greatest league in the world.


With just three weeks until the kick off of the Premier League season, the league’s biggest title contenders are warming up with some essential charity matches. This year’s transfer season has seen some huge changes, from the sale of Luis Suárez to Barcelona to the complete revamp of Southampton, but a few preliminary matches will ensure that the teams can gel together to ensure a successful season.

One match that’s got bookmakers talking is the forthcoming Community Shield, taking place on 10th August, which will see Manchester City take on Arsenal. The event, formerly known as the Charity Shield, has been taking place since 1908 and places the winners of the FA Cup (Arsenal) against the winners of the Premier League (Manchester City.)

This year will be particularly interesting, if the current odds are anything to go by. With odds of 9/4, Arsenal are an amazing value bet, particularly given the recent signing of Chilean superstar Alexis Sanchez. Though Wenger had been cautious of making any drastic moves too early on in the transfer window, he’s now made two essential purchases, Mathieu Debuchy and Alexis Sanchez, that will surely serve him well in the Premier League and indeed in the forthcoming charity match.

Punters who want to have a flutter on Arsenal in the Premier League need only look at Sanchez’s performance in the World Cup for proof of how much he can help the team. After scoring against Australia and former favourites Brazil, the 25-year-old has shown amazing potential, and this preview match could be a sign of things to come for the Premier League title race.

Meanwhile, Manchester City, who have taken the Community Shield title recently in 2012, should use this opportunity to stretch the legs of their new defence and goalkeeper. While some may argue that manager Manuel Pellegrini is fixing a formula that isn’t broken, he could be viewed as a cautious manager who’s taken care to have a back up where it counts. With odds of 5/4, The Blues are hot favourites to win this year’s event, and they have recent titles on their side. With a 2012 Community Shield win and a Premier League win, they’re highly preferable against a team who, prior to the last FA Cup, hadn’t won a title for nine years.

It could be argued however that the disparity in the odds is somewhat misleading: while experience tells us that Manchester City should win, a charity match is hardly a pairing that will see either team taking any risks. Just six days prior to the start of the Premier League season, both teams could see their managers starting their second team in a bid to keep peak fitness for the league.

For Arsenal however, a title win would be welcomed after their former nine-year drought, so we could just see the bookies proved wrong.


Football has long remained a global sport which has the unique power of uniting millions of people from across the world in their passion for the beautiful game. Matches are televised on a worldwide scale through multi-million pound broadcasting deals which allow live football to be beamed across every continent. Football’s appeal is predominately based upon the level of drama, tension and excitement that created on the pitch which keeps fans on the edge of their seat.

Although domestic league competition provides each country with their own unique identity and passionate supporters, major European competitions and international tournaments provide the greatest attraction for football fans. The UEFA Champions League and World Cup are archetypal examples of tournaments which attract the highest viewing figures in world sport thanks to the high calibre of football on show from the very best players. Such prestigious tournaments were made possible through the efforts of governing bodies to create events that would shape the future of football, in addition to the growing income generated through sponsorship deals.


Business in the sport

Football’s ever-increasing rise to prominence has culminated in the growing rate of sponsorship deals through companies who realise the vast business potential within the sport. A recently agreed deal between Coral and Chelsea illustrates a trend within football which is quickly developing into a multi-billion pound industry where business is equally as important as the game itself. Money has become an integral factor in numerous facets of the game, with football clubs searching for new methods of income to remain stable and finance improvements on and off the pitch to become more established. Sponsorship deals reflect an interdependent relationship between external companies and football clubs; companies need football clubs to promote their brand on a global scale through merchandise, football shirts and advertising boards, while football clubs need companies to generate sufficient income for economic solidity and potential growth. Football clubs also benefit from the wealth of customers who are brand loyal to a particular company, as special promotions and marketing strategies can help to create a global fanbase for a club to thrive upon.


Manchester United

Despite their current on-the-field struggles, Manchester United remain one of the wealthiest clubs in world football thanks to multi-million income generated through global investments and sponsorship deals. Not only are Manchester United amongst an elite group of clubs who have their training and playing kit designed and manufactured by Nike, but the club’s brand continuously draws multi-million pound deals with companies who wish to be associated with a prestigious football team. Following on from their deal to become the global shirt sponsor and principle partner of Manchester United in 2010, multinational corporation AON agreed an eight year deal worth £160 million to put their name on the club’s training ground. The deal came into action in July 2013 as the infamous Carrington became the AON Training Complex, with every player and coaching staff wearing training kit that includes the AON logo. Part of the deal also includes AON sponsoring annual summer tours and friendly matches to increase brand awareness as a commercial business, and promote the company’s global portfolio to prospective clients. The lucrative nature of the deal illustrates the considerable volume of money coming into football, and how sponsorship is vital to generating finances to be put towards operating costs and transfers.



Although a large percentage of Chelsea’s considerable wealth is based upon the multi-billion investment from Russian owner Roman Abramovich, income is also generated through carefully chosen entries into numerous marketing sectors to create sponsors and business partners. The deal agreed between Chelsea and corporate bookmaker Coral in January 2014 signals a niche opening in the market for football clubs to utilise the gambling industry to grow their brand and receive a percentage of all profits. Coral have become Chelsea’s European online betting partner in a two-and-a-half year deal which sees Chelsea fans across the world providing a professional betting service through Coral’s online and mobile betting platforms. While Coral will not feature in any form of club merchandise, Chelsea fans will continuously benefit from the partnership through exclusive offers, which has already included a free 2013/2014 home shirt for those who place a £25 bet after registering an account with Coral throughout the whole of March.


After a summer of discontent it seems the Arsenal rumourmill has gone into overdrive. And once again the rumour wheel of fortune has landed on the name of Eden Hazard. As soon as Samir Nasri’s deal to Manchester City was done and dusted the “Hazard to Arsenal” rumours quickly snowballed to somewhat of a frenzy, even the BBC got in on the act.

Arsene Wenger and the club have been very quiet. Wenger dismissed reports of a £6m bid for Bolton’s Gary Cahill and nothing else was reported. On Thursday night French website Mercato 365 released a “story” that Hazard had agreed terms with Arsenal and a deal would be done for around €35m. Now let’s get a few things straight, Mercato365 is not a respected media outlet, to be honest it’s actually worse than talkSPORT.

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The 2011/12 seasons are kicking off all round Europe. The Premier League in England starts today and the leagues in Germany and Scotland are already underway. I called together the talents of some of the best writers around to give you a glimpse into their predictions for the season ahead.

Terry Duffelen is one half of the excellent “Bundesliga Show” podcast and the fantastic new website “Bundesliga Lounge” be sure to check it out. Here are Terry’s predictions for new Bundesliga season.

Who do you think is the favourite for the title in your respective league and why?

I’m placing my fiver on FC Bayern Munich for the title. Mainly because they rarely go two seasons without winning it but also because I think they have finally addressed their defensive problems with the recruitment of Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng and Rafinha to their ranks. I think Bayern could win the league by ten points or more.

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In the start of a new series Richard Aisthorpe – long-time Sheffield United fan (and my Father-In-Law) brings us his views on a club he has followed since the 80′s. A club that has now gone full circle. I’ll let Richard take up the story…

Ok let’s start with some history. In 1987 I moved to Sheffield and wanted to watch some football ASAP. I went to see Sheffield United play an early season game at home to Northampton in the Third Division (Now League 1). When I got home my wife asked “How was it?” I said “They certainly know where the fucking goals are!” “No need to swear!” she said.

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The transfer merry-go-round is in full swing. With Samir Nasri the latest player to be linked with a move away from Arsenal top blogger Andrew Winn looks at the idea of Samir Nasri staying at the Emirates for another season.

Much like new kits and pre-season tours, the summer would not be the same without an annual transfer debacle. With increasing reliability, players will announce intentions to leave or join a club, listing numerous explanations, the majority of which will irritate the more suspicious supporters of his once beloved current employers.

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“Don’t be fooled by the calendar.  There are only as many days in the year as you make use of.”  ~Charles Richards

Transfer negotiators at Arsenal take note. Most summers at the Emirates are spent embroiled in the latest drawn out transfer saga. More often than not it involves Cesc Fabergas, the “will he won’t he” drama that fills most windows has at least been complimented this Summer with the potential purchase of Ivory Coast winger Gervinho from French champions Lille.

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First of all…watch this!


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It is the pleasure of gibfootballshow to welcome David Bevan, otherwise known as The 72 football. David asks the question. Do we really want Goal-Line technology?

I love football. I love it for its beauty, but also for its imperfections. Apparently, though, I don’t. This weekend, there was another contentious decision in the Premier League and we have had to suffer overexposed loudmouths in the media putting words in the mouths of millions of football supporters. More waffle and bluster about how “everyone” wants goal-line technology except a few “neanderthals” at FIFA. Tentatively, I raise my hand. And me…

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