You’ve got to feel sorry for cricket. And golf. Tennis too. In fact any sport that isn’t football, and more specifically, the unstoppable English Premier League.
We are in the summer break in European football, where other sports usually enjoy their time in the sun, something that didn’t happen as normal last year when the London Olympics dominated in this part of the world.
But this time, the feverish anticipation of a new English Premier League (EPL) season is creating the headlines and the interest. Whether it’s social media, sports channels, radio, newspapers, it’s all about who’s going where and who’s going to do what to whom when the action begins in August.
I am the sports correspondent for Al Jazeera, not just football, but I’ve never known such excitement about the new season in early June.
The EPL must be rubbing their hands at how the dice are falling, and yet they don’t need much more help to sell their product. It’s been reported this week by Deloitte that the league’s annual revenues will surge past £3 billion this year, underlining its status as the richest league in the world.
Any fears that the loss of Alex Ferguson would have any impact on the league’s power to make news were allayed within days of his sudden departure in May. Consider how it’s shaping up;
Will Manchester United be the same force under Moyes, and will they keep hold of Wayne Rooney?
Can Manchester City capitalise on the changing of the guard at Old Trafford, in Pellegrini’s first job in England. It’s still remarkable that a club with that much money are not clear favourites to win everything.
How will Roberto Martinez get on at Everton? Is he the real deal as a top coach or could he be better defensively?
What about Mark Hughes – redemption at Stoke or another rough ride after his Queens Park Rangers disaster?
On top of this there’s the return of Crystal Palace, and the return to the Premier League of Ian Holloway, a man we should much admire. He will light up the league again. I believe he’s responsible for at least three of the funniest ten clips on You Tube and therein lies his problem. Because he is funny, it overshadows his excellence as a manager. And I mean manager, in the old fashioned sense. Holloway is a leader of men, shrewd and clever. If Palace finish bottom it will be more to do with resources than his failings. I wish him luck.
And with Paolo Di Canio already there, the new season will be rich with character…and quotes.
Have I forgotten someone? Ah yes, Jose Mario Dos Santos Mourinho Felix. Back at Chelsea.
There are three stages to his return. Firstly the fascinating news that it was even being considered, as heavily hinted to me by the Chelsea chairman in Singapore a few months ago. What a prospect it was.
But what really shows the draw of Mourinho was stage two. The confirmation of what we’d known for weeks, that he is definitely back at Stamford Bridge six years after being sacked and humiliated. Six years after six trophies. There was huge interest from football fans in simply knowing it was signed, sealed and delivered. Big coverage of a dotting of the i’s and the crossing of t’s!
Stage three, his first press conference. Let’s not call it an unveiling. People want to hear this man being mischievous. He pulls in non-football fans with his looks and charisma, is adored by the Chelsea fans, but even supporters of rival clubs were fizzing with 140-character excitement about his return to London.
All great news for the EPL brand, with fresh global television rights deals about to kick-in worth over $8 billion.
The knock-on effect is good for everyone, it’s good for me, it’s good for my peers, its influence is close to phenomenal.
But with great power comes responsibility. And perspective is needed. Last year the League needed to brace itself for criticism.
The incredible ‘feel good’ factor of the London Olympics and the grace and eloquence of the competitors started to look like a big contrast to the reputation of footballers. I was asked to make a report on this.
Inside the Olympic Park I expected people to make an easy unfavourable comparison so handled with care when trying to ask opinions on camera. What I wasn’t expecting was the half hour of response I got from the public. To a man, woman and child, they were reasonable, passionate and intelligent about the subject. They were all fans of the Olympics AND football, but felt it was time for footballers to improve their behaviour and their image.
The easy thing was for these views to be dismissed as generalisations or unfair. To be defensive. To ask that people stop bashing footballers. I got the feeling the EPL were irritated at how this subject was being reported – but to be fair to them they are clever enough to have anticipated some criticism was on its way and discussed it internally well in advance.
Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise for them. A reminder not to underestimate the power of the public. This story came FROM the public, even if the media gobbled it up hungrily. And they are no fools. The teeth of Suarez would have been met by a wince at their London headquarters I don’t doubt.
Far more palatable will be events on June 19. With a smorgasbord of sporting treats being served, what’s going to stir the blood of most sports fans?
The work of the English Premier League fixture computer.
Lee Wellings is the Sports Correspondent for Al Jazeera English based in London. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lee on twitter @LeeW_Sport