But they’re close! The Guardian’s Paul Kelso on the Labor Party’s displeasure over sports minister’s Gerry Sutcliffe’s recent remarks on the financial state of the Premier League.
The Premier League developed close ties with Prime Minister Gordon Brown during his time as Chancellor, and has praised the competition for its grass-roots programmes and suggested it is a positive force in British foreign relations. With the prime minister also supporting England’s 2018 World Cup bid, it seems the minister’s timing could have been better. In an address at a sports business conference on Thursday, Sutcliffe (above) singled out England captain John Terry’s wages as “obscene”, said Chelsea’s financial position was “unsustainable”, and warned that season-ticket rises at Old Trafford risked pricing out ordinary fans.
Factual errors in Sutcliffe’s speech – he inflated Terry’s weekly wage from £130,000 to £150,000, and said Chelsea were £250m “in the red” when their actual losses for the past two years are £220m – allowed the clubs to focus on detail rather than Sutcliffe’s wider arguments, but it seems the prime minister has little sympathy for either. The timing of Sutcliffe’s comments about Terry, 24 hours after the government had thrown its weight behind the World Cup bid, is thought to have caused irritation, and Downing Street has little sympathy for the wider argument.
“If you are going to make this sort of comment on the issues of club finances then you have to make sure you get your facts right,” said a source. “This needs a more sensible debate. One of the reasons the Premier League is such a success is that it attracts the best players, and the market dictates that they will receive the best wages. With hindsight, Gerry Sutcliffe might have put things differently.”
Sutcliffe was far from chastened yesterday, repeating his view that excess risked divorcing the game from fans. “This is about whether football can sustain the losses that Chelsea have,” Sutcliffe told the BBC. “I stand corrected – I said Chelsea’s losses were £250m and I understand it’s £220m over two years, and John’s salary is not £150,000 a week it’s closer to £130,000. To the ordinary man and woman that would be seen as obscene”.
Hey, look who’s suddenly one point beyond the relegation zone! New manager Luigi De Canio celebrated QPR’s 2-0 defeat of Hull City by strangling a small child.
Your globetrotting editor will attend the Stupor Hoops’ clash with Coventry this coming Tuesday night, and I can barely contain my excitement over another opportunity to bask in the splendor of the Football League’s cleanest toilets.