Tuesday 16 February 2021 3:00 pm

Too much of a good thing: Are round-the-clock matches giving you football fatigue?

As I’m sure most readers of this publication will be aware, one of the characteristics of money is that there is a limited supply of it. 

Scarcity equals value, and that’s something which the football world might soon need to take into account. 

The pandemic’s impact has condensed the football season and, for many of us stuck indoors, what feels like round-the-clock football has been a saviour. 

Read more: Covid-19 deals €2bn blow to world’s leading football clubs, says Deloitte

At the moment, Premier League matches have become like episodes of QI. You’re never more than an hour away from one. 

But – whisper it – I fear football fatigue is starting to set in. 

In the distant past of Lockdown Part One, I missed football terribly. In Britain it is the rhythm of our lives. 

From your phone buzzing with the team line-ups to Twitter transfer rumours and Super Sundays, it is both a passion and a cultural comfort blanket which each week culminates in the rituals of match day itself. 

With visits to stadiums still something we can only dream of, broadcasters have instigated back-to-back matches providing more live football than ever before. 

This may feel like a short-term measure but don’t be so sure. 

Dependent viewing public

Before Covid-19, viewing figures of live games were starting to fall, with shorter bursts of content on the likes of YouTube in the ascendency. 

Now, sports broadcasters have a dependent viewing public and the best way to keep them watching is to screen as many games as they can. And who can blame them?

If the big boys of European football have their way, there could soon be even more, whether that’s a ‘Swiss Model’ Champions League or a European Super League with clubs incentivised by the prospect of an extra £200m a season. 

I think you can guess where that money will mainly come from. 

I can’t help thinking that the manner in which we currently consume the beautiful game is offering the boardroom suits in Manchester, Madrid and Munich encouragement. 

The financial impact on clubs over the last 10 months have been huge, although among the elite it may have confirmed something they’ve been mulling for some time. 

Global audiences are more important to future revenues than crowds in the stadium. More matches to keep us in our armchairs is the easy answer.

Match days blurring into one

Ultimately, clubs and competitions are businesses and money makes the football world go round. 

What we shouldn’t forget is what also drives the game is the passion of the fans themselves.

Traditionally that manifests itself at 3pm on a Saturday. Right now, it’s 7.45pm on a Monday, 8pm on a Thursday and noon on a Sunday. 

The fans need to be up for games as much as the players to drive the social media chat, read the papers and create that sense of occasion and spectacle. 

What we love as much as the game itself is talking about it. At the moment, there’s little time for chat.

A constant stream of football has left less breathing space for discussion about the latest crisis club
A constant stream of football has left less breathing space for discussion about the latest crisis club (Getty Images)

Football is in danger of going from being the rhythm of our lives to background noise.

Build-ups and match days are blurring into one and narratives are no more before they’ve even had time to capture the imagination. 

Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United have all been ‘crisis clubs’ at some point this season. You’ve probably already forgotten.

What football can learn from the NFL

When the European Super League rumours resurfaced Pep Guardiola argued against it.

“Go for the quality over the quantity… to make a Super Premier League, you have to reduce the number of teams,” the City boss said. 

Last week we saw the reason I think he might be right: the biggest annual sporting event on earth, the Super Bowl. 

A night which brings a nation to a standstill and commands huge global audiences. Like the FA Cup final in the past.

As a competition, it’s incredibly hard to win and yet the champions have played fewer than 20 matches. 

Every game counts. Every match is an event, selling out and commanding international viewing figures. The NFL isn’t short of a few quid either. 

There is a limited supply of American Football and yet its value continues to rise. 

If you are enjoying the flurry of football, I hope you continue to do so. Just remember you can have too much of a good thing. 

When I mentioned football fatigue on WhatsApp one mate simply said: “I’ve given up on Fantasy Football as I don’t know where the game weeks start and finish.” 

Let’s not let football become a blur.

Matthew Fletcher-Jones is director of communications at Cake, a sports and entertainment agency.

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