Anybody who has followed soccer for any length of time must sometimes get the sense that not only will the game sell it’s soul for whatever cash is on the table but that there is little that supporters can do to turn back this seemingly unstoppable tide.
From advertising signs around the ground to shirt sponsorship, from naming rights of stadiums to every camera shot of every interview being cluttered with more promotional signs than a Nascar event, it has long been apparent that big corporations will find ever more pervasive ways of bringing their wares to the attention of reluctant fans.
There has recently been one small victory for the anti-commercialists though, and the story is an instructive one for both the game and its sponsors.
Mexican club soccer has developed a tradition of allowing water breaks for players after 25 minutes of a game where the weather is excessively hot. This is usually reached with the agreement of the match official and both Captains and nobody has had any issue with an arrangement that is clearly intended to safeguard the health of the players.
Recently though something odd had begun to happen. Even in games that were played in cooler weather or in the evening the water break was still being taken and, on each occasion, the TV companies had broadcast commercials during this stoppage in play
Fans quickly became suspicious that what they were witnessing was not being done out of concern for the players but in the interest of bringing additional money into a League that had seen a significant drop in its revenue in recent years.
The Mexican Football Federation (FMF) were inundated with complaints about the practice and eventually announced that it would no longer be a feature of games. For once the interests of the fans had surpassed the interests of the money men. Why?
Whether or not FIFA became actively involved isn’t clear, but an organisation that won’t allow the game to be interrupted for the review of whether a ball has crossed the line were never going to be happy about a match being effectively split into four quarters on the whim of an individual Football Federation.
Similarly, and perhaps to emphasise FIFA’s argument, it became apparent that these breaks were disrupting the flow of the games to such an extent that they were losing their appeal to the TV audience. Little wonder then that the FMF did eventually bow to the pressure
The lessons from all this should be plain.
Sponsors are free to spend their money changing the way that the game looks, or even change the names of our cherished institutions, but try to mess with the way that the game is actually played and they are more likely to reap the wrath of the fans that they are trying to court than their cash or their custom.
You can also find other Soccer Report Extra.com contributors on Twitter by following this link.
Please refrain from posting comments that;
The House reserves the right to delete any such comments and to block further participation on the site.