Huge clubs arranging exhibition games across the globe is nothing new as football gets ever more corporate. The trend arrives in Scotland tomorrow to be greeted by an admittedly receptive audience.
The fact the sold-out friendly between Liverpool and Napoli is taking place at the home of Scottish rugby is one of several problems associated with it. If it must be staged at all, then surely the match should be in Scottish football’s backyard.
A hitherto unreported consequence of Liverpool taking a friendly across the border due to ongoing maintenance work on their Anfield pitch is a compensation claim landing on their desk from the Scottish Football Association, from whom agreement is required by Fifa.
Liverpool never sought it. With 67,000 having already bought tickets, it’s too late now. Liverpool will fling something the SFA’s way, a figure that’s small beer compared to what they will earn from a match that shouldn’t be seen as anything other than a money-making exercise for the European champions. Why else would they have eschewed playing at Hampden, the Scottish HQ of their left-back and current Scotland skipper Andy Robertson?
It’s surely not purely from a desire to pay homage to one of their greatest players – Graeme Souness grew up in the streets around Murrayfield after all. More likely it’s the 17,000 extra seats provided by BT Murrayfield – to give the stadium it’s full corporate name, appropriate in the circumstances – which made Liverpool’s eyes light up.
A club whose ideals are meant to be based on the socialist beliefs about the game as espoused by Bill Shankly – not a rugby man, I believe – don’t deserve much benefit of doubt following news they are also currently seeking to trademark the word “Liverpool”.
It’s hard to avoid concluding that the Scottish football public’s well-known appetite for football is being exploited while the game itself in this country is being ill-served. The season is still young and yet there have already been huge crowds congregating at Parkhead and Ibrox for qualifying fixtures against Europe’s lesser lights.
But there are Betfred Cup ties tomorrow afternoon between Queen’s Park and Clyde and Dundee and Inverness Caledonian Thistle where every fan will be a bonus.
I know of some Dundee fans opting against a trip to Dens in order to watch a one-off glamour friendly likely to drift to a conclusion amid multiple substitutions as Mexican waves ripple around the ground.
The late Jim Farry, god bless him, would have a fit if he knew what was happening. The former chief executive would not countenance any game across the globe being shown live at the same time as a Scottish fixture, never mind agree to a friendly, one actually played in Scotland between two non-Scottish teams, averting interest from domestic matches, however low profile.
Here we have a very rich English club getting richer on the back of the Scottish football pound. Worse, the governing body benefiting from the arrangement is not Scottish football’s governing body.
Scottish Rugby will make an estimated six-figure profit from the rental agreement and hospitality cut. It’s (another) slap in the face for Scottish football. But then the craft lager and artisan sausages will no doubt go down a treat before the English football juggernaut reverses out again. Jurgen Klopp might as well lean out the window and laugh that merry laugh of his: so long, suckers.