18 October ~ Fans complain a lot nowadays that everyone’s trying to make money out of football, but to me it’s obvious that the game’s commercial potential is nowhere close to being exhausted. True, we live in an age where some players can make significant extra income out of nothing more than their photographic image, and the Football League rakes in cash from the media for the mere privilege of printing their copyrighted fixture list. But when I heard a commentator at the weekend describe “Rory Delap’s trademark long throw-in”, I felt bad for the Stoke City midfielder. It may be his trademark, but I bet he doesn’t earn a penny from it.
Delap really should claim copyright over the long throw-in. True, he’s not the first player to use his hands to cast dead balls deep into the penalty area. But I reckon he’d be the first to file a patent claim for it with the Intellectual Property Office. After that, he should sue for royalties any other player who tries to gain an advantage by propelling the ball with arm strength into the vicinity of the six-yard box. Should the throw result in a goal, you pay double. It’s time to give Rory his due for what he has contributed to the modern game.
Any time a commentator attributes the word “trademark” to a particular player’s skill, or habit, then their agents should be on the lookout for money-spinning copycat behaviour. Pleased as you might be with the free-kick you bent around the wall and into the net on Hackney Marshes last Sunday morning, you’ll still have to contribute a sum of gratitude to the Roberto Carlos Retirement Fund (via a string of entirely legitimate bank accounts in Chechnya). Or maybe you spent the entire 90 minutes looking lost and ineffective, in which case you owe money to anyone who’s worn a Scotland shirt over the past decade. In an egalitarian world, rubbish should be trademarked too.
Fancy flinging yourself to the ground in the penalty area to fool the referee into awarding your team a spot-kick? Absolutely fine, but don’t be surprised to find Steven Gerrard’s lawyers on the touchline presenting you with a bill. What about mindlessly lashing out at an opponent after the ball has gone? Go ahead, fill your boots (or scythe your studs). Just be prepared to admit you got the idea off Wayne Rooney, and transfer the required sum to his agent for the privilege. Creative inspiration’s not free, you know.
Want to look like a mother hen, clucking randomly and staring into space while sitting on a nest of warm eggs? Cough up to Harry Redknapp. Get drunk, go to a night club, behave like a twat, get into a fight, then blame the football “establishment” – cheques payable to J Barton.
Square up to several thousand Aston Villa fans if you like, but don’t pretend you’re not mimicking Mario Balotelli (though like brave Mario, you might want to do it from the safety of the pitch, with several stewards, policemen and TV cameras present). You’ll also have to shell out for executing John Terry’s trademark shag of a team-mate’s wife, while Ashley Cole will be the deserving recipient should you be annoying, petulant and generally unpopular with everyone you’ve ever met.
These lads’ careers will probably be over by the time they’re 35. It’s time we parasites stopped milking their ideas without giving back the requisite compensation. Ian Plenderleith