Saturday 25 July ~

Due to the nature of my work, occasionally I get offered the odd freebie. Like most people, when it comes to free stuff, I'm not too fussy. For instance, I am the proud owner of a hardback copy of The Original Football Idol, the autobiography of Plymouth Argyle legend Tommy Tynan, that remains unread beyond the first paragraph. However, yesterday I became the third person at the paper I occasionally work for to turn down a pair of tickets for Sunday's Wembley Cup. Apparently they had a face value of £59: no one seemed to care. No one wanted to watch the Wembley Cup.

According to the Wembley Stadium press release "the Wembley Cup has been developed to provide an exciting curtain-raiser to the new season and is a must-see event for football fans". Having seen highlights of Celtic slicing through the Al Ahly defence in the opening fixture on Friday evening the words "must see" seem to have been used in a similarly loose sense to the recent "must see" sequel to the Transformers movie. The press release also promises "Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, Luka Modric and Robbie Keane". Keane came on as a substitute while Barcelona gave a start to just one player from the Champions League final.

This would not be a problem if it was billed and priced like a run of the mill pre-season friendly but it is the presentation of such a kickabout as a worthwhile tournament that grates. Much like the use of Wembley for increasingly flimsy excuses for football matches, the idea of turning a bunch of friendlies into a needless tournament is the kind of transparent moneymaking scheme that has become tediously prevalent in the few weeks of the year when we aren’t beaten around the head with Super Sundays.

Pre-season friendlies are, as a rule, pretty turgid affairs, the only highlights usually being the chance to see a new signing attempting to impress or check out a new home shirt failing to look quite right. It is a necessary evil that is never going to be a great spectacle, like stretches before a match, and it doesn't need to pretend it is anything else. When the Wembley Cup is presented on Sunday it is unlikely that the fans of the victorious club will see their weekend's work as positively as the club's accountants will. Josh Widdicombe

Comments (2)
Comment by Simple Pieman 2009-07-25 14:58:58

Completely agree with you on this Josh. I was there last night and will be there on Sunday 'supporting' Spurs. However, the pricing is way over the top, particularly in view of the non competitive nature of the football, the lack of top players and the fact that Barcelona are still on their holidays! Celtic will be focused on their Champions League qualifier and the 4th team are there (no disrespect) for the benefit of sponsors. I have never liked 4 team tornaments (i've seen a fair number), there is always one match you have little interest in. Hence me being in the pub at Marylebone for most of Celtic's match and many of their fans heading to the West End as we arrived at Wembley.

This overhyped kickabout got a 57,000 crowd last night but to sustain this each year either Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal or West Ham will have to appear. Geography dictates.

On Sunday my children will visit Wembley for the first time. Just about the only plus for me. However, I must remember to take my own refreshments as the prices there are as value for money as the match tickets.

I have seen two (three once) matches on the same day but I prefer separate venues. The last time was in Manchesterlast season.

Comment by fieryelephant 2009-07-28 05:24:50

The same thing happens in Australia. My local team Melbourne Victory recently played "EPL giants Fulham". The cheapest tickets were around 3 times the price of a regular league game and inevitably Fulham played several players I'd never heard of. I'm glad to say the hype failed as the gate was considerably under the average league crowd. My favourite bit of hype was that "The squad would feature eight players likely to play in the 2010 world cup", which would be contingent on both Andy Johnson and Danny Murphy receiving a call from Mr Capello!

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