The Premier League: a fetid pit of greed serving up underheated fare to jaded consumers? Or a breath of fresh air ushering in yet another glitzy rollercoaster ride? Is football awful? Or is it, in fact, great? You may be feeling a little confused if you’ve read the papers much this month.
Footballers have had a long and sometimes painful relationship with fashion. The default position has always been that they’re basically a bit of a joke when it comes to this kind of thing. The nature of the joke may have changed over time – from terrible slacks, bad hair and nylon blazers to the current blizzard of conspicuous consumption – but it’s never really gone away.
This has been a slightly desperate month for the football pages. A non-tournament summer tends to create two main problems. First, there’s the fact that nothing’s really happening. How, at times like these, to fill the 12-page daily sport supplement and stoke the creative muse of 14 weekly picture-bylined columnists? Football has, of course, been the main impetus behind the mushrooming of all this extra space. Without actual matches, we’re left with a noisy and occasionally ragged exercise in misdirection.
The mob of Premiership clubs off on a Far East beano this summer has received unprecedented coverage in the newspapers. As ever, nobody really knows what to make of this kind of thing. Understandably enough, football hacks pitched into an utterly alien environment can sometimes find themselves a little out of their depth. The tone is usually pitched somewhere between eye-boggling visions of the wealth to be reaped from this parallel universe of crazed, barely coherent football junkies; and sex tourist-lite fascination with the sheer, naked, excitable strangeness of it all.