We’ve got our priorities wrong in all of the criticism of the canceled City/United “derby”. The clubs have been accused of greed for organising the fixture, but really it’s the fans who’ve lost out on a chance to see their heroes we should be focusing on, and the ridiculous prices they’ve been asked to pay for the privilege.
I’ve always grown up with a bit of a split opinion on the much-maligned pre-season tour and events this week in China have thrown them up again.
On the one hand they’re a necessary evil – they bring in valuable revenue for clubs, a massive money-spinner aimed at promoting their image and brand internationally, especially in the markets of the Far East. A lot of fans over there tend not to stick with a certain club for life, as we do here, rather backing whoever visited last or is currently top of the pile.
— Simon Peach (@SimonPeach) 24 July 2016
The inception of the International Champions Cup (ICC) in 2013 now sees the world’s biggest clubs playing in a loosely defined “tournament” format, culminating this year in what would have been some kind of weird, plastic, Manchester derby at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing. It wasn’t to be, with City and United falling foul of the rainy season.
Many have roundly criticised the clubs for being there in the first place, saying they should be taking advantage of their own world-class facilities at home, such as the £200 million City Football Academy, to get players ready for what’s tipped to be a blockbuster season. They say now that City are going to be a friendly short of match practice and it’s no one’s fault but their own, for swapping Manchester drizzle for Chinese downpour chasing revenue. An argument not without merit, that crops up year on year, but for now it looks like lucrative pre-season tours are here to stay.
This is the pitch at the Bird's Nest. Can see why MUFC v MCFC was cancelled now. It's in a very poor state. pic.twitter.com/jywTSmnn8L
— Paul Hirst (@hirstclass) 25 July 2016
Despite City sending out their own ground staff to help make the pitch as playable as possible, it wasn’t to be. In the build up even Jose Mourinho, in a rare moment of charity, set out his priority as both sets of players coming through the fixture unscathed. For once, common sense prevailed and the risk to the players on the patchwork pitch was too great, and early on Monday morning, the match was cancelled. There are undoubtedly some who will feel it was the footballing Gods telling us it should never have been allowed to happen in the first place but let’s be clear – the players’ safety is paramount. If the pitch was hazardous to the superstars, then they shouldn’t be risked. But who I really feel for are the fans – plastic or not – who had the once in a lifetime chance to see the players they’ve idolised from afar.
Having grown up in rural Ireland, and having very little chance of ever getting to a game when I was growing up, I can empathise. While there’s obviously a vast difference between that and living in remote China, it’s a rare chance you ever to watch City play in the flesh where you live unless you’re one of the 65 million or so who currently live in the UK.
One of my fondest childhood memories was going to see WHICHEVER Premier League club that sent their B-team to Ireland on their pre-season tours. You got to feel like you weren’t so disconnected from the clubs you watched on television all season.
Whether we like it or not, City are now a global commodity. Our fan base is now built globally and those fans deserve the chance to see their players too. You see fans as passionate about City now in Africa, Asia and the United States as you’ll find in East Manchester on match day. I’m not in any way suggesting that we should be considering the ludicrous “39th game” as has been backed by Premier League Chief, Richard Scudamore. That leaves pre-season trips across the globe as the best way to allow our international fans to get a chance of seeing their City heroes.
While City and their cross town rivals have been pilloried for being there in the first place, we should be focusing our criticism on the organisers, of the ICC, who, despite knowing how volatile the weather can be in the Chinese capital in the Summer months failed to make adequate provisions to ensure the fixture could go ahead. There are also reports that fans weren’t even told that the fixture was cancelled, arriving in Beijing oblivious that they wouldn’t be seeing a game. Those same organisers that saw fit to charge up to £300 for the game, with only a loose arrangement that “some” of the clubs’ top earners would be on show.
City promote themselves as a club more in touch with their fans than some of the other great footballing superpowers, they now owe it to those who were left disappointed to see some form of refund, and to also question what gives organisers the right to exploit them, just for not living on the small island that hosts the world’s so-called best league (an argument for another day).
Just because they’re fans from the other side of the world, it doesn’t render them inconsequential – we should be standing in solidarity with them for a fairer deal for all those who love seeing their club in the flesh.
Typical City is funded by the readers via our Patreon page. Please consider funding us with $1 a month so we can continue to operate as we are now. Thank you in advance.
Written by Josh Stead