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Will Man Utd's Riyadh Trip Expose Hypocrisy?

In today’s Guardian newspaper, Daniel Taylor reports that Manchester United is planning on playing a friendly in January as a testimonial. The issue is that the match will be played in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and it’s a 6,000-mile round trip.

To repay Man United for taking this friendly during their regular season, the Red Devils will receive more than $2 million.

While clubs are free to make decisions on their own whether to risk injury or fatique from traveling, I’m more interested to see what the reaction will be from the UK press and football fans over the next week.

Imagine, for a minute, that the friendly was to be played in New York City at the Meadowlands instead of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. After all, Manchester to Riyadh is a round-trip of 6428 miles, while Manchester to New York round-trip is 6692 miles.

If the Glazers had decided to play the friendly in the States instead of Riyadh, the next few days would be filled with articles by bloggers mocking and whining the decision, while the UK journalists would assuredly write several pieces lamenting how the game is being sold out to American corporate interests and how the influence of the Glazers over Man United is fueled by greed.

Double standards? I think so.

While you’re surfing the Internet and reading articles on your favorite soccer websites over the next few days, keep a running tally of how many articles by bloggers and journalists criticize Man United and mock Saudi Arabia. I would hazard a guess that you’ll see very few, if any, and that the whole story will be overlooked – for the most part – until January when you’ll see a few articles criticizing Man United the team for taking the trip without blame or mocking being aimed at Saudi Arabia. Sounds like hypocrisy to me.

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  1. Fredfromacrossthepond

    October 30, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    I find your comments expose you as a Glazer apologist. There would be no hypocrisy in complaining about a one-off, U.S. based friendly, as opposed to one in Rhiyadh, nor in any number of other countries.

    The Glazers were essentially the first of the current rush to turn the EPL into solely a commercial enterprise. The strength of the EPL, and many other Euro leagues, is that the clubs were driven by passion; most of the income was turned back into the club, to fund improvement on the pitch. The threat of relegation kept clubs honest. They have to spend to remain competitive.

    You will see the EPL become more like the sterile, revenue-sharing north american sports leagues – selling an entertainment package, rather than true competition. It will not surprise me to see the EPL, or parts of it, become a “closed shop”, with no fear of relegation, so that owners can be like Bidwell in Phoeniz (NFL) and Jacobs in Boston and Wirtz in Chicago (NHL), i.e.: simply run the clubs as perosnal cash boxes, and never feeling the need to put anything back in.

    If the Glazers were to host a game in the U.S., it would be seen as one more example of their desire (along with the other new corporate-type owners) to make the EPL fit into the North American format of professional sports. That would be unfortunate.

  2. Simon Burke

    October 30, 2007 at 10:26 am

    I am not sure this is really relevant in terms of where the game is played – the fact is wherever it was played that it’s a huge distance and probably ill advised as the FA Cup is up and running, the games come thick and fast at the back end of December and fatigue is an issue. As an Arsenal fan I am delighted by this announcement and I am sure United fans are not too thrilled with the prospect of such a daft fixture. ITs Glazier greed whether it’s in Saudi Arabia or New York – I couldn’t care less beyond the timing of the game and the possible benefits to us 🙂

    As for rotation, I can’t answer this without showing bias but the simple fact for me is – America hosted the World Cup in 1994. You don’t deserve it again for a few more years yet. I don’t see why America thinks that it’s the next COncacaf nation to host the cup, you were the LAST Concacaf reps and so shouldn’t it be Canada’s turn or back to Mexico? (they have hosted it twice so I am dead opposed to them getting it).
    England started the game, has only hosted it once and it would be wrong if America hosts it twice in 24 years whereas we will have then hosted it only once since the tournament’s inception in 1930.
    Americans have gotten used to hosting the Olympics so often and have forgotten that it shouldn’t work that way. I doubt America will get it before 2034 and think that’s perfectly fair. If Canada want it you shouldn’t get a sniff. China are likely to get it in the 2020’s and a joint bid from Uruguay/Argentina in 2030 leaving only one open slot before 2034. Egypt/Holland/Spain will all feel they can bid for 2026 along with a Concacaf nation who if its Canada should get preference over America assuming they can get the stadia right.

  3. Is this betting

    October 30, 2007 at 9:32 am

    It does on the surface appear strange and no doubt there would be questions asked if the trip was to the US. You must realise that British people do have a suspicion that the game is not liked over the pond and despite the strength of the game out there and the fine players that appear in Europe every week it will be a long time before people change their opinion.

    Considering the current political situation it is ironic that soccer fans over here would still be happier to see their team play in Saudi Arabia than the US. Illogical but true.

    On a seperate point the club would have had to make a long trip if they had won the Champions League to play in the World Club Championship in December in Japan.

  4. eplnfl

    October 30, 2007 at 6:54 am

    I think you hit the nail right on the head Gaf, if the owners played this game in Florida, which would warm your heart and is a nice place to be that time of year the English press would have a field day with attack upon attack.

    I also feel a bit outraged this morning over FIFA’s dropping the rotation policy for the WC. That story should be worth a book or two on what went on behind the scenes.

    Not a good day for soccer fans in the America’s I would say.

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