The Premier League Hall of Fame, Let the Arguments Begin
Alot of the tech giants tell you they’re investing so heavily in driverless cars because they want to save lives. And you know, that’s so close to the truth – but it’s not quite it. In fact, they’re investing so heavily in driverless cars because they want to capture ever more of your behavioural data, and that’s much easier to do when you’re interacting with their products instead of driving a car. Be in a car, by all means – but ideally you will soon be interacting with their products in that car, as opposed to driving it. Or to put it another way: these guys don’t want to save lives! They want to ruin them a bit more! (I’m kidding, of course. We’re only at the very beginning of understanding all the great stuff this type of technology has done for us.)
It’s hard not to see the same relentless altruism in the Premier League, who seem to be making yet further investment in the idea of football-less football. As discussed here a few weeks ago, the sheer volume of content generated about the league’s first winter break showed how much less essential football itself is becoming to the “product”, while football-adjacent content – off-pitch drama, social media engagement, sponsorship culture and so on – performs better and better all the time.
Against this backdrop, then, the announcement of a Premier League Hall of Fame met with the expected reception. Which is to say: vast interaction, in the form of vast derision. But as we know, the type of interaction seems to be largely irrelevant these days. Only last week, as has been much noted, Manchester United’s managing director Richard Arnold was announcing smugly that the loan signing of Odion Ighalo was the top trend worldwide on Twitter. It’s an interesting metric of success, though by no means one we should discount. As I type this, the top two trending topics on UK Twitter are Peter Andre and Liz Truss – both of whom would arguably be similarly impressive signings for Arnold, who has yet to alight on one Official Derision Partner of Manchester United.
But before we go on, a quick recap on the Premier League’s big idea. At this stage, there do not appear to be plans to make the Premier League Hall of Fame a physical facility, like the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. This is sadly not a museum of Premier League history, which could make space for such priceless cultural artefacts as the Chateau Petrus-soaked napkin on which Richard Scudamore once scribbled “Game 39???”, or the air rifle Ashley Cole shot the work experience kid with.
Instead, according to the official portentous press release on the matter, being inducted will come with a medal and will be “the highest individual honour awarded to players by the League”. Think of this as the Victoria Cross, with any medal a player might have got for actually winning the Premier League hereby immediately downgraded to the equivalent of a mere mention in dispatches. The first two inductees will be announced in two weeks’ time, with the gazillions of fans inevitably enraged by the choice invited to get involved and vote for others to join them. Yup, classic Premier League. They’ve got us right where they want us.
We also learned that the Hall of Fame is to be “presented by Budweiser”, whatever that means, whose global vice president of marketing says: “We are passionate about football, and so are our consumers.” And he might be right. They certainly aren’t passionate about beer, that’s for sure.
Anyway, that’s about the size of the plan. On the one hand, I quite enjoy the first big idea of new Premier League chief Richard Masters being a best-of-the-best initiative. As a man who was famously something like the seventh choice for his role, this marks him out as a keen ironist.
On the other hand, what is the point of any of this stuff but the endless, ferociously pointless online rows it generates? We don’t call them that, of course – it is “engagement”, or “interaction”, or “loyalty”. Inspired by the Eskimos of cliché, we now have 100 different words for calling someone wrong on the internet. Great swathes of modern life and culture are now governed by a series of euphemistic abstract nouns for what is – let’s face it – the business of getting people to spend hours furiously insulting each other online. Or as Masters prefers to sanitize it: “It will be an occasion for our fans around the world to look back over the years and help us celebrate some truly exceptional playing careers.”
It will also be an occasion for a lot of newspaper articles – like this one, in fact – that can’t leave well alone. After all, this is how they get you. At the weekend I read a column stating that this Hall of Fame devalues the worthy Hall of Fame that already exists at the National Football Museum in Manchester – a column which then immediately proceeded to devalue the latter Hall of Fame by demanding to know why Terry Butcher wasn’t the crowning glory of it. “Surely nobody can disagree,” this stated, “that he should bestride the Hall of Fame, a bloody bandage round his head.” “If it helps,” I immediately began replying sarcastically to the pixels on my phone, “I can totally disagree?”
On that day, I managed to find the strength to delete this wildly unnecessary interjection before I posted it – but now I’ve fallen right off the wagon and written this. That’s the siren-song of football-less football for you: only the truly pure and the truly strong fail to get sucked in.
The Guardian Sport