England's 3-2 defeat by Croatia last night, eliminating them from the Euro 2008 soccer championship, looks likely to set off the kind of "club versus country" debate referred to in my last blog. Financial casualties are the broadcasters, whose audiences in one of Europe's largest broadcast markets will now be negligible, plus sellers of England merchandise. The Football Association, which governs the game in England as well as running the England team is said to be facing a loss of about £20 million in income.
In the media feeding frenzy the blame is being leveled at the coach Steve McClaren (now sacked), the players (caring more about their club than their country), the influx of foreign players (not enough domestic talent), the FA (incompetence), the clubs (lack of training and development), the profit seeking owners of Premier League, the European Union (no exemption from antitrust for sport, so domestic players cannot be awarded preference). Politicians are getting involved because constituents are unhappy. Who knows, maybe it will even create added pressure for a referendum on the new EU treaty. If I were a foreign owner in the EPL I would be lying low for a few months.
Watching the game, it was very noticeable that the Wembley pitch had been badly damaged by last month's NFL game (you could still see the yardage marks on the sideline). Since we're in the blame game here, I vote we place it fairly and squarely with our American cousins. Of course, I am hastily rediscovering my Polish roots. Nic się nie stalo, Polacy nic się nie stało!