Every year it’s always amusing to imagine what is coming in the year ahead. There is no doubt that for the world of football it will be a busy year as always. Here are 5 of my massive predictions for footy in 2010 as well as a massive dog:
1. 3D Broadcasts to Change the Way We Watch the Game
It has already been announced that this year’s World Cup will be broadcast in 3D at certain locations (sadly the US is not one of those locations…). But I believe that top tier teams will upgrade themselves to begin offering 3D content within the year.
2. ESPN to buyout Setanta US
In a bid to take control of the fledgling US soccer broadcast market ESPN will buyout the ailing North American division of Setanta. The bid will place ESPN in square control of Premier League and Scottish Premier League distribution rights for the US and Canada and form a viable competitor to Fox Soccer Channel as ESPN integrates the programming with its normal offerings.
Watch out FSC, ESPN has you in its sights.
3. Two of the Big Four Managers to Depart
The time of the Premier League Top 4 is ticking to an end. New money and management at Manchester City, Aston Villa, Tottenham, and even Birmingham (what were the odds on that 5 years ago…) are knocking on the door to the Champions League. The football landscape is noticeably shifting and at least one of the top four will find their head on a plate this year.
That is not the prediction though, that would be far too easy to get on target since the arrow is halfway there already. Instead I am going to predict that two of the top four managers will be out of their post by the beginning of next season. Rafa Benitez is my prediction for the sacking and Sir Alex Ferguson for the retirement. Pressure from owners and the feeling that the game has changed will be the main impetus for the moves.
Yes, I am betting that Sir Alex will leave.
4. US Soccer in the World Cup Final
The US Mens squad surprised us at the Confederations Cup with a performance full of heart and fought their way to the final overcoming several top European teams in the process. No one expected it and perhaps surprise was on the side of the US, but look for them to make a similar run in South Africa at the 2010 World Cup.
It wouldn’t be a massive prediction if it wasn’t out of left field.
5. Implosion of Spanish Football
Football clubs all over the world are holding record levels of debt but nowhere more so than in Spain’s Premiera Division. Last summer Spanish teams spent, on a net basis, more than the rest of the world combined on player transfers. They had net spending to the tune of £206m, exceeding the total of the rest of the net spenders (~£172m) by almost £34m. Most of this was due to Real Madrid and Barcelona but with massive debts accruing at the smaller clubs cracks are beginning to show in the facade.
Valencia is one example of a club with massive debts coming due and looks to be heading off a cliff barring an (insane) angel investor coming in. La Liga’s individual negotiation of broadcast fees ensures that TV revenue is not going to be the salvation of any of the smaller Spanish clubs. With the Spanish government effectively stepping in to support smaller clubs at various times the sport has effectively become a subsidized government entity. Even the goliath Real Madrid is rumoured to have its finances tied to construction company OCP Construcciones, the fate of which is tied to the ailing Spanish real estate market.
For now the giants sit atop the Premiera Division, but they may find problems creeping toward their door if the league hollows out and loses its prominence. Additional pressures may cause cracks to appear since the financial fate of even the giants is now tied to the health of the Spanish economy, further deterioration (or just the continued apathy) in the economy will spur drastic changes in La Liga. As Spain goes, so does its football.
Government bailout of the league by the end of next season.