Chelsea 2 – 1 Wigan
English Premier League, Stamford Bridge, February 28th 2009
The corporate side of sport – and especially football – is a strange thing. On the one hand you feel like a right wanker sitting in some plush little room enjoying the finer things for free whilst all the punters around you eat reallycrap, really expensive pies. On the other hand, if you’re going to put up with nitwit footballers who get paid twice your yearly salary every week, you might as well do it in some style.
For those of you so far not lucky enough to have experienced the joys of watching sport from the corporate box, allow me to run through the absurdness of it for you.
You’re ushered into a cosy little dining room, being served your choice of champagne/wine/lager by a waiter, before being sat down to enjoy a nice piece of meat, salad (and I mean cous-cous with read and green pepper type salads, not rubbishy coleslaw or something) and a quiche-type thing. Then you speculate on which member of the Chelsea squad is gay and/or cheating on his WAG and why their marriage is a convenience thing. Then, a few minutes before kick-off you pop out of a little door onto your private section to watch the game from the smugness of the corporatate box whilst everyone around you who actually had to fork out serious cash for the privilege of watching overpaid footballers prance around ignore your annoying presence but not so totally that you don’t feel like a bit of a knob for being there.
In the end, Chelsea got away with the three points, despite Wigan looking worth a draw, and thanks mostly to Frank Lampard whose late, late header looped over Chris Kirkland who, despite being one of the tallest goalkeepers in the league, didn’t have the length of arm to keep it out.
But from the corporate box, all you can see is the corporate-ness of football. Now, in the end, corporate cash is what makes these sporting spectacles possible, and what makes them bigger and bigger every year. And let’s not forget it was corporate cash that got me my seat in that plush corporate suite. So I didn’t hate it, but there’s a limit.
Chelsea seem to be what I’m going to call a PowerPoint Football Club. They play like a PowerPoint presentation. They feel like a PowerPoint presentation. Linear; predictable; stifling. You can just imagine the bigwigs at Samsung, Etihad and Adidas discussing how Chelsea’s style of play should be like an ad campaign: creating synergies with their brand values and have a halo effect on their brand, therefore generating incremental sales, and all that rubbish. And I think the fans know it. They don’t really cheer at Chelsea. That would be off-brand. Instead they evaluate and measure effectiveness. In a word it’s boring. But at least those on the Shed End got a maximum return for their investment in tickets.