JIM WHITE

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - DANCE -

One thing I didn’t know un­til I read this mag­nif­i­cent book is that for sev­eral years now the must-have ac­ces­sory for Gov­ern­ment min­is­ters on trade mis­sions over­seas has been Richard Scu­d­amore. They wanted the re­cently re­tired chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Pre­mier League along­side them when they went on sales trips be­cause he would bring along some­thing cer­tain to catch the eye of the lo­cal head of state: his tro­phy. When it comes to drum­ming up sales, there is ap­par­ently noth­ing that speaks as loudly as the op­por­tu­nity to be pic­tured with the most cov­eted piece of sil­ver­ware in world sport.

Those of us who have long fol­lowed English foot­ball are gen­er­ally too busy com­plain­ing about tele­vi­sion sched­ules mess­ing with kick-off times or about the ex­or­bi­tant cost of a half-time pie to no­tice some­thing rather as­ton­ish­ing about the Pre­mier League: the rest of the world can’t get enough of it. Now avail­able to watch in 191 coun­tries across the globe (North Korea is a rare pooper from the world­wide tele­vi­sion party), our weekly dose of kick and rush is this coun­try’s big­gest cul­tural ex­port. Move over Harry Pot­ter.

So en­grossed with moan­ing have we be­come, it has taken two de­tached ob­servers – Joshua Robin­son and Jonathan Clegg of the Wall Street Jour­nal – to chron­i­cle quite what a yarn this is. And a fine job they have done ex­plain­ing how English foot­ball went from mori­bund na­tional em­bar­rass­ment to globe-be­strid­ing colos­sus. Witty, pacy, thor­ough, this is a book hard to put down. Though, as they gal­lop through the anec­dotes, the pair do make one thing clear: the big­gest sin­gle driver of Pre­mier League ex­pan­sion has been luck. As our na­tional side’s un­der-achieve­ment sug­gests, English foot­ball has rarely been con­sid­ered the most ac­com­plished. But, they point out, our do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tion does have three golden ad­van­tages: it is played out in English, the world’s sec­ond lan­guage; matches are staged in a cen­tral time zone that means early ris­ers in the Amer­i­cas can catch the same game as late rev­ellers in the Far East; plus – and per­haps most im­por­tantly – there is al­ways a chance of some­thing un­ex­pected. You know, like Le­ices­ter win­ning the thing. That com­pet­i­tive uncer­tainty de­liv­ered com­pelling con­tent at the very mo­ment a broad­cast­ing rev­o­lu­tion was un­der way.

How that luck has held. At ev­ery stage of the Pre­mier League’s up­ward mo­bil­ity, when new tele­vi­sion deals have added noughts to its mem­bers’ bot­tom line, so ca­sual ob­servers like me have pre­dicted the bub­ble was about to burst. As Robin­son and Clegg’s rigor-

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