Every now and again a story comes along that defies a rational and reasoned analysis, because the only possible response is, “Are you shitting me?” Here’s an intro to one of those stories, from the Daily Telegraph:
“Organizers of Manchester United’s summer tour game against San Jose Earthquakes are set to refund over 60,000 supporters after Louis van Gaal won his battle to change the venue of next month’s pre-season friendly amid concerns over the journey time to the clash in California.”
OK. I’m intrigued. That game is in three weeks. That’s unusually late to change stadium, especially with so many tickets sold. Must be one hell of a journey.
The article continues:
“But with the encounter just three weeks away, promoters Relevent Sports have agreed to United’s request to move the game from the 62,000-capacity Kabam Field at the University of California in Berkeley to the Earthquakes’ 18,000-capacity Avaya Stadium in San Jose to cut down on the traveling time endured by Van Gaal and his squad.”
Firstly: “Kabam Field?” Seriously, that’s the name of the stadium at one of the world’s premier academic institutions?
Secondly: I don’t live in California, and it’s a big state, but I seem to remember that Berkeley and San Jose are not all that far. [Consults Google Maps] One hour and five minutes via I-880S. 47.0 miles.
Obviously, California can have crappy traffic, and it’s a night game. So let’s say it would take two hours to get back to San Jose, where the team is basing itself during part of its U.S. tour.
Still, when you’ve already voluntarily traveled 5,000 miles to get to the west coast, another 47 doesn’t seem like a lot. Traveling a great deal is part of the job, one might say. Comes with the territory.
At least United gets to fly on private planes and be driven in luxury buses. Wayne Rooney is not logging on to the Southwest Airlines website 24 hours before the flight to give him the best chance of being in boarding group A. He is not spending half an hour on the phone to United Airlines trying to find out which continent his luggage is in.
Perhaps it’s important to reduce the travel time because United has a major Champions League fixture two days later in Latvia or something? No, its next match is four days later, an exhibition against Barcelona, at Levi’s Stadium in San Jose.
The Telegraph report says the decision rests with manager Louis van Gaal, who “insisted” on the relocation as part of his attempt to reduce the logistical and commercial demands on his players. A couple of extra photoshoots and signing sessions in the U.S. in July? Well, who knows what hidden negative effects that might have on the team come next May.
From United’s official website from, two days ago:
“Louis van Gaal praised the Manchester United fans throughout his first year in charge at the club and the manager admits he was astonished by his first taste of their adulation – during last year’s pre-season tour of the United States…’The support was unbelievable,’ the Dutchman declared”.
If the Telegraph story is true, Van Gaal loves United’s American fanbase so much that he’s decided to deny 44,000 of them the chance to see the team in person, because it’s more convenient for him to play a game around the corner from his hotel.
It’s worth bearing this tale in mind next time you hear someone from an English Premier League club talking about how much it loves coming to North America, how much it respects the supporters, how important it is to play in front of its far-flung fans. Perhaps it does.
But after more than a decade of regular visits from top teams, and consistently high attendances, maybe a sense of complacency and entitlement has set in regarding these overseas missions – just as it did towards fans back home in England, who kept coming to matches and kept watching on television, no matter the cost, no matter the various examples of customer disservice. Perhaps the attitude has shifted from “we need America” to “America needs us.”
Our country, their terms.