A new column dedicated to the money side of the game, Football Finance will appear every Wednesday.

Ian King over at 200% has written a must-read column on the FA’s decision to host the FA Cup final at 5:15 PM GMT. That may not seem like a particularly big deal, but King expertly reveals how the kick-off time affects fans of both sides:

All of this, however, reckons without the awesome powers of the Football Association to do their best to debase the very competition that bears their name. Their decision to play this season’s final at 5.15 in the afternoon would be funny, if it weren’t for the obvious ramifications of such a decision. Supporters from both Wigan and Manchester will have to make a round journey of around four hundred miles to get to this match, and the later the kick-off time is, the more difficult it will obviously be for supporters looking to get home on the evening of the match by train on a weekend that we already know will be disrupted by engineering work. A match kicking off at the time scheduled by the Football Association will finish at around 7.10 in the evening if there is no extra-time, giving Wigan Athletic supporters an hour and twenty minutes to get to London Euston railway station.

This, as King points out, will also prevent fans from enjoying the trophy presentation as they rush to catch the remaining trains home. It also tacitly encourages fans to spend the day drinking in London, a logistical failure in light of the recent violence in the stands during the Wigan/Millwall semifinal.

Most odious of all however are comments from FA General Secretary Alex Horne, quoted in their entirety by King:

We’re now used to consuming our football in those time slots. It really works. Lunchtime kick-offs just haven’t got the same appeal. The 5.15pm kick-off for the final was really successful. We added a couple of million viewers. It’s a sensible compromise. When we designed the new national stadium, we knew we needed to put content in it. That’s what is paying for the stadium. Over time we are paying off the debt we had to incur to build the stadium. Investing in Wembley is investing in football. It’s a positive for all of football.

This is the triumph of private sector influence over community entities in the last three decades—those in governance now rightly or wrongly follow the money wherever it may go. Therefore, the needs of the many (more paying customers, rights holders, TV advertisers) outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Which means local fans consumers basically exist to provide gate receipts and stadium atmosphere for audiences watching on television.

The idea of football as ‘content’ to be ‘consumed’ was repeated by Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore in his happy assessment of NBC’s considerable efforts to splash as much Bee Pee El action all over US screens next season. Scudamore told reporters, “Nowhere do they consume sports like they do here. We are not unhappy with our current broadcast partners (in the United States), but I can see we are on the threshold of taking it to a new level.”

Both Horne and Scudamore have sat through the same powerpoint presentations in which sport is simply an empty cipher (content) to be ingested and defecated by a willing audience (consumption).

Swiss Ramble meanwhile, whose blog has gone silent but who is still a vital presence on Twitter, gave some context to the FA’s desire to ensure its 150 year-old content sponsored by American beer Budweiser is consumed for the highest return possible:

Private loans led by official banking partners, secured on the promise of content to be consumed. This is the trend in football—the fan watching on television is now of paramount importance. Gate sales are a pleasant bauble, merchandise sales an integral component of revenue. But what matters now is television rights. And they dictate a 5:15 PM kick off is better for ratings, better for advertisers, better for future negotiated rights deals. A final that was once symbolized by hundreds of thousands of working class supporters singing Abide With Me in unison is now content ready for consumption.

Yum!