ANN ARBOR, USA - Saturday, July 28, 2018: Liverpool and Manchester United players line-up before the preseason International Champions Cup match between Manchester United and Liverpool FC at the Michigan Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Players’ welfare ignored again as ICC threaten to withdraw financial backing

The company behind the International Champions Cup have reportedly threatened to withdraw their financial backing if clubs do not treat the competition more seriously.

Pre-season tours to far-flung parts of the world are commonplace and have been for years, but a more recent introduction is the pre-season competition many major clubs now take part in, the ICC.

Games are played in different parts of America, Asia, Australia and Europe, with the biggest clubs often going up against each other in front of massive crowds in unusual stadiums.

Liverpool last played in the competition in summer 2018, facing off against Borussia Dortmund and the two Manchester clubs, in locations such as Michigan and Charlotte.

Previously, we have also played the likes of AC Milan in the US and Barcelona at Wembley, with it generally being a good test of pre-season fitness, an opportunity to play in front of fans at big venues and a good source of income for the club.

But now the promotion company behind the ICC, Relevent Sports, have met with leading clubs and UEFA to demand “more competitive tension” be brought to the matches, with the threat of withdrawing their monetary support otherwise, reports

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 6, 2016: Wembley's second largest attendance since the re-build, a crowd of 89,845 watch Liverpool defeat Barcelona 4-0, during the International Champions Cup match at Wembley Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The suggestion is that the organisation are disappointed that clubs often play the games at a low tempo, without creating excitement, with star players absent from the lineups and, as a result, with Relevent Sports not seeing enough of a financial return on their investment by way of sponsorships and media revenue.

In short, they are frustrated that clubs are treating it as a pre-season exercise.

The staggering lack of awareness and greed that the usual entities such as UEFA and FIFA routinely show now appears to have filtered through to the corporate side of the game, and they want more in return.

While the report mentions that they have investigated the possibility of attaching UEFA’s seal to the competition in future, to give it a more official title to play for – does anybody even know the rules of how to win? Does anybody care? – there is also the worrying revelation that clubs have agreed to set up a work group, with the aim of identifying if the competition could feasibly be more competitive.

Again: this is the summer, the off-season, the pre-season. It’s the time when managers and players attune themselves to the demands of what is already the sport’s outrageously demanding schedule—not an opportunity to add in yet another required competition, something Jurgen Klopp has repeatedly spoken out about.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 19, 2020: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp reacts during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

That there is increased interest and finances involved is understandable, as fans want constant access to the team they support.

But that cannot, this time, come with the expectation of players remaining fit to fully partake in another competition which teams want to win.

Aside from the physical and mental exertions required, there’s also the fact that pre-season is a time for bedding in new signings and giving young players the opportunity to thrive in a first-team environment.

Make the ICC a tournament that must be competed for at all costs, and yet another avenue for the youth prospects to progress in diminishes.

The hope will be that, this time at least, common sense prevails and the ICC are told to do one—or else the clubs should be able to manage perfectly well doing their own mini-tournaments, overseas tours and high-profile friendlies.