Having written the post, ‘Greed is good…’ yesterday about the farce that is today’s English football, I suddenly remembered a quote from the legendary Bill Shankly. A staunch Socialist and without doubt one of the greatest football managers ever, he summed up both his politics and his approach to football:
“The socialism I believe in is everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards. It’s the way I see football, the way I see life”
How far away from this model of football are we today?
This is not to say that the modern game is in any way apolitical: far from it. From the signing of the first BSkyB broadcast deal 15 years ago, the Premiership is a glowing example of what a deranged and unrestricted free-market economy looks like.
The players have become commodities of consumption: a very particular way of living. Most don’t admire them, but many do aspire to their lifestyle, their wealth and their greed. So much so that at almost any kids football match up and down the country this coming Sunday, there will be at least one parent encouraging their child to ‘go for it’: not to become a great sportsperson but to have the lifestyle that they didn’t.
Premiership Socialism? Impossible…
Historically, football’s politics have tended towards the left, with most of the top clubs having their roots in either a local church or a local pub. For 100 years these clubs existed as extensions of their local community, a living example of the invalidity – as it was – to Thatcher’s notion that there is no such thing as society.
In the past twenty years, traditional football and its Socialist roots have all but disappeared. With this, so too has the relationship between the fans and the clubs also disappeared: the commodification of the game as tele-visual experience; the dilution of the locally based fan-base; the above inflationary ticket price increases; the franchising of the club ‘brand’; and the development of football as a corporate hospitality product all contributing to Socialist and traditional football’s demise.
I am old fashioned, but doesn’t Shankly’s version of the beautiful game sound a lot better?
This work by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. Based on a work at www.chris-allen.co.uk.
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