Saturday, September 19, 2009

Guest Post: The Cultural Poverty of Football

Thanks to Matt Sellwood (Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Hackney North & Stoke Newington) for this guest post on the murky world of money and football.

Being a supporter of Nottingham Forest (and provided they are never in the same league, Oxford United) I have spent quite a lot of time keeping up with developments at the less glamorous end of professional football. Recently, I was pleasantly surprised to see an announcement from the Premier League of a £1 million donation to non-league clubs, to help support them in financially difficult times.

But then I started thinking. What does it say about the moral, ethical and cultural poverty of football in this country that I was so delighted by what is, in effect, the act of a bunch of Victorian-era philanthropists to 'the deserving poor'? Why, in this field as in no other, was I content at an act of charity from a bunch of corrupt oligarchs and playboys - rather than thinking 'sod giving us a cake - we want the whole bloody bakery'?

The fact is that, in the last few years, I've almost entirely lost interest in football, particularly at the top-flight level. A bunch of billionaires owning their clubs in the same way that they own a jet or a luxury island, watching a bunch of spoilt millionaires diving around pretending to be hurt? Give me a break. I used to love the sport - used to love the community of going to games with my dad, and knowing that everyone around us really cared about the club...and that even some of the players and owners did, too. Now we have AIG United playing Abrahmovic FC, and we're meant to care?

The frustrating thing is, it doesn't have to be this way. Green Party blogger and Executive member Farid Bakht recently published a brief analysis by fellow Executive member Andy Hewett of the way in which Swansea's Supporters Trust is trying to reverse the decimation of one club by speculators and financial mismanagement. As a Forest supporter, I have some serious sympathies! Overseas, there are numerous examples of supporters owning their clubs, the most famous of which is probably that of Barcelona.

Now, there are still problems with their model - constant political maneuvering for the presidential elections and too much influence from the richer fans being only two - but come on...refusal of commercial shirt sponsorship, and donations to UNICEF to match the UN international aid target of 0.7% of GDP! Can we, in our wildest dreams, imagine that of any
current Premiership club?

I was pleased to be the co-sponsor of a motion to Autumn's Green Party Conference in Hove, which recommitted the Party to its principled stand on the desirability and practicality of cooperatives in the economy. Now, in the midst of financial meltdown, and while our sporting clubs continue to exhibit the most stunning greed and avarice - isn't it time that we fans
took control of our clubs back? Lets kick out the Glazers, Hicks and Abrahmovics of this world - it's our sport!

1 comment:

Bob Piper said...

Craig Murray has a less rosy portrait of Barca.