Own goals

Long suffering readers of this blog know that every so often you get a post on Newcastle United FC. It’s one of those days.

If you have absolutely no interest in football (soccer), just bear with me anyway while I explain where I am coming from. In English premiership football, there are two or three clubs almost everyone in the world has heard of: Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal – and now maybe Manchester City. Manchester United has been an iconic outfit for some time, for reasons unrelated to this post. The others have become prominent as rich owners privatised the operations and injected truckloads of cash into them, allowing the clubs to buy up players. World class footballers are now one of the most keenly traded commodities in international markets.

While there is plenty of evidence that this kind of cash does not buy instant success, it does get you quite a bit of the way. To cover the distance, you buy a famous brand of manager, say, a José Mourinho.

Last night we were able to watch this kind of corporate operation shred another club with less access to cash. Manchester City, now rolling in money provided by its rich owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, demolished Newcastle United on the pitch in their first game of the season.

Newcastle is also privately owned. And Mike Ashley may be a billionaire, but not one in the same league as the Sheikh, and indeed he doesn’t like spending money unnecessarily. Newcastle has a tendency to be a soap opera that likes to toy with farce, and between this and the more modest cash outlay it’s not really an even contest. Nor can it be. The really really rich billionaires buy the top five or six spots in the league, and the others, no matter how brilliant some of their players or managers, scrap around for the other places.

Football is a community exercise. Anyone visiting Newcastle on a match day can immediately see the impact of the game and of the fortunes of the club on the mood and morale of the city. Largely driven by the revenues offered by television deals, football has become not a sport but a trade. And while I generally think that trading is good, sport is not an area where I would take that view. I really have no idea how this could be achieved, but it is time to re-socialise football, and bid a polite farewell to its current rich owners.

PS. Of course it is possible that this post is based entirely on frustration at last night’s result. So what?

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7 Comments on “Own goals”

  1. V.H Says:

    Sorry for your grief.
    Still I don’t see things changing any time soon. Clubs have long since moved well beyond the precincts of the city they are based to the point where the name is utterly meaningless and could be called The Spartans, The Legion or The Phalanx, even the Mets.
    What grates on my nerves though is the jealous peeves you get for the mejia about the level of salary. They even reduce the persons involved by calling the payment a wage. Well, if you’re getting multiples of thousands a year. It’s no wage !. And why shouldn’t they get what the market will bear. You don’t have accountants or lawyers saying ‘ah no,that’s too too much. Here you keep half of it’.
    Yes, football is a community exercise, but a community far far wider than the city. If the supporters kept to city or even regional boundaries this monetising of of the game would stop in the morning. Thing is, are you ready to make the first move and jettison Newcastle for Aberdeen FC or Longford Town. 🙂

  2. Anna Notaro Says:

    ‘It is time to re-socialise football’
    Wait, replace football with ‘Higher Education’ and it is incredible how most of the arguments in the post would still be valid. (speaking out of frustration of course, so what?)

    • I’m not so sure about that, Anna. I don’t think that any university of note has a billionaire owner. I’m not suggesting, after all, that football clubs should not be have in a commercially astute way, as universities also must do, in context and using strategies appropriate to their sporting – or educational and knowledge – mission.

      • Anna Notaro Says:

        So what is it exactly that you are suggesting by ‘re-socializing’ football? What I take you have in mind is the ‘member-owners’ model similar to the one in the Bundesliga. See:
        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22625160 or http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/10033626/10-German-top-tips-to-fix-English-football.html
        I am aware I might be stretching the analogy (that’s what I like doing), and yet I do not think that what has been happening in the world of football, particularly in the UK is completely alien to the one of academia.
        When you write:
        ‘football has become not a sport but a trade. And while I generally think that trading is good, sport is not an area where I would take that view.’
        I am thinking that replacing football in that sentence with ‘knowledge’ or ‘HE’ would work just as well..
        “HE is not a trade, and while we generally think that trading is good, academia is not an area where one would take that view” Does the argument sound familiar? It’s the well rehearsed one about the commercialization, Mcdonaldization, corporatization, commodification (I’m running out of ‘ations’!) of academia..
        Football and sport in general are our ‘popular culture’, they entertain us, they stir our passions, their educational potential and their connection to the core values of a nation are pretty obvious. Maybe the analogy is not as far fetched as it seems.

        • Anna Notaro Says:

          appendix: not to speak of academia being, similarly to football ‘a community exercise’ and of the relationship between football (and universities) and cities. Let’s re-socialise both?!

  3. Gordon Dent Says:

    As a fellow NUFC supporter – albeit one who has grown increasingly fed up with the club during Mike Ashley’s ownership – I have to ask whether anyone can make a case for resocializing football that is based on the predicament of a club that is sponsored by Wonga.

  4. Al Says:

    The fans werent chanting that at the end of the game?

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