Post-modern Premiership – The Manchester Mavericks???
As you walk down Sir Matt Busby Way on a Saturday (or more often than not, Sunday!) afternoon to watch Utd play in the league at 4 o’clock or 5.15 in the evening, there is a feeling that this is not right. The glowing rouge of the neon MANCHESTER UNITED sign reminds you that this is more than just a football team. Corporate ‘fans’ scurry upstairs to their executive seats, 3 course dinners, prawn sandwiches and customary back-scratching. The true supporters find themselves priced out of the ground, replaced by business executives taking a client for a spot of ‘entertainment’. Those true supporters who can afford the over-inflated ticket prices, do so to ultimately line the pockets of a greedy owner who views the club as a mere commodity with no interest for tradition or values in the cut-throat industry of business.
As tempting as it is, I will try my best not to turn this into an attack on the Glazer’s as sadly this is all part and parcel of the modern, or more accurately, ‘post-modern’ game and such scenes are commonplace throughout the football stratosphere rather than just at Old Trafford.
Gone are the days when the working class fans stood, sang and adored their working class heroes doing the business on the pitch before sharing a pint with them after the final whistle. The star players have now achieved global superstar status and this leads to a life of alienation between fans and players. How likely is it that you will share a beer and a chat with any of today’s footballers? More likely a glass of Champagne and Red Bull (trust me, they do drink this!) and a dismissive ‘f*** off’ if you dare approach the VIP section in a club.
The terraces have been abolished and whilst this was a sensible and necessary step following the tragedies of Hillsborough and Heysel, this has indirectly resulted in a lack of atmosphere at grounds where fans are now told they are not allowed to stand up at all. The ‘theatre’ of dreams certainly lives up to it’s name in terms of noise levels from the crowd. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not calling for a return of the terraces due to the risk that would pose of another disaster and I believe anybody that does would be acting in a way that is extremely insensitive to those who lost their lives and their families. I am merely stating that the introduction of all-seater stadiums pushed football further towards entertainment than sport.
The coverage of the game and the money thrown at it of Sky TV has continued to grow and grow. Some would argue this is good for the game as due to this influx of Murdoch cash, teams have been able to go and buy foreign stars and afford their wages, thus enhancing the reputation and allure in addition to the quality of the Premier league as a whole. Would we have seen such Premiership legends as Cantona, Van Nistelrooy, Bergkamp, Henry and Zola to name but a few had the TV money not been involved? Would English teams have competed so strongly in the Champions League without this calibre of player? We will never know for sure but if you look way back before the days of Sky TV when we had another certain Scottish manager in charge, the team consisting of Charlton and co never forgot their roots and kept the common touch (with perhaps the exception of Best!) whilst going on to conquer Europe.
Sky have produced an era of ‘hyper-reality’ whereby watching the game on TV has made the experience ‘realer than real’. Ultra slow-motion replays, Playercam, Fanzone and Andy Gray’s giant etch-a-sketch mean that every single little aspect of the game can be analysed and analysed again before a critique of the analysis can then be done. Now, I, like any other red-blooded male love to watch Match of the Day (apart from when Mark Lawrenson or Garth Crooks are on) and agree that Sky’s TV coverage is certainly thorough but if we continue down this route what will be next? 3D is already being hailed as a massive success, so what will be the next technological master-stroke? A chance to ‘virtually’ sit on the centre circle whilst the game takes place around you?
All of these ‘inspired’ advances mean that people are happier to stay in the comfort of their home and watch their team play rather than go out on a cold, wet Monday night trip halfway accross the country and who can blame them? Why go to the game, to be forced to sit a good distance away from the pitch, looked at funny for singing or supporting your team, have to travel etc etc when you can stay at home, in the comfort of your favourite chair, make as much noise as you like (missus permitting!) and enjoy a better viewing experience watching on your widescreen TV in HD or 3D? Look at the half-empty stadiums of Bolton, Wigan, Blackburn etc. and then tell me that Sky money is not ruining the game.
If our beloved game continues down this route, we will soon see more and more clubs in administartion and it will not just be the so-called lesser clubs. Just look at how close Liverpool came this season (which obviously really pained us all to see!)
The game is already a commercial entity, used as a plaything for billionaires and is gradually going the way of the other game of ‘football’ accross the pond where the game is specifically catered for adverts and commercialism. This is not sport. In future, the Premiership play off match in Dubai with a cash prize of £1 million for the MVP may be contested by the Manchester Mavericks and the Chelsea Chargers and I for one will certainly not be waving my over-sized novelty foam finger in an organised show of ‘support’.
Please tell me what you think below. What changes would you like to see to improve football as a whole?
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