I don’t know how many readers of this blog are into football; I’m sure some are and most will have friends or family who have the disease. At its best a football match is a contest between two able and sporting teams, striving with skill and passion to win the game. Play in a stadium like Anfield, home of my club, Liverpool FC, and you play in a cauldron of noise with witty and fanatical supporters. Beat us and we’ll likely applaud you from the pitch, and not many can say that.
There’s a history behind great clubs, a line of managers and players who’ve come, strived and departed. In years past they’ve been mainly from the same working class roots as the fans and indeed the players. There’s a tale from the early Sixties where a message was sent to the lodgings of the young Ian Callaghan – “you’re playing this afternoon”. Ian duly got his boots and kit and went out to the bus stop where LFC fans called him forward – “come on Callie, you’re playing, get to the front of the queue.”
It’s different these days: nowadays players are told to leave the really flash cars at home so most turn up in black 4x4s with tinted windows (illegally tinted but police allow it so as to avoid disturbances when the cars are not in motion). The only people richer than the players are the owners. American millionaires in today’s climate are overshadowed by Russian oligarchs with more security than the Libyan President. Fans on minimum wage have learned of leveraged buyouts and corporate governance and hedge funds and the rest of the financial gobbledegook that is used to hide the greed and malpractices of a shady few.
Over all of them hover the Sovereign Wealth Funds, the conjoined wealth of Arab clans and Maoist governments. Inbred regimes buying respectability and publicity by purchasing chunks of English history and planting golf courses in deserts. Ex Thai Prime Ministers with corruption charges against them and god knows what else sniff around: if Noriega was alive he’d probably be after Newcastle United. The financial chancers sniff around, as LFC found out to great cost in recent years. And quietly in the background Rupert Murdoch counts his billions, a fortune driven by Sky Sports, driven by The Premier League.
Look at a new stadium today: corporate boxes abound – business bigwigs on tax-deductible blowouts (our taxes that is). Tiered seat prices, carefully calculated by the demographics experts to extract the last penny from fans who’ll go short elsewhere to buy a ticket.
And do I go to games regularly? Of course I do, I’m a supporter. God help me.
The author has recently published a Squidoo lens detailing Liverpol FC sites on the web. Drop by and watch for the link to Alan Edge’s great article on Bob Paisley’s grandaughter.