In the editorial of issue 10 of The Blizzard, Jonathan Wilson wrote of football entering its 3rd age. The following are a few thoughts on that statement.
Football in the Age of Money
In the editorial for issue 10 of the Blizzard, Jonathan Wilson wrote:
Football has entered its 3rd age. It has gone from being a sport to being a business to being, well, what exactly? Some sort of game for the mega-rich? A propaganda tool for the oligarchs and the commodities industry?
Wilson is correct in stating that football is currently undergoing a change in manifold ways. For a start, over the last 20 or more years, the game has accelerated enormously; the Champions League offers the best football and has replaced the World Cup as the standard bearer for new developments in the way the game is played. The ways we consume the game, how we watch it, write and read about it have changed with the advent of the internet.
In terms of ownership, Wilson of course has a point. Football has become a play thing for rich people; that is extremely rich people. Success in Europe – and that is what counts for those ‘investors’ – doesn’t come on a cheap ticket anymore. Even Dortmund, one of the hipster teams of the current era have lashed out almost €65m over the last 2 years to enhance their squad to compete with Bayern and et.al in Europe.
However, in his statement also lies a point of contention. Football has always been occupied by people and organizations with particularly vested interests. The prime example is of course England where clubs were established – and later funded by – pubs, the churches, business men and industrialists; Italy, France were not dissimilar.
Has football not been always a means to an end? In mid-18th century England, football was one way to discourage boys from masturbating; later the game was the expression of the superiority of communism or capitalism during the Cold War.
Therefore, was Jonathan Wilson correct in his statement that football has entered its 3rd age oligarchs pump endless amounts of money into the club they possess and thus distort the competition?
The answer is not straight forward.
On the one hand, yes Wilson is right as many clubs are now owned by people with almost endless funds. It has become almost impossible for clubs to break into this elite group of European top clubs. A similar trend can be witnessed in the European leagues, where there is always a top favourite for the title with alternating challengers.
The answer is no because historically, there have always been investors putting huge amounts of money into the club of their liking. This is not a new phenomenon therefore.
The money spent has increased manifold and is affordable only for the mega-rich who regard owning a football club as a play thing, an investment or somehting entirely different.
Football has always been a field of society that has attracted people with money, regardless their intereset in the game. This has changed dramatically over the last years as the amounts invested have reached ridiculous heights. So much so that we can only speak of a perversion of football.
photo credit © Anton via WikiMedia