Football, Democracy and all that: How to run football ⋆ An Old International

Football, Democracy and all that: How to run football

Football is the game of the masses and it should be available for everybody for a reasonable fee either to play, to watch: in the stands or at home/in a pub. Period. This point needs no discussion. There is discussion necessary however, about the way football is being run by its owners. Football in England and Britain has always been a business: clubs have always been owned by pub landlords or industry men with very specific objectives.
The speech of the labour leader at a rally in Newcastle where he talks about football is in some ways difficult as it would mean to revolutionise soccer in England, particularly in the Premier League. As it stands, the majority of Premier League clubs, if not all 20 of them are owned by rich oil magnates from Russia, royal families from the Middle East or American investors. That Corbyn has chosen Newcastle to launch this broadside is of course pure campaigning: Newcastle United are the only club owned by a British businessman who employs people on zero hour contracts and whose ownership has never been positive. The relationship between owner and fans is bad to say the least.
The payment made by the Premier League of 100m per year to support grass roots football is peanuts in comparison with the money raked in via the broadcast deal with Sky and BT.
However, what Corbyn promotes here is the idea that clubs should be run democratically and in the interest of the common man, i.e. the way it was up to the mid-1960s. Until then football was considered the game of the masses and not seen as an important part of the entertainment industry. With rising wages and the arrival of the Premier League in 1992, this all changed of course.

If this is going to happen, Corbyn will be on a par with Thatcher whose reign left Britain a different state than it was before. Of her it is said that the changes she brought to Britain, if positive or not, resembled nothing but a revolution. Does Corbyn have the strength, let alone the nous to pull through such a move should he become prime minister?

Let’s look at the alternative to the current modell how clubs are run: Supporters Trusts. They work well but only up to a certain level. From League One upwards, money reigns and those organisations just don’t have the financial power; they never had. Moreover, the British way of business is to make money and to do so fast and with no second thoughts. Sustainability is a relative new concept that has not taken a hold in the mindset of many people.

Therefore, should Corbyn set football on his agenda and initiate change it will be with grerat fanfare from those who attend matches every Saturday, those people who follow their clubs through thick and thin and never give up hope. This will be almost a revolution if this happens.

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