It’s not all bad – The ‘best’ things money has given football
Written by Chris Smith. Illustration by Adam Sharratt. Originally published in Issue 03.
It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly football made its Faustian pact with money, but the feeling that the beautiful game has lost its soul has grown stronger over the past 20 years; ticket costs are astronomical, the game at the top level has become a sanitised corporate borefest and once great clubs are being held to ransom by owners who don’t care as long as their pockets are lined.
Money has undoubtedly affected the relationship between fans and players too. The cult heroes of yesteryear, the lads you could imagine having a pint with after the game, have been replaced with a series of hyper-entitled young men as concerned with image rights, social media and glamour models/reality TV stars/Instagram starlets as they are with results.
But Faust didn’t give away his soul for free, so surely the insane influx of money into football over the past few decades has improved the game in some way?
The answer, my friends, is yes. Yes it has. Here are but a few of the wonderful gifts football’s obsession with money has granted us.
Towards the end of Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel Watchmen, the main villain unleashes an interdimensional killer squid in a misguided attempt to unite the world’s powers, who were on the verge of nuclear war, against a common enemy.
Until his downfall, Sepp Blatter was undoubtedly football’s interdimensional killer squid. Everyone agreed Sepp was a Grade A wrong’un, and everyone was willing to do whatever it took to remove him from office (as long as it didn’t involve more than tweeting #BlatterOut every couple of weeks). It was a rare show of unity in a sport so focused on divisions and rivalries.
And why did everyone hate this elderly Swiss gentleman? His relentless pursuit of money, of course! Without money, Sepp would probably have been a perfectly reasonable admin figure who no-one really cared about rather than a twisted corrupt parody of modern capitalism who is quite possibly a lizard (legal disclaimer: Sepp Blatter is not a lizard-person. Possibly).
Corporate naming conventions
One of the worst aspects of Modern Football is also one of the best. Tournaments have always been subject to corporate sponsorship, but the last few years have thrown up some real doozies: the Capital One Cup, the Vanarama Conference and, possibly the best of them all, the Checkatrade Trophy.
Even the FA Cup, the grand old FA Cup, is now officially the Emirates FA Cup. Legend has it that if you put the newly renamed cup to your ear, you can hear the frothing rage of a million UKIP voters.
Then there’s the stadiums. Young men once dreamt of walking out onto the hallowed turf of the Bernabeu, Nou Camp or Old Trafford. Today, they dream of playing in the Bet 365 Stadium, Tony Macaroni Arena or Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
As a result, football now resembles the kind of dystopian future David Foster Wallace wrote about, except way funnier and easier to digest. It’s surely only a matter of time until sponsors can name players too - Phil ‘G-Tech AirRam’ Bardsley, anyone?
Half and half scarves
Do you know what I saw the other day? I saw a grown man wearing a half Man City, half Man United scarf. Manchester was particularly hot that day too, and I can only assume the heat originated from a fuming Roy Keane going into supernova over another of Modern Football’s worst creations.
You see, for all the dodgy characters and evil corporations, most people agree that the biggest villain of the past 10 years is the bloke who decided to make a quick buck selling these disgusting mutant horrors to tourists and unwitting children. He will almost certainly go down as one of history’s greatest monsters.
But, like Sepp, half and half scarves have given football fans something to unite over. Alright, so it’s a unity based on hatred again, but at least it’s something?
Back in the day, there were only a couple of channels and football was only broadcast on one of them. Today, thanks to the cash-fuelled rise of Sky and BT Sport, there are plenty of them. Of course, those channels need to fill the dead space between halves with someone, anyone to comment on proceedings.
As a result, recent years have treated us to Owen Hargreaves’ insane global accent, Chris Sutton’s constantly simmering ‘yer da after a few pints’ routine and our very own film critic Michael Owen’s insightful yet completely bloody obvious observations on the beautiful game (example: “You need people who score goals. That’s how you win games”)
Sam Allardyce’s pint of wine
If it wasn’t for his insatiable desire for money, we’d never know that Sam Allardyce’s drink of choice is - no word of a lie - a full pint of wine in an actual pint glass that people would normally drink beer out of. Could you live without that information?
So, the next time someone is giving it the big ‘un about money ruining football, kindly remind them that it’s not all bad. Just most of it.