The Fall of English Football as a Lesson in Economics
Football - the Window into Corporate Management
Years ago I was an avid follower of ice hockey. I couldn't watch English football in those days because it was too godforsakenly slow. There were too many people standing around doing nothing for too much of the time.
But then I had to do a bit of work with some Italian colleagues and started watching Italian footie (on Channel 4, good old James Richardson, brill) and began to get into it. I even started looking for the Italian players in the Premiership, and then I was hooked. It's still a slow old sport, but there are occasional flashes of brilliance - more if you watch Arsenal and Barcelona.
Then I thought I may have been missing the point. Football, between the actual matches, is simply a soap opera. It's just glorified goss with the added allure of millions of pounds being flashed about. Between times, what else is there to read in the papers?
Eventually, I began to reflect upon the extraordinary opportunity for working class people to glimpse how global speculation can blight whole areas of the economy and aspects of their very day to day living.
After all, vast chunks of housing, utilities, health, education, and even money supply have been regularly bought and sold - speculated/gambled upon - with all the associated disruptions which are the inevitable consequence.
But these are not as "in your face" to most working people as good old footie. Now the fans can watch as their historical tribal focii become the playthings of the super rich; watch as these obscenely rich devalue the one public thing they,the fans, may actually care about. It may have been the only thing that has been keeping their heads above the metaphorical water as unemployment rises and the economy collapses.
Just as an example, I am a little disappointed that sports columnists have failed to point out the obvious about Putin's Poodle - Roman Abramovich - ie. his essential incompetence. Here is a man who kiss-arsed his way into the Russian oligarchy and ripped off billions and billions worth of the Russian's people's assets. We know he can kiss arse. We know he can bribe the right people. We know he can organise the elimination of troublesome whistle-blowers. But can he manage his way out of a paper bag? On the clear evidence of Chelsea FC, unequivocally not. He interferes to the detriment of all concerned. The club would have done better to get the organ grinder himself - Putin - to take over ownership instead of this pathetic putz.
And why do so many footie fans dislike Chelsea? Nothing to do with the way they play. It's because they were the first to access truly obscene and immoral financial backing. There is lots of dirty money in the UK, and much of it, increasingly, in football. Torturers and murderers know we can offer them a safe haven and tax efficient banking. The reason Chelsea remains at the nadir of loathing is because this idiot Abramovich represented the very first attempt to buy football glory through the inordinate and arrogant application of such dirty money. Even Thai dictators and brainless sheikhs now seem preferable. I see this as a big plus for the footie fan base. They have some sense, some morality. They can't detest all the dirty club buyers, so detest the first and worst.
Chelsea fans may wish to consider that Abramovich's last resort is usually to call upon his sugar daddy Putin to sort things out. If he does, then we really will see the game suffer as the same methods used to rip off the Russian people are brought to bear more fully on the beautiful game here.
But the way corporate immorality nearly destroyed Liverpool and even Manchester United can be very instructive for readers of the back pages. These same corporate psychopaths are using the same methods to run banks and food supply chains, to distribute pharmaceuticals and weapons of war, to plunder oil and mineral reserves.
The message is simple – we have a better glimpse of the incompetencies and excesses of corporate management in the world of footie than in any other sphere. As they wreck the beautiful game, so they are wrecking the rest of the global economy.
The sports pages are now where the essential economic debates can and should be taking place.
© 2012 Deacon Martin