Something is happening in me: a sport I used to love and obsess over has become an afterthought; a former season ticket holder to not even watching televised games. I suppose those who are reading this will be thinking I’ve too much going on in my life, more important things take over as you grow older, but that is not the case.
Rather than being a lack of time or the reorganising of priorities, my self-distancing from the world of football comes through disillusionment. Not for the beautiful game itself, but rather the professional game in modern times. I still play regularly (once a week in fact), but watching it has become something of absolutely no interest to me.
The reasons behind my disillusionment with the professional game of football can be used in a general social context, or indeed most mainstream sports around the world. However, it’s more prevalent nowhere than it is in football. What was once the working man’s game transformed into a business driven purely by making money. Gone are the times when the football ground was a congregation of anyone and everyone to support their local team and be ENTERTAINED! Now, the entertainment value for supporters seems to be determined by wins and losses. Sure we all like to see our team win, but the purity and idealism of football being a sport has been replaced by consumerism and bored billionaires looking for a hobby. Many people are unable to afford bi-weekly attendance and when they do they are confronted with (in general terms) young men with more money than sense who care about nothing other than their own prestige and bank balance.
In England the average income per year is £26k, while in Scotland it is £20k. Minimum wage is £6.19, meaning that many football goers are earning less a year than their “heroes” do in a week, certainly in the case of Celtic for Scotland. However, in England this is true for players in lower tiers with punters having to work 20+ years to close in on their star player’s annual wage (20 years earning £26k a year is the same as the annual wage of somebody on £10k a week). At the top of the Premiership it is impossible to earn their annual wage in a lifetime going by the national average wage.
Yet, despite these massively disparaging earnings, we punters are expected to pay ridiculous amounts of money to attend the games on a regular basis to keep these young players in the rich. Another figure: a season ticket to Dens Park (Dundee are bottom of the SPL) can set you back around £300), just want to go to a SPL game now and then? It will still cost you over £20 just for one adult ticket. Worst of all, people actually pay this in spite of all I have said because they feel some tribal loyalty to their club and to offend the club is to offend them personally (see the furore surrounding Rangers FC, despite them being the guilty ones – everyone else was made out to be the perpetrators of their downfall).
Do you think Lee McCulloch or any other high earner for any club around the country cares that their extortionate wages are being paid by folk who earn less in a year than he does in a month (It’s a point I feel is worth emphasising). Do they at least try to put on the best show possible? No they do not! We are met by divers, sissy boys who feign injury and have more interest in spending their vast amounts of money than they do entertaining. As long as they are winning and rolling in green they care nothing for us. Their job is to win? Yes but their job also involves making sure the punters get their value for money. Who can honestly say they do week in week out, when you consider that you can go see a film for the same length of time for under half the price? It doesn’t add up.
Behind the scenes on all fronts we are stuck with self-serving individuals ruled by greed for the green. Fans: the life blood of the game are forgotten and ignored, they just want our money. Success on the field is even being forgotten in place of ability to bring in more pounds for shareholders. See Arsenal for case and point. No trophies in 7 years and the team get worse, but as long as they make it into the cash laden Promised Land that is the Champions League, all is well. Football is a business, I get it, but it was never meant to be, it is a GAME, one that captured the love of millions around the world and brought them together. Now the few elite are slowly excluding the majority small clubs, a fact that echoes throughout society as the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. However, just as in everyday society, the poor continue to stay silent until they are in the stadiums across the country cheering on their beloved rich.
There are exceptions to all I’ve said, but as it is throughout life, these people are too few in number that their voices are largely outnumbered and struggle to make themselves heard in an influencing manner. Barcelona at least, through a mutual love of the game, is a club where some of the pure ideals are still held in esteem and they even give back in some instances such as giving their shirt sponsor to charitable organisations for free. Alas, the examples of true sportsmanship and entertainment are so few and far between that for the foreseeable future, you are more likely to find me in the dark of the cinema theatre, than with my former comrades in the stands of Tannadice.
Dundee United "supporter" who is tired and grows restless, wishes he had stormed the Bastille. Ranting is a sport I can get behind.