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December 21, 2011



It's also worth noting that culturally bothy football and the City have a 'get out of jail free' card in terms of basic cultural politeness as practiced in the rest of the country.

Perhaps a front rank politician will comment on the Saurez and Terry race abuse cases, but I'm not holding my breathe.

Dave Boyle

The Premier League (PL) is a wonderful metaphor for British culture, society and economics - there's something about how essentially, the PL is a neo-liberal intervention in a sport which has been built on social democratic lines (gate sharing to maintain competitive balance, transfer payments to smaller clubs to keep inequality within acceptable levels. The arguments in its favour (wealth, global appeal etc) are measures of success which come from a different set of values and ethics than those which predominated before and still exist at large in football's communities (connectedness, egalitarianism etc)

There's a danger that one posits a golden age, of course, and that era before was marked, as was much of british capitalism, but underinvestment, poor R&D, a self-satisfied attitude which prevented the understanding of just how much other countries had done to invigorate their activities, and industrial relations based on mutual antagonism made workable by a sense that such antagonism was the steady-state for a relationship neither could conceive of escaping.

It's this difference in values which lead to the continuing scepticism of people towards the PL despite everything, and why the PL are right to say they are very good at the things they do which they are good at, but that doesn't seem to cut any ice with people who think they're very bad at things they don't really care much about (national team, 'England', 'English football', equality etc).

That in turn mirror a similar move in the wider economy away from productive industry to financialisation, where governments have used almost identical arguments to justify the importance of the city of London. There's a neat link between the political economy of new labour and the PL, that represented everything that new labour was about even though the impact on many of its heartland clubs in the Football league has been negative, just as it accepted financialisation in the UK economy to the cost of manufacturing industries in those same heartland communities etc. And, like the real world, the increasing inequality between clubs has been managed by the use of debt by the bottom of the heap, where keeping up with the Joneses is less a cultural or psychological choice and more an absolute requirement of a system which is closed.

There's more too - the wave of new ways to get capital mirror the wider economy. IN the early 90s, the favoured method is flotation, where market discipline will trump the inflationary dimension of salaries. At its height, 22 clubs were floated, now down to just 3, with one soon to leave, another likely to be dragged off, leaving Arsenal. They couldn't arrest salary rises, but did make a killing for the previous owners.

Mother hubbarb's next trick was securitisation. We should have been more alive to this, when during Leeds' administration, one of the creditors was the New York State Teachers Pension Fund; they were described as 'Teachers' as if this were some corporate concern, not missing the fact that pension funds were being piled into owning parts of loans of various varying risky loans. After this phase passed, the next trick was, as you say, to find the high-net worth resource oligarch. In the meantime, the league threatens to take off from its previously territorial anchoring. The Premier League becomes the EPL (it never needed geographical denotation until it started to be a global concern) and sponsors increasingly become companies people have never heard of, who don't actually trade in the UK, but are present in places where league is avidly watched.


An excellent post and all too true.

As with resistance to the neoliberalised economy, there are pockets of counter-cultural practice. The football equivalent of co-ops, mutuals, farmers' markets and Transition Towns are the revolted fans' start-up clubs such as FC Manchester and the restored Wimbledon FC. My forecast is that Yvette Cooper will latch on to one of these and to the idea of Real Football in the Community they nostalgically represent. (Incidentally, her husband's chances of leading the Party vanished with the successful baiting of Balls over weak bank regulation, City-worship and the gong for Fred Goodwin. Balls can't possibly live any of that down and nor should he be allowed to.)
One of the signs of middle- and upper-class cultural prolier-than-thou affectation, all intended to distract attention from vast inequalities of income, wealth and mobility in the neoliberal age, has been to pretend to be a fan of a Premiership club. I only believe anyone is serious about this if the professed fanaticism pre-dates the Premiership and/or is attached to a club that rarely if ever wins anything.
What will the Eurozone debacle and the self-maginalisation of the English mean for the grand neoliberal Eurovision of a Champions League detached completely from domestic competitions?

Dick Pountain

I'm probably disqualified from this discussion because I've detested football ever since I was forced to play it at school: my strongest feeling of revulsion and betrayal by New Labour came not with the invasion of Iraq, but when all my NL supporting friends became ostentatiously enthusiastic football freaks, for reasons you have just skewered in your post.

It sounds as though you may have been one yourself Will, and if this is so then this confession and conversion is rather moving as well as being a very acute analysis.

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