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On a bung and a prayer* 22/09/2006

Posted by Ian Grant in Thoughts about things.
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The problem is quite a simple one, in essence. It is that “REVELATION!” is no longer a word which has any gravitas within football whatsoever. On the contrary, it has much the same effect as being loudly commanded to sit still for “A CONTROVERSIAL INTERVIEW WITH JOSE MOURINHO” during the half-time break of a Champignons League match on ITV4; that is, a stifled but heartfelt sigh. It’s a bit like going round the Saatchi Gallery in London, where so many of the pieces address themselves directly to the reactionary media for a predictably hot-under-the-collar response, leaving you, once the audience for all of this and therefore an important part of the equation, with no real role left to play. You might as well not be there.

And so, Tuesday’s Panorama documentary did indeed offer a rather effective exposé of certain unpleasant practices within football. Bravo. Backslaps all round. Thing is, it did so in the commendably, hopelessly old-fashioned belief that anyone watching – beyond those wanting to fill back pages and news bulletins with yet more REVELATIONs, of course – would genuinely give a stuff. Most of us, I suspect, are way past that point.

What is modern football, if not a monstrous, seething feeding frenzy? What fuels it, if it’s not pure greed, arrogance and infinite ego? God bless Mike Newell for suggesting that we should care because supporters’ money is involved…because, deep down, he’s absolutely right about that. Except that if we’re going to care about that, we should care about the whole stinking, ugly, rotten mess, not just a few quid here and there to oil a transfer deal. Not just fairly arbitrary rules being broken. Really, why should it make any difference to me if a manager is taking a cut on the sly? That cash would be used to reduce ticket prices, would it? Or improve facilities? Or buy better players? Or fund schemes in the local community? Nah, it’d just find its way into someone else’s fat pocket: an agent, a player, an investor, a chairman. Someone’d gobble it up sharp enough and buy themselves another 4×4, conscience clear.

Anyone who casts more than a passing glance over modern football doesn’t need to have it exposed, revealed, stripped of romance. Not necessary. On the contrary, most of us spend as much time as possible trying to conjure up that romance from somewhere, to shroud the stark reality in mystery for the duration of a Saturday afternoon, at least. It’s supposed to be fun, after all. In the main, we have no power whatsoever to influence anything ourselves, no means of triggering the drastic change that would be so desirable and so incredibly beautiful. The revolution would be televised, of course…but it’ll never happen.

So, instead, we have what football supporters have always had: a largely misguided sense of passionate loyalty to something that can’t be clearly defined. Without that, nothing much. “Football’s big business now!” bellow those with their faces in the trough. It’s a boast, a brag, a justification for all sorts of extremely unbusiness-like nonsense. Amid it all, you start to wonder where the product of all this relentless and feverish activity is, beyond mere hot air, expensive watches and stupid haircuts. And whether there’s anything left to watch except ridiculous sums of money swilling around, hither and thither, for all eternity.

Yawn.

*Or has someone else already used that one…? If so, insert some kind of convoluted wordplay involving, say, “bungee jump” and we’ll say no more about it.

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Comments»

1. bluewedge - 22/09/2006

Was I supposed to be amazed at the ‘expose’ on Panorama? Was it supposed to be a ‘total’ revalation? If so I must have missed something. Hang on though, before you get the wrong end of the stick, i’m not in any doubt that football is ever-so-slightly-dodgy-at-times. It was just, well, you know, all a bit pantomime, a bit shallow, All kind of a set up in the manner of the production, secret filming, scripting (no, really?) etc etc

The agents of course say that ‘we lied to find ’em out’ but they would say that wouldn’t they…

Either way i’m relaxed, cos the Premier-FA-League people have promised a ‘full’ enquiry, which I have total faith in rooting out all this dodgy dealing once and for all… BW


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