Football’s Failed Capitalism
A search of “capitalism in football” gives you enough reading already, but I want to add a different point to what I’ve already seen, it’s on what type of capitalism we see in football, and that calling what we see in football ‘capitalism’ is giving it too much credit.
Capitalism, or a justification of it, is “that a plurality of companies experiment in solving human problems and so create worthwhile value, which capitalism can do better than any other system.”
What we see in football, and a lot of modern capitalism has little relation to this.
Modern capitalism has arrived late in the day, imposing a private trade (and a 1000% increase in ticket prices) and industry onto a social base that created football, in typical predatory style it decided it doesn’t really need any of that original social, cultural human character and simply replaced it with what modern capitalism does: commoditising, pleasing shareholders, minimising risk and maximizing profit. It is disregarding the social human needs of the sport, and in focusing on the familiar singular motive to make money it is destroying its own foundations.
In a predatory capitalist economy regulation is as Noam Chomsky states “an absolute necessity to preserve existence and destruction”. Yet in football, we have organising and regulatory bodies who not only impose no regulation but are actually involved in the predatory capitalism themselves.
We can’t rely on the Premier League or clubs to stop dodging the truth, because they have already gone rogue, pricing out ordinary fans of even attending the actual games. Or see the recent scandal of Premier League clubs refusing to even pay living wage to its workers.
In the background, or hidden under stage, of the recent showmanship of the £5+ billion given to the Premier League for 3 years of televised football. A 71% increase in the price paid in the last deal.
Modern capitalism is treating its fans not as people with intrinsic social interest in competitive sport but mindless plastic consumers fit to be shaped into whatever the business sees fit. Hegelian “mere things” with “no value”.
It’s not filling a market gap, creating a missing service for consumers, so what is it doing? What’s the justification for it’s presence in football? The increased professionalism? The huge crowds at games before the modern day professionalism we see now is proof that people enjoyed the game just as much before profit motives were paramount, and much evidence points to even more so. Fans would still come to games, would still fill up stadiums. People would still watch the games on television. There would still be stars, still be great players, as history has shown.
For the privatisation of clubs, the problem of ownership was solved when clubs were turned into PLCs (or Ltds or LLCS) in the 1990s. Since that important development in football, there has been little to no regulation in the practices of these clubs, and the media have been and still are fully complicit cheerleaders in the profiteering of governing bodies and clubs.
They’ve quickly turned love of sport into an industry, a luxury one. You’re encouraged to worship a brand, visiting the Apple United Store. A love of close competition into something you should struggle to pay for.
If we look at what club owners are doing, it’s hard to see them practicing any form of traditionally recognized capitalism, more like the modern parasitical predatory infestation. If football and capitalism weren’t compatible to begin with, this form of turbo-capitalism is even more at odds with football’s best intentions.
Football doesn’t need any of this parasite to be enjoyed, or created, but of course, it obediently slides right in. Neatly too, oiled by tribal sweat of it’s fanatic consumers.
The parasite is destroying the host. Like what we are seeing happening at Tesco’s, and during the financial crisis of greedy banks collapsing, capitalism without regulation is doomed. In 2009 Tesco’s were boasting of record profits of £3 bn. Six years on, they’ve posted a £6 bn loss.
False capitalism always self-destructs in the end, somehow. Because it isn’t actually doing anything, it has no other goal than to leech profits. Because it isn’t paying any attention to the humanity, its social base and service, and social aspect beating its heart. It’s incompatible with the football league system.
And we can all see clear signs of the collapse in process.
Rule #1 for enjoyment of sport: League’s need to be competitive.
It’s what makes people enjoy them, and it’s one of the many things the false capitalist leech is paying no attention to. League’s around Europe are becoming farce, lacking the close competition that they exist for. Germany, Spain, England, Italy, France, in all these leagues 80–90% of the entrants know they have no hope of winning the thing.
Fans of middling clubs stuck in Premier Purgatory with no hope of winning the league are still expected to struggle to pay to go watch their team.
What does a PLC, Ltd or private company want? A lack of uncertainty. Uncertainty is something inherent in football’s (and sport’s) nature. Alan Flitcroft, the head of sports at Ernst & Young, quoted in this Telegraph piece: “Football clubs are not suited to PLC status. For a start, promotion and relegation create too much uncertainty.”
English football has moved into what Jonathan Freedland called “a different kind of competition, a battle not of skill, pace and temperament but of pounds, shillings and pence”. European sport has non of the strict socialist regulations required of American sports clubs to keep things competitive, in a sporting sense. It’s this strict regulation that saves sport, to continue to be sport. It’s why NFL is thriving. It’s why, with a lack of it, and its care or foresight, Tesco is finally plummeting. What we see in many leagues right at this moment across Europe is sport becoming redefined, stadiums that were churches becoming supermarkets.
As the corporate media and its shills that essentially controls the English game continue to bombard us with the business morals they follow and now successfully imbue onto the common fan (see the quick switch in beliefs on when diving and cheating are fair).
But the essence of football at its best is antagonistic of capitalist aims. And if its not it should be. Karl Marx said that capitalism has in inbuilt tendency to destroy its own social base, yet he maybe couldn’t have imagined how profound his prediction could be with what we see today.
Sport is enjoyed best for the joy of playing and striving to win, and nothing more. But football is so easily open to capitalist corruption.
“Play has become spectacle, with few protagonists and many spectators, football for watching. And the spectacle has become one of the most profitable businesses in the world, organised not for play but rather to impede it. The technocracy of professional sport has managed to impose a football of lightning speed and brute strength, a football that negates joy, kills fantasy and outlaws daring.”
Terry Eagleton’s (cheek-tongued sort of) views on abolition of football probably mirror Karl Marx’s on religion. Marx, like Eagleton, got the human spirit of the it, and would probably substitute religion for modern football as the modern opium of the masses.
“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness.”
Like religion’s penchant for politics, football’s cavorting of business is known in the end be unavoidable despite its often artful and/or former egalitarian aspects. As Noam Chomsky says, “Capitalism without government would lead to Corporate Tyranny”. Which is why it needs protecting.
And it came from Europe. It was called FFP. It was met with skepticism from UK media and clubs. It was a good start. Although it has somewhat locked-in the current status quo, of those that bolted in before the gate was locked.
Football being too appealing for business to ever ignore, a huge amount of regulation is necessary. The lack of American style regulation to protect football has left it a helpless future husk. A business can sweep in and overnight claim millions of people that are blood dyed fans of its product.
It’s capitalism without the hard capitalism bit, it’s a ready made, here’s one someone else made earlier predatory profiteering. All we have to do is raise the price of everything, the fool’s love of sport means they’re ridiculously easy game.
Why should football be protected from parasites?
Because football is more than football. Football in England and elsewhere represents more than the actual match, it’s often the binding glue for relationships, communities, friends, families. The pre and post match pints down the pub with are just as important as the match. Football fitted into this niche as a community bonding tool like going to church used to. I’ve known people who have whole social circles spread over multiple countries simply through football. Destroy it you destroy more than the game.
Big business in football has directly attacked this element of the sport, as well as the way it’s being played. Big money brings big professionalism, better resources, but let to go rogue will change things too far for the worse.
What’s it going to leave behind? Like the institutions that currently fund its governing bodies, probably not much.