what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

what football performance tells us

Don Paskini's blog (http://don-paskini.blogspot.com/) had a powerful point recently about the lessons from the performances of the English and German teams in the World Cup which I reproduce in full.
English football is run in the interests of very wealthy people. Ticket prices are extremely high and unaffordable for many families on middle or lower incomes. There are even regulations which tell football supporters that they are not allowed to stand and watch their team play. Fans of top teams pay huge sums of money to watch live football, money which goes to multi millionaire footballers and owners of football teams. Those who choose instead to watch football on the telly pay hundreds of pounds per year to Rupert Murdoch. Many clubs have seen their budgets for investment slashed, and their revenues spent on servicing the debts which their owners have run up. A tiny fraction of this money trickles down from the millionaires to grassroots football clubs, and clubs at all levels of the game have been caught in a financial crisis, with many threatened by closure.

German football is run in the interests of the supporters. Ticket prices are kept low so that supporters can go and watch, and can even stand if they want. Regulations mean that at least 51% of every football club is owned by the supporters, unless a company can show that it has invested in the club for at least twenty years. Those who choose to watch football on the telly have benefited from the most competitive free TV market in the world. German football clubs made a profit, rather than running up debts, thanks to lower spending on players' wages. In recent years, German clubs have massively increased their investment in youth academies, and the national team has benefited from the liberalisation of the immigration laws in 1999, to the point where they proudly talk about how they are the "multicultural" or "liberation" generation. The Bundesliga is more unpredictable and exciting than the Premier League, and we all know what happened on Sunday.

English society is run in the interests of very wealthy people. The cost of housing, child care and social care is unaffordable for many families on middle or lower incomes. There are all sorts of petty regulations which tell ordinary people what they are and aren't allowed to do. People pay huge sums of money for basic services which goes to multi millionaires. The media is dominated by a small cartel of multi millionaires, most notably Rupert Murdoch. The government is slashing its budgets for investment, and our revenues are spent on servicing the debts which the bankers have run up. A tiny fraction of this money trickles down from the millionaires to grassroots community groups, and charities and small businesses have been caught in a financial crisis, with many threatened by closure.

If we want to improve our chances in the next World Cup and stop many of our clubs from going bankrupt, we could learn a lot from the Germans. We could organise the game around the convenience of fans, rather than the Glazers and other multi millionaire owners. We could slash ticket prices, and scrap petty regulations on supporters. At the same time, we could impose new regulations to stop rich people from buying football clubs in order to asset strip them and stop them from paying their debts by squeezing fans dry. We could break up media cartels and increase the amount we invest in our young people, as well as welcoming people from all around the world who have chosen to come to live and work here.

But it strikes me that these same principles which have made German football better than ours - putting ordinary people first, making sure it is affordable to go and watch a football game, regulating the anti-social activities of rich asset strippers, investing in developing young people and being proud of multiculturalism and tolerance - are also ones which are more generally applicable to how to improve our society.

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