Newcastle v Manchester City underlines the problem inherent in football | Football politics

IIt was another week of soul searching in football. What is the game, what is its purpose and to whom does it belong? With nine Premier League matches postponed in the past week, and Dr Nikki Kinani, medical director for primary care at NHS England, stating that attending matches is an undue risk, a return to low attendance, closed matches or even suspension, has become It’s different. possibilities.

A return to Project Restart protocols may be enough to suppress the spread of the virus among players, but if not, continuing cannot be justified. Brentford’s Thomas Frank has already called for a circuit breaker, but it is likely that pushing the end of the season into summer isn’t easy as the season approaches to accommodate the World Cup in November. In football, as in many other areas, the pandemic has exposed the dangers of short-term greed and informal solutions to systemic problems.

The obvious is the desire for football. During the 100-day suspension period in the first closure, just as in World War II when the league was closed, only for domestic competitions to open in a month, and the need for football as an entertainment and distraction, as a community event that gives us something to discuss, quickly became apparent. C.S. Lewis noted that we read to feel less alone; In the modern era, football performs a similar function.

This is the romantic justification for football’s dominance of modern media and culture. And there’s something great about that, all over the world, people will be watching Tottenham’s game against Liverpool on Sunday afternoon. Express your doubts about Cristiano Ronaldo or Jose Mourinho and the abuse will come from all over the world. Football is truly global.

But this also makes it both profitable and influential – which is why so much of the game is so loathed. Hearing bleating self-interest from various top-tier clubs after a fan-led review called for an independent regulator made the idea that any owner had the greater good of the game laughable. And that was the other topic of the week: the dire consequences of football’s allure as a tool of soft power.

First, there was news that Abdullah Ibhais, a former media director at the 2022 World Cup’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, was imprisoned in Qatar for three years. He was initially convicted and sentenced to five years in prison in April for bribery after a confession he says was extracted from him under duress.

No evidence was presented during his trial and he claimed that he was denied access to a lawyer. He appealed and was released, but was re-arrested before he could speak to Norwegian radio station NRK. the magazine Josemar He reported how his initial arrest came after he refused to write a story about migrant workers who spent months without pay in a WhatsApp exchange with senior members of the Supreme Committee.

A Manchester City fan holds a fake banknote bearing Sheikh Mansour's face in 2008
A Manchester City fan holds a fake banknote bearing Sheikh Mansour’s face in 2008. Photo: Sean Pottrell/Getty Images

Aside from the personal horror of the ibis story, WhatsApp messages cast doubt on official claims about the safety and treatment of migrant workers. No one should think that next year’s World Cup represents anything other than the use of football as a status symbol by an oppressive country in which homosexuality remains illegal and women’s rights are severely restricted.

Then there was the news that US cryptocurrency speculators are planning to invest in Bradford, introducing a new ownership model based on non-fungible tokens. For all the passionate talk of “community storytelling”, that community is the global investors, not the local fans who have supported the club for decades – selling another civic asset to an investor who doesn’t feel about Bradford, its history, or its environment.

Meanwhile, Sunday will see the first meeting between Newcastle United and Manchester City since that match became the battle of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. There must be outrage that two proud homegrown institutions have been taken over by foreign states (well, a foreign state and a Public Investment Fund that certainly doesn’t look like a state, and the Premier League has legally binding guarantees to prove it) for reasons of diplomatic standing.

But so far we’ve slipped back into the self-absorbed tribalism, where fans welcome their distant masters, despite their hideous human rights records, for promising first-class football. The price of a fan’s soul? Eddie Howe and James Tarkowski whiff set.

However, blaming the fans is only addressing the most obvious symptoms. There is a problem inherent in football: if you win, you get more prize money and more people want to watch you, which in turn increases revenue through portal receipts, TV rights, merchandise, sponsorship and advertising. More money means better players more success means more money, and without a salary cap, unless there is some form of redistribution, a self-fulfilling cycle so that only a handful of clubs can compete.

The only way for an outsider club to bridge the gap is through the intervention of Sugar Daddy, and so they are hailed as implausible anti-capitalist freaks even if they have a bone saw in their pockets. The current group of owners is so unpalatable that hedge funds seem like the good guys; It’s enough to make you yearn for cynical carriers and old-fashioned scrap metal dealers.

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But these two aspects, the huge popularity of the game, the need for the game as a common hub, especially in a time of global crisis, and the deals that football made with the notorious, are intrinsically linked. If football was not very popular, it would have been less attractive to the wealthy or those seeking to wash their reputations.

The result is that, on the one hand, there is a global army of social media warriors who are passionately doing the work of bot farms, and propaganda for faraway countries. On the other hand, as the Omicron crisis intensifies, the need to reform our football, that usual rush of fiction and narrative, is more acute than ever. Welcome to modern football: it sucks but we need it.

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