A reasonable article by Kettle that even has the courage to mention old Charlie Marx and the notion of ‘false consciousness’. Well done Mr Kettle. And his summation of Premier League football is right on the button. Kettle writes; ‘The charge sheet against modern football is not difficult to draw up. Too much money. Too many mercenaries. Too little motivation. Too few roots. Not enough skill or nurture. No moral compass.’ That’s about as comprehensive a summation as is required. Whole books have been written providing statistics and anecdotes to flesh out the argument and to compare and contrast with a so called golden age of community based clubs. But Kettle doesn’t do that. Instead he makes comparisons with other sports which he imagines are somehow more wholesome. On this I think he is mistaken. All professional sport is now contaminated, to a greater or lesser degree, with the social ills that Kettle’s list so accurately describes. Doping, cheating and corruption are endemic across the board. And why wouldn’t they be. Sport, like all cultural aspects of modern life, merely reflects the wider economic world. If Kettle had really read his Marx, he would be quoting this equally profound premise and building his article around it.

 Kettle talks about football’s ‘insatiable appetite for more’. Now what does that remind you of? Could it be Tiger Woods and his insatiable appetite for more corporate sponsorships and sexual conquests? Or perhaps Lance Armstrong and his insatiable appetite for lying and doping? Or perhaps global cricket and its insatiable appetite for cheating and bribe taking? Or Formula 1 with its insatiable appetite for dodgy billionaires. The  sporting list of insatiable appetites is endless. But the real measure of Premier League football’s decent into the moral gutter is not other sports but the global financial system itself. Premier League football, like the international banking system itself, is so unregulated that any number of oligarchs, sheiks, gangsters and chancers can roll up with their dirty, untaxed money and buy a football club straight off the shelf. The FA’s ‘Fit and Proper’ test is not worth the paper it is written on. As for football, so it is with corporate takeovers by shady off-shore equity funds. Football merely mirrors life.

And then there is the match-fixing and illegal betting syndicates that are rapidly turning all professional sport toxic. If we imagine that the Premier League can remain immune from this global poison, we are truly deluding ourselves. Remember Liverpool’s Grobbalar. Probably just the tip of a mighty criminal iceberg. But what does match-fixing actually remind us of? You guessed it – the fixing and manipulation of bank interest rates by our supposedly squeaky clean high street banks.  Where there is unregulated greed the slide into outright criminality is never far away. Football not only reflects the financial world, it has become an extension of it.

 All of the big Premier League clubs are now owned by foreign owners with bucket loads of filthy money to squander. Not one of the major Premier League clubs can be said to be owned by the fans or their local community. Local players playing for their local club is a distant memory. The Premier League clubs are increasingly owned by gangsters and their players are little more than highly paid mercenaries sourced from across the planet. A distinct form of colonialism is at work whereby wealthy western businesses scour the planet, hovering up local talent that is then exported to Europe.  And this is precisely a mirror reflection of the business world at large. The corporate conglomerates scour the planet for cheap labour and resources with the single purpose of enriching their major shareholders and executives. Local communities and local development simply don’t come into the equation. Short-termism is everything. Long term rational development is off the agenda completely. Football once again reflects the global economy. Strangely, Kettle has nothing to say on this natural alignment between football and the globalised market.

Finally, we have the sometimes endearing, sometimes barbaric tribalism associated with football. The worst aspects of this tribalism has been largely exorcised from the British games but it is very much alive and well in many other countries including Brazil, the so called home of the ‘beautiful game’. Fans regular die at and around Brazilian matches. And it was only a few decades ago that match day in Britain was akin to a national military operation - battalions of police horses, rabid police dogs and riot gear at the ready. Racism was rampant and tribal violence was the order of the day. Even now, in Britain today, we can still get echoes of that ugly tribalism in and around lower league football matches. But all of that tribalism was only a reflection of a wider world; religious, regional and national rivalries playing themselves out on the football terraces. And bizarrely, despite the globalisation of capital, those archaic tribalisms are as strong as ever. Kettle blames the fans but for the root cause of community tensions one should look much deeper. I would suggest the divisive nature of capitalism itself – a handful of winners and the rest of us encouraged to squabble amongst ourselves.

I enjoyed reading Martin Kettle’s article but it could have been so much better.

End JPK Copyright. 14/8/14

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 16 August 2014 12:11 )