James Olley, Evening Standard, 12/06/09

Three cheers for the London Evening Standard. I never thought I’d find myself writing that, but finally a mainstream newspaper has dared to say what most sane people already surely think. £80 million for one footballer when vast sectors of the world’s population are hovering on the edge of subsistence is surely a football obscenity too far.  James Olley explains,

 

‘ These almost incomprehensible figures have understandably prompted widespread condemnation at a time when fans are being asked to pay more than ever before to see their team against a turbulent backdrop of the current global financial crisis.’ But the three cheers go not so much to Olley but to the Evening Standard Editorial team who have boldly published a selection of readers comments concerning Ronaldo’s sale to Real Madrid. This selection of opposing views, ironically lifted from the web, captures perfectly the moral tight-rope that world football is currently walking, while giving further evidence of how mainstream newspapers can and must adapt and become and more democratic if they are to survive the internet revolution.

 

Views are divided around the morality of paying £80 million pounds for a single footballer not to mention the equally obscene weekly wage of half a million per week by the last year of his six year contract. On the one side a reader argues,

 

‘For goodness sake, nobody is worth that sort of money for kicking a bag of wind around. Supporters need a reality check. You make heroes out of footballers but they are nothing of the sort. Just think of the starving millions in this world and how many bellies would be filled with the money that Renaldo is paid alone! Think!’

 

A London contributor responds; ‘Selling people is as old as the hills. Everyone in the lower classes was owned by someone else throughout history. And it was not only slaves that were owned- everyone working on the land in England was owned by their landlords, lords, the crown or the church etc. So selling people is nothing new and £80 million is a fair price.’

 

This is great stuff. First the moral outcry, then the excellent history lesson (not withstanding the small error of conflating the slave owning epoch with that of the latter epoch of feudalism) A third contributor moves directly to the political.

 

‘It is not the money paid to superstar footballers or film stars or rock stars which leads to millions starving. Their wages are trivial compared to government coffers. People starve and die of disease due to lack of political will, pure and simple.’

 

Now we really are getting political. Well done Paul from Dover. Could it be that new Evening Standard owner, a former KGB operative, is turning the Evening Standard into the sister paper of The Morning Star? The debate continues with an attempt to combine the moral with the political. Steven from London expands,

 

‘I agree that the figures involved in this transfer are obscene and nobody is worth that amount of money. But to all those crying about the starving millions who are going without- Do you really believe that if football as an industry ended tomorrow that all the club owners, investors, fans and agents would just donate these ghastly sums to charity instead? Of course not. That money only exists because the industry exists.’ Steven continues his argument for a while in similar vein and then concludes; ‘The world wouldn’t be all sunshine and roses if we gave up capitalism and consumerism. It’d just mean a whole lot more people would be worse off.’

 

The historical jury is still out on whether humanity can do better than capitalism but I’m pretty certain that Steven has never experience the grinding agony of starvation nor the humiliation of not being able to feed your family. With that experience he just might be more open to plans for a more rational and humane use of the world’s resources. Anyway, Ronaldo may be a hideously shallow playboy but he has certainly got us football punters thinking above our normal shallow concerns and for that he is to be congratulated.

 

End JPK 20/06/09

 

  

 

 

Last Updated ( Monday, 29 October 2012 12:33 )