Football’s roots can be traced to the heartland of the industrial North West with founding clubs such as Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley and Preston. Football for much of it’s history was a game for the working classes, a form of escapism from the often dreary and unpleasant day to day lives of trying to support a family. It was also a sport for the young to express themselves, to follow their team up and down the country and latterly as the sport grew the opportunity to follow them abroad creating mythical stories.
Of course it would be unfair to say that football’s support was confined to the poorer side of society this was not the case. It was though affordable as a weekly past time for everyone.
The same cannot be said, as of 2013.
Since the creation of the Premier League and the vast advancement in technology over the past two decades. The fabric of football’s DNA has altered drastically. It is now possible to watch the Premier League in almost any country in the world. The ability to transmit the game to a global audience has changed football from a game made by the working class for the working class to a cash cow.
Premier League football is a middle class sport in so much as you get what you pay for. Bill Shankly once lauded Liverpool fans as â€œnot simply fans, they’re more like members of one extended family.’
The modern day reality is startling in contrast; Premier League fans are not part of any family, they are consumers. To watch the biggest, best and most popular teams week in, week out, then you need the most money. The drastic rise of ticket prices in recent years demonstrates this. Football is no longer a game, it is a product, a commodity to be sold all over the world. There is no loyalty to fans or anyone, football is simply big business and like any big business it needs regulating.
Until some sort of regulation is introduced, the average fan will continue to be priced out of the game and replaced by middle and bus
iness class people willing to buy into the ever expanding global business.
Many hopes of the ordinary fan (that have not already been driven away) cling to the notion of Financial-Fair-Play (FFP) as the great equalizer. Hoping it will claw back the financial dominance of the few and create a level playing field once more. However as anyone that has been paying attention will tell you FFP is somewhat of a farce, with it’s numerous loopholes and grey areas, the hope that it will be the everyday man’s saviour is somewhat futile. When clubs like Man City or PSG can harness massively inflated sponsorship deals to continue operating under a faÃ§ade of integrity, what hope is there for traditional club.
Until the game is able to fully regulate transfer fees, wages and introduce some sort of cap to stop the exorbitantly inflated prices- football will continue to be big business and not a game for the ordinary man. It will continue to not only hurt the traditional fanbase but also the traditional clubs.
The price of wages, transfer fees and tickets will continue to soar, until like any other unregulated financial institution the bubble will burst. When this does happen, don’t be surprised to see a European Super League emerge with only the financial dominant competing.
Nick Hornby author of 1992 book ‘Football Fever’ recently stated that more has changed in the past 20 years of football, than the 100 years that proceeded it. It wouldn’t be a surprise if we were saying the same in the next 20 years if football continues on it’s current trajectory.