Modern Football: When The Hate Grates On A Lifetime Of Love
By Gareth Roberts
The Good Old Days?
WE can get misty-eyed about the past. And I do.
We can romanticise it, remembering the good bits, leaving out the bad bits. Did football used to be better? It was certainly different. Perhaps the question should be, did it used to make you question whether you should be involved with it?
If you argue that, yes, it was better, you might point to the simplicity of it all back then (I recognise there is a bias in that I was a younger person with less of the weight of the world on my shoulders that I carry now).
Turn up, pay in (at much more affordable prices) watch the game, and go home. Support your team, talk about football, play football, read about football, watch (some, much less) football on the telly, and repeat.
Simpler times, I’d say.
No mentions then of Financial Fair Play, Profit and Sustainability Rules, Video Assistant Referee, leveraged buyouts, nation states and so on.
I can imagine the reaction from my mates if I’d started talking about amortisation or money leagues back then. And it wouldn’t have been, “oooh, tell us more”.
We did, however, have to endure some boring football at times. Did you know the back pass rule was introduced in 1992? Only 31 years ago, don’t worry.
We also now have safer stadiums, better policing (although some issues remain), less racism, less hooliganism. It’s a safer place to take kids and the bigots have been marginalised.
Time was when football was frowned upon. The mass image of the sport and the people who followed it was at an all-time low, culminating in the European ban for English clubs post-Heysel. (If you’re a bellend and want to score points about Heysel, maybe read this and this first before engaging).
Post-Hillsborough, over time, football has been purposely re-packaged and sold. The aim was to make crowds more diverse, to appeal to the monied classes and to “grow the brand” abroad. Job done.
The Money League
TV money has gone through the roof. Where once we tuned into Football Italia (or Sgorio on S4C if you pointed your aerial towards Wales) to watch the world’s biggest stars, they are now here on these shores while Italy looks in on itself and wonders how and why it got left behind.
With global interest, spiralling costs, wages, and transfer fees, came a change in the profile of many club owners too.
The local lad come good is struggling these days versus the oligarchs, hedge funds and nation states. I’m only skimming the surface regarding now and then. But they are different worlds. And there’s no way we can put the genie back in the bottle now. We can only make the best of it. Fingers crossed for that regulator...
Some football clubs appear to still be run like a corner shop but their turnovers are no longer comparable – at the top end of the game, the money washing around is wild; unthinkable compared to what it once was.
With change has come consequence.
A lot of things about modern football are an improvement on what came before. But if you straddled both worlds, if you knew the previous reality and have been dragged into this one, it makes your head spin that little bit more
On Saturday we play Manchester City. A football superpower apparently. A club capable of generating more revenue than any other in world football after winning seven Premier League titles. It’s all absolutely legit, honest.
And don’t you be worrying about those 115 charges.
I can’t be the only one that still thinks of Maine Road and a club that hadn’t won the title since 1968.
A team that time wasted against us when it needed to win to stay up. Paul Dickov. Play offs. Ged Brennan. Losing a local Derby. To Stockport County. All that.
They went down as recently as 2001. And they kicked off the 1998 season in the third tier of English football.
Since 2008 though, north of £1.5bn has changed their fortunes – a fairytale transformation that few buy into.
Meanwhile, Everton are docked 10 points. For one charge. I’ve talked about that at length this week. It does seem harsh. And incredibly prompt and efficient.
But much of the focus on the panel and the Premier League seems to ignore the mismanagement of the club. And mismanagement of clubs has been an all-too-often recurring theme..
Is Football Eating Itself?
Anything else that is a bit wild right now and has me pining for League Ladders and Saint & Greavsie? Where to start.
How about the referee for our game on Saturday, Chris Kavanagh?
I’m going to guess that given everything that has gone on this season, perception of Premier League refereeing isn’t exactly at an all-time high. When the ‘chief refereeing officer’ Howard Webb feels it necessary to have his own show on the telly to explain decisions, you don’t exactly need to be an expert in PR to see there is an issue.
And so to Kavanagh. Surely common sense and logic says that if you know anything about the culture of football, and football supporters, you don’t do something to poke the bear. Particularly, as mentioned, when in a bit of a sticky spot.
Yet someone has gone, Kavanagh…didn’t he grow up only a few miles away from City’s ground? Ah, it’s sound.
I’m not saying the fella is biased, corrupt or anything else. I’m saying, why him?
Yet apparently some just can’t see it. Take serial shit talker, Ian Ladyman, The Mail’s Sport Editor.
“There's already been some chat across social media about the referee, Chris Kavanagh, simply because he was born and raised five miles from the Etihad Stadium,” he said.
“People are already calling into question his impartiality and why the PGMOL would appoint him. And to me this is the kind of nonsense that underpins all of this rubbish that we see directed towards officials on match days.
“He's from Ashton-under-Lyne which actually isn't in Manchester, it's in Greater Manchester.”
A quick Google search will bring you to this on the subject.
Keith Hackett, former head of the PGMOL, said: “At the beginning of every season the referees’ background information is audited.
“They complete a form that includes who they support, the history of if they’ve played the game and with the addresses where they are residing.
“That gives you a picture that comes into use when you’re appointing. It’s about ensuring, for example, you wouldn’t appoint a Sheffield-based ref for a Sheffield team.”
Makes sense. So what’s the PGMOL doing now, and what is Ladyman on about?
Would it be sound if Steven Gerrard refereed Liverpool? After all, he’s from Knowsley not Liverpool and there’s a picture of him in an Everton kit as a kid on the internet.
On a more serious note, can you remember Peter Bankes refereeing Liverpool? Me neither. Why? He’s from Liverpool. So...ah, fuck it.
Last of all, promise, what about that vote?
Newcastle, Sheffield United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton, Wolves, Nottingham Forest and Burnley voting against a proposed ban on Premier League sides signing players from “related clubs” in the transfer window.
A vote on tougher rules on commercial deals between associated parties was also defeated.
Fairness? Sporting integrity? Competition? Optics? Football just doesn’t make sense sometimes, does it? Now where’s my sticker book?