Posts Tagged ‘football’

A lesson from football: Labour needs to temper its regulatory reflex

13/06/2014, 11:04:06 AM

by David Butler

A few weeks ago, the first set of Financial Fair Play (FFP) fines landed upon the desks of the owners of Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and a host of other football clubs. UEFA’s new system is meant to make European football fairer, limiting the ability of clubs to generate losses in search of better league places in search of European glory/a group stage exit in the Champions League. Critics have accused the reform of strengthening the power of the big clubs. These critiques of FFP offer important insights for politicians looking to intervene in markets.

There is a convincing claim that FFP embeds oligopoly. Its structure strengthens clubs like Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern Munich whose historic hegemonic position in their respective leagues means they are major profit-making bodies. Clubs who wish to compete with them need to make significant investments to be able to match the transfer kitty, wage offers, and footballing status offer by the big teams.  Relative insurgents like Manchester City or AS Monaco rely on owners who are able to invest a sum close to the GDP of a small African nation. These investments are overwhelming loss-making, at least initially, due to the huge cost of building a squad capable of challenging consistently for Champions League places. FFP means that fewer clubs will be able to pay the sunk costs often needed to enter the market for Champions League places within their respective nation. Bad regulation may well sustain the wealthy clubs and stymie greater competition.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

There is only one Thomas Hitzlsperger

11/01/2014, 01:43:16 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“Football,” according to The Times editorial on Friday, “is trapped in an intolerant culture that most other sports of the nation have passed by.” I’m sure the writer of this editorial drew upon close knowledge of many professional footballers in concluding “change has to come from the top”. If you ask footballers, though, they’d say that the most important change has to come from the sides; namely, the fans on the terraces.

What footballers “are all agreed on,” reports the Secret Footballer, probably Dave Kitson, “is that there is one very good reason that gay players would keep their sexual allegiance firmly in the locker: the fans.” This is hardly surprising if you think about it. “Would you come out and then travel round the country playing football in front of tens of thousands of people who hate you?”

It would take a super human courage to say, yes. In contrast, for a footballer to come out to the England captain, Steven Gerrard, wouldn’t seem such a big deal. Asked yesterday by Sky Sports how he’d handle this, Gerrard said he’d “certainly help to make his position a lot more comfortable … There certainly would be no problem in the dressing room. He’s a teammate and friend.”

It’s easy to dismiss this and insist that footballers must be more homophobic than others. But, I’d guess, broadly speaking, the people who work in football are no more open or closed minded than workers in most workplaces. Coming out to colleagues may be a challenge but I’m not convinced that if these colleagues are footballers that it would be any more of a challenge than if they were butchers, bakers or candlestick makers.

Yotam Ottolenghi, however, doesn’t travel the country baking in front of thousands of people who hate him. If he had to, no matter how tolerant his fellow chefs, perhaps he wouldn’t have publicly come out. As other worldly as this thought experiment is, it reinforces the Secret Footballer’s claim that the biggest barrier to gay players revealing themselves is the fans.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Break down the Berlin Wall at FIFA

02/06/2011, 02:00:16 PM

by Jonathan Todd

What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you use it? To whom are you accountable? How do we get rid of you?

Tony Benn wants these questions to be put to any powerful person. If Sepp Blatter retains any self-awareness whatsoever, which is doubtful, then he must cringe to have these questions applied to him.

He has great power as the president of football’s global governing body, FIFA. Following the “temporary exclusion” by FIFA’s ethics committee from football posts of Mohamed Bin Hammam, who was challenging Blatter for this post, he was yesterday re-elected, unopposed, for another four year term. The coronation of Blatter came from a body that has seen nine of its 24 executive committee members accused of corruption in recent months. While FIFA’s motto is “for the game, for the world”, the power bestowed in Blatter may not always further such high-minded ends. He seems accountable only to the executive committee, who exclusively appear able to remove the man in charge of a game loved with passion by billions.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The glorious game has become an inglorious free-market free for all

14/04/2011, 01:30:44 PM

by James Mills

“‘Tis a glorious game, deny it who can, that tries the pluck of an Englishman.” Is the chorus annually sang at the start of the Shrovetide football game, a precursor to the modern day version of the ‘glorious game’, still played every year in Derbyshire on Shrove Tuesday, which demonstrates the key community ties that link the origins of our national game.

Similarly, many of the modern day football clubs originated from community based teams that grew into the social sinews of their local areas. Although many of them nowadays have ballooned into monolithic globally recognisable brands, they are also national treasures as well as assets that employ thousands and inspire millions. Most important of all in a globalised world they remind us of the most important thing of all, locality.

On Monday the banking commission laid out plans to prevent another banking collapse by protecting retail banking from investment banking, which a few years ago exposed some of the fallacies of free-market economics. On the same day, Arsenal, known as the ‘the bank of England club’, was added to the growing list of foreign owned clubs in the Premier League. Could you imagine the streets of Paris, Munich, Milan, Madrid or Barcelona staying as quiet as the streets of London are, if this was their club? (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Liverpool FC and Man Utd: the fans’ next step

25/10/2010, 12:00:49 PM

by Jonathan Todd and Alison McGovern

Blood, sweat and tears have spilt recently in Liverpool. Too much by supporters anguished at the financial plight of a great institution and the grim reality of listless defeat at Goodison Park; more by millionaires who gained control of this institution than by the millionaires responsible for this loss.

The illusion that Liverpool FC would emerge fighting fit from the Tom Hicks and George Gillett era was shattered by Everton. While the reds battled to victory against Blackburn yesterday, much needs to improve. But it isn’t only on the pitch that the lessons of recent years need to be learnt.

The promise of New England sports ventures (NESV), the new owners, to listen to supporters is welcome. Talk, however, is cheap. Fans have been left jaded after previous commitments have been reneged upon.

Now this promise should be backed up by institutional reform. This should mean, at least, a fan on the board. More ambitiously, this might mean taking up Rogan Taylor’s proposal that NESV look towards fans holding a significant minority of shares in the club; perhaps, as much as 25 percent. While the dream of full mutualisation and Liverpool FC being owned and run such that it embeds Scouse pride in a similar way to the fan-owned FC Barcelona in Catalonia may be distant, this proposal would have radical consequences. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The Andy Burnham interview

04/08/2010, 12:00:07 PM

Burnham: Everton, FA Cup final

When Andy Burnham is asked a question, he gives it some thought. And then he gives you an actual answer. Sitting in his Parliamentary office in Norman Shaw South, Burnham tells it how it is, no matter how deliberate the grimaces from his team. The result is a genuine response from a man who’s answering on normal terms.   He’s got time for everyone; chatting to researchers in the corridor when we arrive, and he’s got plenty to say about the campaign. But even now he’s aware that playing nice is often read as lacking strength. He talks to Labour Uncut about career politics, Christianity, Everton and his eyelashes.

Q. (from Luke Charters-Reid): What would you do to revitalise the party for young people, to attract young members who are essentially the Labour cabinet in 40 years time.

A. Well, we’ve got to make Labour the natural home for all young people who want to change the world. As I did, and as I still do. When I was fifteen, I wanted to change the world. That’s why I joined Labour. But we lost a sense of it when we were in government. So, what would I do? I had a meeting on Saturday with Manchester young Labour and the young Fabians and we had a really good discussion about this.

I think you’ve got to rethink through what is a young person’s introduction to Labour when they join. And I don’t think we should immediately assign them to a branch or a ward and then a constituency. I think the first contact they should have is from a young labour group in their locality. Because I think too many might fall at the first hurdle. They get the first contact and go to a meeting that they basically don’t relate to and we’ve got to rethink our introductory approach to people joining the Labour party. They’re joining it to change the world and to change policy. And we’ve got to make sure that their first experience of labour is inspiring, why they think they’ve joined. And we also have to think about how we can connect them immediately to the policy discussion and how to change the world. Sadly, the party’s not done what it says on the tin. That’s what they thought they were getting when they joined and they often turn up at meetings finding they’re talking about the minutes of the last meeting or the yellow lines by the chippy or something like that. That for me…we’ve got to rethink what is their introduction to Labour.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon