Football is dead, long live football!

Posted on August 4, 2017

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With the new season just around the corner and ‘silly season’ still in full swing, at least until the end of August, the entire football community is very much excited for competitive matches to begin again this weekend!

It feels like we’ve reached the zenith of absurdity this summer. Neymar sealed his world record move to Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona for €222m, social media is alive with the sound of ‘Come to Beşiktaş’ and Sky Sports are doing their best to dumb-down the experience for the average fan with half-baked stat-attacks lifted straight from the Football Manager archives.

Elite football has become ever-more absurd with every passing season, spiralling TV money (the Premier League in particular is saturated), massive foreign investment in the biggest clubs around the globe, and the rise of social media all perpetuate the situation. The modern game has turned into a shiny, unwieldy corporate beast groomed for the YouTube/Twitter generation where clickbait is king and memes are queen.

It’s almost unrecognisable to what it was even 10 years ago. Which really doesn’t seem that long ago in my mind…

This leaves many fans pining for a time when football was simple. Before the days of £50m full-backs when the genius of Eric Cantona was available for purchase for a meagre £1m. However, each generation of football fan will inevitably look back from behind their rose tinted, nostalgia spectacles at a time in football they remember most fondly. This is simply a fact of life.

For me though, the worst part is not my growing resentment of modern football, it’s the sense of apathy that I’ve felt seeping into my consciousness. Indifference is something I didn’t think I’d ever feel towards the game I love.

The gulf between the elite level and the lower tiers is growing year on year. This is clearly evident in the English football pyramid. Whilst my team, Bradford City spent £250k on midfielder Jake Reeves, Manchester City spent £50m on Kyle Walker, who’s weekly wage is probably around the £250k mark.

Whilst the difference in price and wages is not necessarily my issue here, simple economics dictates the market value after all.  My issue is that the gap is now so vast that the Premier League is a complete fantasy world in comparison. This is the most Bradford have paid for a new player in over 10 years and Manchester City have paid over £50 million each for two defenders in one window.

The Premier League is the dream, but it’s not the be all and end all. It’s patented, polished and dished up in a shiny package for consumption at a price if you can afford it.

Once the media circle-jerk disappears and the summer fan-fare moves out of town, the beauty of the game itself will remain. Despite the vast riches passed between the elite, football will always be the sport of the people. The basic concept has been the same for over 100 years, it’s 22 players striving towards the same goal and something the average person can enjoy watching or taking part in with friends.

Cringe-worthy marketing campaigns, media hyperbole and inflated transfer fees aside, I know I’ll still be there come the start of the season, screwing up bet slips whilst watching ‘Soccer Saturday’ after a playing for my local side, or settling on the sofa for ‘[Insert latest corporate sponsor] Super Sunday’ afternoon.

The point is that it’s the game of football that matters most to me. None of the surround material holds any significance. I have little interest in who is paying what ridiculous fee for the next Lionel Messi. I mean if Twitter is anything to go by, Algeria have several 8-year-olds vying for that title so just give them the 2030 World Cup now!

In this sense, I feel lucky to be part of a solid local amateur team, breaking the monotony of the working week and having a good laugh with friends. I’m also proud to support a team like Bradford City, a club with a clear connection to the local people and a club offering some of the cheapest season tickets in the entire football league, making football inclusive for all.

This for me is real football and where the heart and soul of the game truly lies.

By Jamie Allen.

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Posted in: Football