Breaking up with a partner is never easy. How often has the line ‘its not you its me’ been used by both men and women? Frequently it is used when the one doing the splitting up cannot really explain why its over, but knows it so definitely is.
Talking to fans of football, and these are people who lived and breathed the game. They went to games, they watched games on television, listened on the radio and read about them in newspapers and on the internet. More and more are saying they have fallen out of love with the game.
It is easy to put this down to the style of football being played. Individualism having been stamped out of many players, has meant that the game has become more structured and therefore those moments of brilliance that last a lifetime are becoming few and far between. Moments that entertain and are talked about for decades are simply not happening. The trouble with a structured game is that it is invariably easy to negate.
The Euros have apart from the performances of Wales and Iceland underwhelmed. Teams, despite three in each initial pool progressing through to the knock-out stages still opted to play not to lose, rather than to win. It appears that very few teams today believe they can score multiple goals and overcome a team who scores against them.
The truth is there are still teams who entertain. There are still players who show moments of sheer brilliance to beat a player or unlock a defence. Those are still the moments that everyone remembers; and England going home in misery again. Yet something has gone out of the game.
A friend said that he believed it was the fact that at all levels of the game now, Football Clubs are no longer about communities, they are now in the case of EPL clubs, the head office for a global corporation. Even lower down the pecking order clubs are battling to remain financially viable rather than concentrating on the culture and community vibe that made them what they were. The focus has shifted dramatically. It is all about ‘revenue streams.’ Being competitive financially rather than on the pitch.
Those who walk to grounds in England along streets named after famous characters of yesteryear, whether it be Sir Matt Busby Way in Manchester, or Fleming Way in Swindon will soon have no idea what these people did for their clubs.
In Germany how long will it take before people who walk along Robert-Enke-Strasse 1 forget that this street was renamed by Bundesliga side Hannover 96 in memory of the former international goalkeeper, whose suicide in November 2009 had an impact on thousands of people.
The feeling is that these shrines to legendary figures are fast becoming monuments to a lost culture.
Football clubs used to be run by people who understood football. Some were definitely better at it than others, but they always respected the history of the club, and no doubt felt that it was part of their job to preserve that history.
Now the clubs are run by men with no feel for the sport, career sports administrators who somehow feel that you can learn how to run such an institution at University, when you can’t. These administrators sole interest is to deliver profits to their absent owners living in far off lands.
Down at grassroots people with a passion still try to keep their clubs profitable while complying with rules and regulations stipulated by career administrators who fail to understand the extra work created by such rules and regulations, at a time when volunteers are becoming scarcer. So busy are these clubs battling to keep their heads above water no longer can they build loyalty and club cultures. Then, if they finally uncover a young player with talent they are snatched from under their nose, with the promise of greener pastures and more money.
If we look at Manchester United, one of, if not the most commercial of football clubs in the world, what has happened to the soul of their club? Last season every time the team lost and there was talk of manager Louis van Gaal losing his job, there was also a reference to the club’s share price. It was almost as if the share price was in fact more important than the performances on the pitch. The team can lose 5-0 but as long as the share price does not drop below a certain level the manager is safe.
Before Van Gaal was shown the door it was rumoured that the untried and not really tested Ryan Giggs would take over as Manager. Some close to the club said that this was again a move by those at the top to try and restore the spirit and soul to the club. Giggs being the embodiment of commitment, and a home-grown hero who may be able to re-engage the disgruntled fans. As it happened they opted for Jose Mourinho and Giggs has left Manchester United after almost three decades of involvement.
It would appear that World Football is heading for calmer waters now that Sepp Blatter has been replaced as President of FIFA, don’t be fooled. His replacement Gianni Infantino wants to expand the World Cup Finals to consist of 40 teams. This will not only prolong the month long tournament, but no doubt result in more money for FIFA via sponsorships, ticket sales etcetera. Is this a decision for the sake of football? Despite liking the idea of having the tournament hosted by more than one country as put forward by Infantino, once again it opens the door for more money for FIFA with hosting fees. Again is this being done for the good of the game, for the players? Or is it all about the money, the business of sport?
It is worth remembering Sepp Blatter proudly announcing that FIFA had earned USD4.19billion from the four year World Cup cycle post South Africa in 2010 and the double World Cup bidding process. Income that was tax free as a result of FIFA’s non-profit’ status.
The world over fans are being treated with contempt, we have seen it in Hong Kong, the A-League, as well as Liverpool, Charlton, Leeds and Leyton Orient as football becomes more about money than about the game. This is another reason many are walking away, why many are falling out of love with the game.
Is there a way back, or is Football too far down the runway now to change direction? It is such a shame that is in essence such a simple game has been made so complicated. What is even more sad is the fact that a game that was for everyone, a simple game, that anyone could play is slowly being wrenched away from a certain demographic as it becomes too expensive to either watch or play.