| It was revealed last week that Newcastle United is paying people £30 a day
plus bonuses to collect signatures for a petition pro its plans to build a
new stadium in Newcastle's only major public park.
This represents the
ultimate insult to the communal tradition of football. The community that
spawned the team, the people of the entire city, will lose something which
enhances their quality of life and are being encouraged to participate in
this process with monetary bribes.
Still, this should come as no major surprise to anyone who has followed the
path of the Club over the last few years. Last week they floated on the
Stock Exchange, with owner Sir John Hall rumoured by the media to gain a
potential £100 million from an initial £2 million investment in the club.
They are the club responsible for paying the highest transfer fee in
history, afforded through an aggressive campaign of merchandising,
commercial sponsorship and `season ticket only` ticketing.
Exploited to its utmost through a number of marketing schemes, season
tickets are available in a number of 'packages' such as the 'Platinum Club'
where for £3,000 a year you gain a seat, club membership and the right to
continue buying this package every year for the next 98 years. Or its
corporate packages, where a London banker can be entertained at an average
cost of £2,100 per season.
The days of fans from two football teams coming together to watch the
mutual struggles of their heroes on the football field are almost over,
with only 1,850 away team tickets available for each game in a stadium with
a capacity of over 36,000.
| Sir John's domination of Newcastle United reflects the new
commercialisation of football. With the sport based on profit, the
communities who created these great teams are no longer important. Today
all that matters in football is money. The game has been hijacked by the
media, the marketing maestros and the demands of the Stock Market. It has
been turned into a global business where image and profits are more
important than spirit and sportsmanship.
The three teams at the top of the Premiership, Arsenal, Liverpool and
Manchester United, earned their status in the original Football League
through a consistency and quality which owed nothing to the wealth that now
exists in the Premier League. What the legendary managers of these teams -
Bill Shankley, Bob Paisley, Sir Matt Busby and Herbert Chapman - had in
common was a belief in a team being greater than the sum of its parts. The
teams represented a community and were an expression of communal unity.
Football was the working class game and its finest teams emerged from
strong working class communities.
"Football isn't a matter of life or death, it's much more important than
that", proclaimed Bill Shankley. A similar message is sung by none other
than Coca Cola in their slogan "Eat football, sleep football, drink Coca
Cola". The difference is that the nearest the marketing men who dreamed up
this catchphrase have come to a football game is probably on BSkyB. The
corporate football game is here!