Football has shocked us again, after we thought the ludicrous money in the game couldn’t shock us any more. When we thought we’d become numb to the outrage and amazement money in football inspires, the Premier League, Sky Sports and BT thrashed out a three season TV deal for a whopping £5.14 billion. The money which Sky and BT are going to pay England’s top clubs will mean that all 20 Premier League clubs will move into the world’s 30 richest, meaning the clubs will be faced with a choice: spend it on yet more expensive (and generally foreign) players or invest it in infrastructure.
For many people the week is a count down until their team plays and their club influences everything in their life from the colour of their car to the name of their first born child. Of these people who pack stadiums across the country week in week out, many would argue they have become disengaged with the system and many would argue that the government has failed them.
For these people – disillusioned with the state – efforts by the government to reach out to them and to attempt to engage them are useless. Every gesture appears to be an empty gesture; a hoax. Who cares what they say if they don’t care about me? It is in this environment, of course, that messages like those of Russell Brand (and worryingly Nigel Farage) begin to win traction. People look at Labour, the Tories, the Lib Dems and agree they’re all the same. They look at the Greens and laugh. Then they look to the right, to UKIP, and they see a group of people who seem to have worked out what’s wrong with the world – Europe – and an idiot waving a pint who claims to offer an alternative – a hybrid of the working classes and the political class. Or, equally dangerously, people look to the left where they see Russell Brand meaningfully telling them that they’ve been let down and that the best way to deal with it is… to do nothing at all.
Many would agree the situation above is, roughly the shape of Britain politically today. The fallout? Government initiatives fail: no one goes to the community centre to learn x, y or z because they don’t see the point, no one registers to vote and no one sees the point in engaging with the system at any level to change it.
Returning the focus of this piece, what if there was one organisation which is existed in every community, town and city across Britain which united people? Perhaps somewhere where thousands and thousands of people come together in one place and feel a solidarity and optimism? Maybe, just maybe, football clubs.
It is no secret the sway that clubs hold over people and communities. Business have always known it, which is why there is such an offensive quantity of money in corporate sponsorship of players and teams. But what if that influence could be harnessed for the good of the community and for the good of the nation as a whole?
If football clubs were to support voter registration, for example, the impact would be huge. If every football club in Britain promoted Voter Registration Day through their social media channels, at half time the week before and through advice sessions held at the clubs, registration would rocket. This is because football clubs and their enormous influence appeals to, as mentioned earlier, a sector of the electorate and of society that doesn’t trust the system.
Ultimately we all know the choice that clubs will make: buy big. It isn’t the right choice morally and it means that a huge opportunity will be missed. One influential club or player could change that with a big gesture, using their influence to start a revolution in football – making clubs work for fans to improve their communities, not the other way around.
Returning once more for one final time to Russell Brand, this is where his revolution could happen. Not an overthrowing of the government by the common person, to be replaced with some sort of utopian anarchy (as described and explained by our own Noah Brown), but instead a revolution of engagement, a return to believing politics and our world can work for us thanks to the power and money in football.