Saturday, 11th July 2020

This Month's Magazine
Is today's football worth watching?

Is today's football worth watching?

It is part of human nature to take greater pleasure when gathered in crowds to watch something entertaining.

by Edwin L. F. Gladstone

For example we laugh more at movies when we watch them with others and we act differently towards people when we’re in a group than we do as individuals. The crowd allows us to generate collective emotions that we might not have as individuals.

“Smile and the world smiles with you.” Perhaps a good example of this is found in Shakespeare’s day, when plays were performed in broad daylight and people naturally gathered in crowds sharing the same emotions depending on the play.

In ancient Rome, this particular aspect of human nature was exploited to provide entertainment for the emperor and the rest of the crowd by gladiators glad to be given a chance to live rather than being crucified for a crime. Although their entertainment value was very high, the only payment they received was food, shelter and training.

It was almost the same with other performers, even in Shakespearean’s times actors were treated with suspicion and were classed no better than beggars, despite providing a wanted entertainment.

These thoughts have come to me while watching some of the recent world cup football games on TV. I do not think I am alone in wondering why chasing a ball around a field warrants such extraordinary payments like the payment to David Beckham which according to the BBC, apparently was £128,000,000 over a five year contract for joining LA Galaxy in America. That’s nearly £ ½ million a week!

Football is not a novelty, its origins in history go back well beyond the ancient Egyptians, in every corner of the globe. I believe it was in the 17th century that England officially banned football, probably for political reasons more than the feeble reasons given. However, the only successful banning of football took place during the time of Oliver Cromwell and the Restoration (1660). Even though Oliver Cromwell was a keen footballer in his youth, his ban on Sunday football remained in force for over thirty years. Eventually with the bans having no effect on the football playing public, James I reversed his decision to ban football. In 1633, the Church of England followed suit and issued formal approval to play football.

The game was incredibly popular with the working classes. Games were normally violent and disorganised affairs with any number of players. By the 11th century, games were often played between rival villages and the ‘pitch’ could be an incredibly large area and it included streets, fields, village squares and anything else that got in the way! The level of violence within the game was astonishing. In addition to the injuries that occurred, countless property items were destroyed in the course of a match. Well this hasn’t changed much even today in many instances.

It was entertainment for the crowd and for the players. Anyone could join in, but none got paid a penny for playing.


So what happened? Why is it that these days such performers are paid exorbitant sums of money for doing something entertaining rather than useful? Well here we are again; there are now huge amounts of money to be made out of crowds watching football. The larger the crowd the more money for the organisers or whoever is behind it with the result that over the years more and more people get indoctrinated, or even brain washed, into enjoying football above all else.

Of course it is fun, I am not denying it, but it is blown out of all reasonable proportions and the competition between teams and clubs is not restricted to the field but it extends to acquiring players by offering larger and larger sums of money, thus converting players to idols to be followed by the crowds.

Unfortunately this is backfiring and converting players into softies and “prima donnas” who think they can relax their training, enjoy themselves with the money and find excuses not to play for the minimal excuse of an injury. Well just look at the recent games! What a flop not just for England but for all the old established teams and see the difference against the hungry newcomers who got and continue getting better.

The money is the only thing the players want. The hell with trophies, medals and parades after cup wins. A career in football is relatively short and the money they get most definitely sets them up for life, but do they earn it? Stanley Matthews, Nobby Stiles, Pele, etc. were all great players yet they didn’t get anywhere near as much as players do today. Even though they have all that money, the majority of them don’t play the game correctly, they cheat. They keep falling over like they’ve just been shot when the opposition player barely touches them.

So really I the game changes from players getting money for kicking a football for ninety minutes to players getting money for kicking a football and falling over for ninety minutes! Why not give a red ticket to the players that fake or expel them and end them to acting school.
More and more companies every day prefer to recruit self employed people. This isn’t just because of the social security costs, as a matter of fact they often even prefer to pay the self employed social security and the main reason for this is because this way it becomes possible to measure cost v performance.

The same should apply to inividual footballers and even teams as a whole then see how hard they work to earn their money for a change.

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