Sporting chance

7 March, 2016 (21:07) | All articles | By: Stuart Fraser

APPARENTLY, according to a few dozen highly-paid think pieces in a national press that may be bleeding readers but is still prepared to stump up for cliché and banality, apparently the Adam Johnson case exposes the seedy underbelly of football.

No. No it doesn’t.

How far does your head have to be up Rupert Murdoch’s wrinkled old arse to lose sight of the fact that football is among the most enormous edifices of filth and corruption in the world today? Has nobody been watching the news?

So disgusting is elite soccer as a sport that the conviction of Sunderland footballer Johnson for sexual acts with a 15-year-old isn’t even close to the most despicable thing about the sport.

The World Cup is to be played in Russia, a nation with openly homophobic policies whose violence has made it a pariah on the world stage. Has anybody suggested stopping that? No.

The next World Cup will be played in Qatar thanks to a web of deceit, corruption and lies, in stadia constructed by slave labourers for masters whose human rights record is as bad as Aston Villa’s defensive record. Has a single country had the decency, the moral courage, to suggest a boycott? Of course not.

For either venue, has a single player tried to mobilise his colleagues in protest? No. Has a single multi-millionaire said morality matters more than the commercial rights they’ll earn? No.

It’s the same as in Brazil for the last World Cup, where the global superstars and their corporate brand partners and Sepp Blatter and his bags full of money strutted their hour upon the stage in front of the starving children of the favelas and nobody complained – or nobody beyond the favelas complained.

Sky is pouring billions into televised soccer. Racists and homophobes litter the pitch. The grunting Wayne Rooney is, for the love of sweet Jesus Christ, the role-model national captain of what some claim to be our national sport.

What disgusts me the most is the money. Nothing demonstrates the yawning chasm between haves and have-nots than the supposed people’s sport. It flaunts its money at the dispossessed, literally flaunts it. The sport is built on the devotion of the fans, and it gives the fans nothing. It charges them £70 for tickets and £70 for replica shirts and they pay it. They pay the money to wear the shirts of their team, their team staffed by millionaire mercenaries. They pay the money even when the players tweet pictures of their supercars, thumbing their noises and their car keys at the fools on the terraces. The conditioning is complete.

The great young hopes? Saido Berahino is allowed to whine and whinge from his jet seat about the injustice of the fortune West Brom are playing him because he wants a bigger fortune. Raheem Sterling, a boy, is allowed to have people advise him to behave in public like the petulant child he obviously is in private and betray the club that brought him fame and fortune beyond the dreams of avarice, so he can sign for another club that will pay him even more.

We live in a nation stricken by stratospheric levels of obesity in which children are denied the human right of health and fitness because their playing fields have been sold for executive housing. Yet a soccer player like Adam Johnson can trouser £2.96 million in a year.

Why is soccer not made to pour its Murdoch billions into sports facilities for families in a country sorely lacking them? Why is soccer not made to pour its money back into the grassroots of the sport in serious quantities, rather than the fob-off pence with which it presently gets away? Why does the sport tolerate the agents and PR men, the hangers-on who gorge themselves on the money that seeps from the Ferraris of the children on the field?

Soccer is not the only culprit, of course. At tennis’s Davis Cup fixture at the weekend, the cheapest seats were £75 – in a country in which my son and I can’t find a tennis court within 10 miles of us, and are expected to fork out £12 an hour for the ones that do exist after travelling there. Wimbledon generates millions every year yet, as Andy Murray correctly said, it is squandering its wonderful chance to democratise the sport. How many children did not get the chance to enjoy the rugby World Cup last year because the cheapest tickets, at more than £50, were beyond their parents’ pockets?

But that’s the way of the world, isn’t it? Money will go where people are prepared to put it and countenance it? The market will decide the value, the market will decide what’s right and what’s wrong?

Well not for me it fucking won’t. I know right from wrong, and the bloated, greedy monster that top-level soccer has become is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrongity-wrong.

Let’s half the pay. To everybody. They’ll still be rich beyond their wildest dreams.

Cap the TV fees so that everybody can see their national sport, not just those who can stomach lining Murdoch’s pockets.

(Am I the only one whose flesh is creeping at the thought of the scaffolding being erected around his wizened groin to enable him to paw and slobber at Jerry Hall? What on Earth did she see in the billionaire Rupert Murdoch, eh?)

Insist that every national body for every sport from soccer to cricket to rugby to fucking tiddlywinks has to plough 50% of turnover back into making its sport available to everybody. Cap ticket prices so that children can once again be inspired by sporting events, rather than just rich children.

Sport is a recreation, a happiness, a joy in this world, and an aspiration for everybody. It has been taken over, as ever, by the money. We need to take it back.



Comment from Old Fiddle
Time March 8, 2016 at 12:34 am

As you know, my knowledge and experience of sport is prodigious, but I agree with every word.

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