Cards on the table: I’m a football fan*. I also quite enjoy buying things. I thought you should know both of these before you read this blog post.
Now that that’s out of the way, let me tell thee a tale. I’m sat in the pub watching a World Cup game**, on my own . The pub is deserted, except for two other guys about my age*** watching the game, on their own. One of them pulls out a book and some stickers with photos of football players on, and then he starts sticking the stickers in the book. The other guy notices which leads to the following conversation:
“Got any swaps on you?” He asks.
“Sure mate,” comes the reply, and before you can say Wayne Rooney these guys are making a connection over the fact that they’re both happy to spend their hard-earned wages**** on stickers.
Before long the pub landlord has emerged and joined in the fun, and I’m actually feeling a bit left out. Wishing I’d had the foresight to buy that book a month of so back and do something I haven’t done since I was about 12 years old – spend money to stick photos of football players into a book.
I don’t mean to be too scathing. As you may have picked up, I can very much see the appeal of collecting World Cup stickers. It struck me however, as a potent, albeit it low-key, symbol of a twin idol that’s distorting our (global, national, local) society – that of consumerism AND football.
It’s difficult to find anyone who doesn’t think the wages of top football players are ridiculous. Yet many of those same people will happily spend their money fuelling the machine which, eventually, produces those ridiculous wages. Football’s global governing body – FIFA – is widely known to be horrendously corrupt, but this is a classic case of what economists call “Rent-seeking behaviour”.
Essentially, where the reward of power is lots of money, lots of money will be spent to get that power.
The Economist magazine (that bastion of progressivism) ran a front-page headline a couple of weeks ago: “Beautiful game, ugly business” and a 14 page report on corruption in football. My suggestion is that we’ve basically asked for this – or some of us have anyway. As we prepare for another summer of record transfer fees and salaries, lets remember that it’s our money that’s greasing the wheels. Just like we all try our best to 'buy local', maybe we start supporting our local Sunday League team instead.
*Brighton and Hove Albion, since you’re asking
**Colombia vs. Ivory Coast, since you’re asking
****This is an assumption