Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Foul! How the excessive influence of money ruins the beautiful game

Ladies and gentlemen, the FIFA World Cup of 2014 starts tomorrow in Brazil, in case you were not paying attention. I watch matches mostly out of support for the English football team rather than support of the game of football itself. 

I feel the need to comment on sport here, as news of the scandal over the awarding of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar has been helping expose the corruption, cronyism, and lack of accountability within FIFA,and in many football associations in general. Qatar, for such a small country, is notorious for its very poor record on workers' rights (especially those of migrant workers), its absolute monarchy, and its poor record on human rights in general. Corruption and vote-selling was also a serious problem in the awarding of the 2018 FIFA World Cup to Russia.

Even this year's FIFA World Cup has shone the spotlight on the negative consequences of Brazil's grand preparations for it. Widespread protests have taken place in many Brazilian cities, especially Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, over poor living conditions, poverty levels of pay, and Dilma Rouseff's government's failure to tackle them when it has the public money to build expensive football stadiums just for the World Cup. 

Particularly since the 1980's, corporate and banking sponsorship in football, in England and elsewhere, has been responsible for the alienation of many football fans, and also of many non-Premiership football clubs going bankrupt or at least losing their place at national level (e.g.  by slipping into the Conference League from the Football League). The Premier League in Britain has been funded by Barclays Bank for many years, which explains why many famous British footballers are ludicrously overpaid, and it also explains why tickets to many football games are heavily overpriced and now unaffordable to many football fans. Many of England's Premier League football clubs themselves are owned by oligarchs or business tycoons, who are much more interested in profits and enriching themselves than in  thesport. Football teams should be owned by their fans and their players for the benefit of their fans and football itself, not by dodgy and corrupt investors like Roman Abramovich (who owns Chelsea FC).

The sponsorship of a major beer company, Budweiser, of the World Cup has also led to Brazil drafting a 'Budweiser Bill' to concede to FIFA's demands to allow alcohol sales in football stadiums; this is not only currently banned in Brazil but also many other countries, simply for health and safety reasons and to reduce crime, which is a serious issue in the beautiful game. The main problem with FIFA is its elitist, undemocratic structure-it lacks any real accountability to football fans anywhere in the world, or even to each nation's FA sometimes.

Sport has been a major part of human life for thousands of years-it needs to be freed from corporate sponsorship and influence in order to remain viable to a wide audience, which is what it was intended for. Co-operative ownership of football clubs by football fans would be a great start to achieving this and also helping the sport truly reach the public once again, as would banishing influence by large corporations in any football game, as sometimes this can amount to match-fixing in practice, and making sure players were not underpaid (as they are in many clubs) or overpaid (as they are in the Premiership), but nonetheless still motivated to keep football games exciting for them and their fans.




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