A politician talks football, Jeeeesus……..

9 01 2011

It’s funny that when we had our mind on Darren “Man of the People” Miller the other day some users of the When Saturday Comes message board also had their minds on a Tory arsehole, they were thinking of Michael Gove instead. Someone had started a thread about the occasion when Gove blundered into the world  of football a few years ago. Gove had opined with his usual aplomb;

Man U critics should concede defeat

round this time nearly two years ago the consensus among sporting commentators on the future of Manchester United was as stiflingly conformist as the consensus among terrorist commentators has been on foreign policy. And events have now proved it just as wrong.

For two years ago, when the Glazer family was mounting its takeover bid for Man U the near-universal view was that these Yankee asset-strippers were bringing nothing to Old Trafford but a barrel-load of debt and the inevitable consequence of their arrival would be a fire-sale of gifted players and a lack of adequate investment.

Now that Man U are on course for a Premiership triumph, I haven’t noticed any significant recantation among commentators. But I do hope that, over time, we’ll come to recognise that the commentating consensus, which has been so sceptical of new money and innovation in football, acknowledges that globalisation has been good for our national game.

Mind you as someone on the WSC message board pointed out he had form when he was a humble journalist;

“Glazer: a Red passport to prosperity

23rd May 2005

Opponents of the billionaire can’t see that his money is likely to improve performance……

THE WEATHER can sometimes be harsh in the North East of Scotland. But in 1983 the prevailing winds brought a shower of stardust to Aberdeen. That was the year the city’s football team, led by Alex Ferguson, beat Real Madrid to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup. And it was also in 1983 that Hollywood drenched the region in glamour with the release of Local Hero, a comedy set in Aberdeenshire pitting corporate excess against couthy local loyalties. Burt Lancaster was the movie’s biggest name but the real star was the location. Aberdeen, a respectable city in her middle years, was flattered by all the attention. And her sons, of whom I am proud to be one, glimpsed horizons beyond those bounded by the grey North Sea.

Twenty-two years later and a similar drama is being played out in the North West of England. An older, wiser and richer Alex Ferguson is now manager of the world’s most famous football team. But Manchester United ends this season in the uncharacteristic position of having no new silverware to grace the trophy cabinet. The club does, however, find itself at the centre of another drama which has pitted an American corporate raider against defenders of local loyalties. The takeover of Manchester United by the billionaire Malcolm Glazer seems to have united Manchester in opposition. One should tread carefully when talking about football clubs one doesn’t support, but I can’t help thinking that the horizons of those opposing Glazer are unnecessarily limited.

There is, in the British character, an admirable, stubborn determination to keep our institutions rooted in the ground from which they sprang. The cinematic appeal of Local Hero derived from more than just the comedy inherent in seeing a transatlantic master of the universe humbled by the native wisdom of simpler souls. British culture has always celebrated the survival of the local, the quirky and the individual. In Ealing Comedies such as the Titfield Thunderbolt, Whisky Galore! and Passport to Pimlico, local communities resist the outside world to preserve their distinctive and cherishable way of life. But while the films of the golden age of British cinema have an enduring appeal, British cinema itself has not endured. Ealing is a brand that died, superseded by a world of commercial reality that it could mock but failed to master.

Of all the British institutions that still command fierce local loyalties, football clubs are among the most successful. They provide a focus for community pride in towns and cities that have often lost other badges of distinction. But the success of English football has been driven by an embrace of the commercial that has been anything but sentimental. There is a world of difference between the Ealing world of our dreams and the global Old Trafford of reality.

The locally rooted, community-sensitive Manchester United, which its fans are seeking to protect from the taint of predatory capitalism, is a myth. Man U is already a multinational business. Well before Malcolm Glazer started his takeover bid, the club had a ten-year sponsorship deal with Nike worth £300 million, and another deal with Vodafone netting £10 million. The team have ten branded megastores in Asia, serving millions of fans in the region. There are estimated to be 23 million Man U supporters in China alone, serviced by a Mandarin language website that receives 15 million hits a year and a football academy in Hong Kong.

Commercial activity on this scale is necessary not just to keep Wayne Rooney’s girlfriend in Gucci; it is an absolute requirement to keep the club in the condition to which its fans have become accustomed. Competition against the AC Milans and Real Madrids requires cash to invest in stadium refurbishment, training and, above all, players’ salaries. Fans may claim to dislike the introduction of mercenary calculation into the beautiful game, but I don’t recall any United supporters dressed in black to protest when Cristiano Ronaldo came fortune-hunting to Old Trafford. Wayne Rooney may have spent his childhood dreaming of one day pulling on the blue shirt of Everton, but he could not resist the opportunity to join Manchester United when it came. And personal enrichment would have been only one part of the equation. The chance to play in a team at the very highest level is what every young player must aspire to. And there is no reason why fans should not share a similar sentiment. There is nothing ignoble in wanting your club to challenge consistently for the big trophies and play in the big European matches. But if that ambition is to be fulfilled, then the club requires all the commercial support it can get.

There has been a lot of apparently authoritative commentary from Glazer-sceptics about the burden of debt he has had to acquire on the road to Old Trafford and the consequent danger of asset-stripping at Manchester United. But much of this talk betrays not so much a knowledge of capital markets as a plain old suspicion of capitalism. Arsenal has a far bigger debt burden than Glazer brings to Manchester United and, in any case, wise businesses borrow as a route to expansion. Glazer’s record with his American football team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is one of solid long-term investment resulting in enhanced facilities for the fans and improved performance on the pitch. There is no reason to believe that having fought so hard to acquire Man U he will do anything other than repeat an already successful formula. In a league transformed by the arrival of Roman Abramovich, Manchester United fans would be foolish to look a gift boss in the mouth.

Copyright © 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd”

Funnily enough now we’re in the financial shit he has a different tone about incurring debts;

Mr Gove has said the financial situation means he has to prioritise funding to try to reduce the £155bn budget deficit. He believes the BSF programme was not value for money and was over bureaucratic.

They say that 24 hours is a long time in politics so a few years represents a new epoch. When you look at the two articles through the lens of the present it seems to be a very refreshing attitude from a member of a government about to cut jobs in the public sector because of the toxic public debt. However it’s a bit unfair to condemn a man for what he said in the past, especially when this was a time before his party needed to use our nation’s toxic public debt as an expedient excuse to finally demolish the public sector.

Gove’s attitude  about the ownership of football clubs is rather one-sided.  These oligarchs and plutocrats may have brought “new money and innovation” from globalisation but they also brought massive debts to the party. The influx of money in to the premier league further alienated fans from players via the wages spiral, a process with a negative trickle down effect to the lower divisions. Fans would rather have a debt-free club than one whose extinction is threatened, something obvious to real fans. You only need to think of the  many clubs have  been relegated, or almost went out of business, for trying to live the dream to see the problems with keeping up with the Uniteds. However we’ll  be lenient again as a lot forecasts and opinions can be proved wrong with hindsight, although a sharper mind may have seen the problems ahead.

Maybe it’s a little misguided to have a go at Gove over this but those articles seem to represent a crystalisation of his thoughts on certain things.  Gove wrote the second article with the freedom of a journalist, he wrote the first one out of the spotlight as an opposition MP so these articles would come more from the heart. Unfortunately the articles highlight greater problems for contemporary Britain than one person’s  misguided opinion.

Firstly they show that people may be right when they are cynical about politicians. To judge Gove, and the others like him, they’ll say one thing in to get power and another thing when they’re in power. What’s new about that I hear you cry.

Secondly the Conservatives are not only big fans of big business they are advocates for the philosophy behind market capitalism. They think that the market will not only bestow freedom but other great things upon the world. Again this is not a great surprise but they  do use some pretty twisted logic to protect their ideology. They say we are now reaping the whirlwind of Labour’s ruination. However Labour  only had the power to tinker at the edge of the system. The deregulated market economy is not controlled by governments, it is controlled by the sort of people that Gove loves, the people who bring “new money and innovation” into the world., the kind of people that take risks, adventurers.

Now despite the Gordon Gekkos of this world controlling the system through their accumulation of vast wealth, Labour are to blame. Despite the fact governments of the right (and the “left”) have ensured that market economies remain free of government control from 30 years, Labour are to blame. Despite the fact this system causes vast inequalities of wealth and helps turns societies into Darwinian struggles, Labour are to blame. It’s not the system at all. Of course the Tories don’t what to end this system, they want to punish  the rest of us instead. And this is despite the historical examples of the damage that an unfettered laissez-faire economy can cause.

Thirdly, the articles highlight the utter contempt with which people like Gove view the general public, it almost seeps through the article. What a cunt.; “The scum football fans of this country don’t mind what the owners do as long as they’ve got their boys in the shirt to cheer on”. As he’s written about the same thing twice it’s probably safe to assume he does think along these lines. Members of a Conservative government holding football fans in contempt, now where have we heard that one before ? You wonder if he is equally dismissive of the scum of this land when it come to the serious matter of politics.

We all know that Tories have usually been educated in an environment where knowledge of the classics is prized but surely they don’t need to  base their outlook in the twenty-first century on it. We don’t need their stale bread and their outdated circuses but they want to serve us with both.




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9 01 2011
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