On Morality….

24 06 2012

Yesterday somebody on twitter objected to the post before this one. He tweeted this in reply;

“Going or not going to football matches is not and never will be a moral issue.”

I must admit for a moment, and from a certain angle; the definition of morality, he had me;

Morality (from the Latin moralitas “manner, character, proper behavior”) is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good (or right) and those that are bad (or wrong). A moral code is a system of morality (according to a particular philosophy, religion, culture, etc.) and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code. The adjective moral is synonymous with “good” or “right.” Immorality is the active opposition to morality (i.e. good or right), while amorality is variously defined as an unawareness of, indifference toward, or disbelief in any set of moral standards or principles” (From Wikipedia)

Of course the adjective moral is synonymous with “good” or “right” but not with “choosing whether to go to watch a football match or not“. Quite clearly on an absolute moral level my critic was right; you simply cannot compare the decision of a football fan regarding their attendance at a match with the decisions made by judges or soldiers in war zones. There’s no dilemma of intervention as there is when a person witnesses a mugging.

I could even see where he was going with his point; going to football matches is a social activity, not question of right and wrong. Football is just entertainment, it’s part of circuses that the elite use to hold our attention when we’ve eaten all the bread. Football is merely mind numbing entertainment that enables the lumpenproletariat to burn off revolutionary anger. When I tweeted a reply of this sort back to him he tweeted that I had no moral compass;

“I suggest you have lost your perspective on what sport is.”

I’d argue that some people don’t have enough perspective on what sport is. A decision about whether one goes to a football match or not is often made of some kind of moral level. Here are a few examples;

Firstly, let’s imagine a season ticket holder that hasn’t missed a match for a decade. Let’s imagine that on a midweek night in deepest October his wife, let’s say she’s a nurse, has been called into work because of a major emergency. The husband now has to look after their two young children; Robert (18 Months old) and John (3 years old).

Unfortunately for the husband his club are playing at home on that evening, even worse for the husband, it’s a local derby against hated rivals, a match that he’s been looking forward to it since his club was promoted in May. He obviously would like to go to the match but he can’t ask his parents to help because they’re on a SAGA cruise around the Caribbean and he can’t ask his neighbours because he doesn’t know many. Therefore he’s in a quandary, he’s been looking forward to prospect of the match for months but he’s got to look after his kids. Does he still go to the match?

Of course he doesn’t. He makes the moral decision to look after his young family. You could say the same about the father that misses a match to go to his daughter’s university graduation, or the woman who goes on a protest march in London instead of a match.

Teams can also miss matches for moral reason as Chile v Soviet Union in 1973 proves;

The USSR didn’t fancy playing in a ground that had been used as a concentration camp by Pinochet.

Now let’s turn to an alienated Manchester United fan. He doesn’t want to carry on supporting the oligarchical ownership regime of his club, he wants something a bit different. He wants something with a bit of soul, a bit of feeling. He wants to enjoy football matches again. Luckily for him a lot of Man United fans felt the same way and set up FC United.

So he decided to give FC United a go and eventually finds that supporting FC United is just like the football he used to love. He makes the moral decision not give any more of his money to the oligarchs owning Manchester United. In other words he makes a moral decision about which matches he goes to.

This idea isn’t limited to Greater Manchester, you can find the same thing in Salzburg; Red Bull took over SV Salzburg so some SV fans made the moral decision not to go to watch Salzburg Red Bulls anymore. They set up their own club baring the name SV Salzburg instead.

Now let’s consider the case of the franchise football brought to you by the MK Dons. A football fan could decide not to go to MK Dons matches because they didn’t like the way the club came into being. A football magazine could decide not to include MK Dons in their season preview because MK Dons’ birth was anathema to the magazine’s editorial staff. A national supporter’s federation could refuse to acknowledge that MK Dons exist because they detest the example that has been set by the foundation of MK Dons. All of these people dislike the fact that financial logic appears to have trumped communal values, and this had led them all to make the moral decision not to go to MK Dons matches.

Let’s move on to local football as moral decisions abound at this level. Every person that turns up to support their local club has made the moral decision to support their local community. They have chosen to eschew the glitzy hype of media-driven football to make a positive statement about their local area. Of course I’m referring about the fans of semi-pro clubs here but my point holds for fans of nearly every football club, even massive clubs. We’ve all made a moral decision, we’ve chosen to say that something at the heart of the community is worth something. In today’s world of digital entertainment it’s relatively simple to build up a passion for a foreign club, or a club from outside your home area, but this is an ersatz feeling based around the hype created by PR.

It may be me but the decision about going, or not going, to football matches can involve quite a few moral choices.

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