Little Romance In City's Title Win

John Nicholson admits that a Manchester City title win does little to stir his footballing soul in a world that seems so driven by money. He's here to burst your balloon...

Last Updated: 12/05/14 at 09:09 Post Comment

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You don't have to be a rabid socialist to realise that in the 21st century, a tiny elite of people are creaming it up to the benefit of almost no-one except themselves, while the rest of us fight amongst ourselves for a few spare fivers, having been successfully turned against each other by that very same elite in order to allow them to get away with this outrage.

For those of us who feel this is wrong to the point of immorality these are depressing times, especially because there seems no way out of it. Decades ago we could put our faith in alternative political parties to correct injustice, but now everyone seems to sup from the same corporate cup of fear and mind-wipe.

So much about the very basic fabric of society, from the tax system to the finance industry, to the housing sector and the political class just seems almost exactly opposite to what is needed to create a content, equitable society. People who are so rich they don't have to work are telling people with nothing to work for a pittance on punishing zero-hour contracts. I don't even think it's especially political to say that's vulgar, indecent and downright insulting. It's like being punched in the face and then told off for bleeding on the carpet.

Try and point this out and government ministers and others who do their bidding will tell you such critique is merely the politics of envy. That it is born, not out of moral outrage, but out of jealousy. Jealousy of those who have done well, of the rich and the powerful. That is the degree to which our basic humanity is misunderstood.

So the news that the richest club in the Premier League won the Premier League fits very nicely with the Zeitgeist. Of course they did. It's the money go-round, 'they got it stitched up tight, they got it safe and sound' , as Paul Weller once said. And again the distaste for this is not born out of jealousy, it's born out of a sense of basic unfairness. I know people often say, ever was it thus - the richest clubs have always won everything - it's not true, but even if it was, what rich means now is off the scale compared to what rich used to mean.

Equally, top footballers have always been a bit paid better than your average worker, two or three or ten times better paid, but now that too is off the scale. In the same way, chief executive pay compared to average pay for FTSE companies, has moved from 69 times to 149 times in the last ten years. The elite are hoovering up more and more for themselves and I can't not see football as part of that cultural shift.

I can appreciate any footballer's talent on a pitch, but it's all become tainted with the culture that big money brings with it. I don't want that to be the case. I want to appreciate Yaya Toure for the magnificent player he is, and I do, but the knowledge that he earns ten times more in one week than my friend who works for a charity which helps abused people earns in a year taints any consideration indelibly, however I try to reason it away.

The degree of imbalance is too troubling to pretend it doesn't exist. You can try and tell yourself as many stories about market demand, economics and make any number of show business analogies, but it doesn't make any difference. It still feels profoundly wrong. I don't resent the individual per se taking home a big bag of cash, I resent the industry and the system which allowed it to happen and turned football into a bloated corpse floating in a sea of money.

There are pictures of the Manchester City team celebrating in front of a banner with the Barclays logo alongside a meaningless 'Thank You' message and a hashtag #youarefootball. Probably the most insulting, patronising hashtag you'll ever see pushed as a part of a venal marketing exercise. The very idea that a global financial institution should take it upon itself to tell us what we are exposes the core of corporate hubris and inflated self-regard trying to pass itself off as of the people. That banner is both symbolically and literally why I am so alienated from this culture and why I'm not alone in feeling the sport I love is, at this level, being played at the behest of devils.

Even supporters of victorious teams have to lie to themselves about it being alright. You have to invent an excuse as to why it's great because, deep down, it's an unfair business and I think we all know the truth of that; we're just powerless to do anything about it, it seems.

That's why, for all I enjoy the art of football, the happy romance of it has evaporated at the highest level. You take your pleasure where you can find it in the modern game, mostly in the outrageous talent of an increasingly few individuals, as the maverick is increasingly crushed under the financially-driven wheels of athleticism, marginal gains and corporate homogeneity. It feels like being asked to celebrate a rich man buying an expensive watch. I can't do that. I'd wager most of us can't. When all is unearned privilege, only the undermining of that privilege offers any joy.

I know not everyone cares about stuff like this and as I write I already fear a storm of net spend nerds, or rabid free market capitalists who want to pretend pumping oligarch money into the football club is somehow an example of the market at work and not old-fashioned patronage, but really, this is bigger and more profound than all of that. It's about values and spirit and human commonality.

Manchester City are a team of really good players and they played some really good football, but to many of us, their league win was greeted with a shrug, a feeling that, to some degree at least, it was inevitable.

'Oh look, the one with the most money and the highest wage bill in world sport, won.'And who can really say there really much joy in that?

Johnny now writes superb northern crime novels. We love them. Check them out here: www.johnnicholsonwriter.com

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