It’s a tough job sticking up for football. The charge sheet against the so-called beautiful game is long. Indeed, at our DISCUSS debate on Wednesday the 15th of January, Dr Annabel Kiernan outline a fairly chunky list of reasons why she was arguing for the motion that it is the beautiful game no more. Football has sold its soul.
In his quite stunning oratory against the motion Professor Tom Cannon of Liverpool University didn’t actually try and argue that it was in fact still beautiful, rather that it never was. We’ve become seduced by nostalgia and a sepia toned view of the past, that has allowed us to forget the crooks that ran football, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool in the olden days.
But winning the emotional argument was TV’s Graeme Hawley, actor and Coventry City supporter who delivered a heartfelt plea for the motion based on his own club’s perspective – playing 35 miles away in another city – something the FA had done nothing to prevent.
Like I said, the job of defending all of this was left to Colin Bridgford of the Manchester FA. Fair play to him for evoking the schemes in the community. The great transformative things that the influx of money has enabled football to do.
But there remained an elephant in the room – the Premier League with all its money, pricing out the fans, accepting foreign owners with no respect for what matters to fans – well, the audience weren’t having it. Colin got a hard time when the questions came – and from all kinds of supporters.
In the end the motion was carried – some waverers were won over. But it was a mountain to climb, despite a plucky and audacious opening the odds were against an upset. Rather like the one the Blackburn Rovers team faced in the second half of the game that followed the debate. There was only ever going to be one outcome.