THE proposed departure of English football’s so-called Big Six to the new European Super League is like discovering in flagrante a cheating spouse you’ve suspected for years: painful to have your suspicions confirmed, certainly, but also cathartic.
The truth is that football at the elite level sold itself to the devil decades ago: diving to get opponents sent off; endless managers whining about the refs (thanks for that innovation, Alex Ferguson); spectacularly well-renumerated but fickle players who were the ultimate ‘citizens of nowhere’; rip-off ticket prices and replica shirt sales; the orientation of kick-off times around the Asian market – and to cap it all, the taking of the knee to Black Lives Matter.
After Sunday’s announcement, much scorn has predictably been heaped upon the globalist owners of these clubs. Although it has long been true that very wealthy men bought or at least controlled football clubs, there was a strong element of socially conservative, almost endearingly anti-capitalist and romantic culture to it: men such as Jack Walker at Blackburn Rovers who had made good but still, despite a lifetime of achievement and material acquisition, wished above all else that they had grown up to be centre-forward for their local side. Having bought their club, they then burnt their way through their fortune with the sole intention of finding glory. The modern mode of ownership is very different, and it certainly doesn’t help Transatlantic relations that the owners of three of the renegade Big Six clubs are American. Not content with trashing the royal brand, American vulgarity and avarice has now polluted the Beautiful Game: Meghan Markle, eat your heart out.
However, this is in an issue that goes way beyond football, and ultimately we have no one but ourselves to blame. It goes back to the ‘double liberalism’ of the New Labour and Cameroon years and their grotesque model for economic ‘success’: provide the template of your history, your law and ancient society, import the talent and sell the assets to the highest bidder. It was a model of no benefit to Joe Average, of course, and nor was it sustainable, feeding off the accrued social capital of previous generations in return for a quick buck. It is no coincidence that during those years it was claimed that English football was a major source of our ‘soft power’ throughout the world. We overlooked that it was in reality no longer ours, sold to the highest bidder to become instead an instrument of globalist power: for years ‘the legacy fans’, as the Big Six owners now contemptuously call them, have been sidelined in favour of an ever-larger global audience. Once again, the citizens of somewhere have been displaced by the citizens of nowhere.
We social conservatives should count ourselves lucky and see this as an opportunity: just as mass Eastern European immigration brought home to the British people to the realities of EU membership, or the statue-smashing of BLM that of the decades-old Culture War, so the defenestrating of football has brought home very sharply and painfully to the common man a domestic socio-economic model that is basically a form of prostitution: our start-up firms and pension funds are prey to the asset-stripping of the hedge funds, making money for the few but not the many; we import huge amounts of foreign skilled labour at vast social cost to cover up the shortfalls in education and dysfunction in our society; even our culture is being replaced by an imported, reductive identity politics, a sinister form of corporate market segmentation on a global scale.
It’s all for sale, and it should not be: true conservatives must accept that the free market alone is not enough. We must seek to build a more – dread word – sustainable form of capitalism that builds in resilience into the market system and protects us from the rapacity and cynicism of unscrupulous globalism. Purist libertarians may wail that this a betrayal of Thatcher’s legacy: let them do so. Because if we fail, it is inevitable that the pendulum will one day swing destructively and decisively in the other direction.