Reclaim The Game

Posted in Tubeworker's blog on Sun, 18/06/2006 - 22:26,

The World Cup is with us, and for football fans, it's a fantastic celebration of the best of the beautiful game.

For most of us, it is a matter of supporting your team and respecting the right of others to do the same - whether it is England or one of the other 31. But the likes of the BNP are out to exploit the enthusiasm of England fans and recruit more racists. And the political establishment would like us all to rally around the flag and forget about their attacks on us and our rights. Don't let them - London Underground has a multi-racial workforce and every one of the 32 competing national sides probably has its supporters amongst our workmates.

On the other side of the coin, though, Tubeworker has little time for those who say that we shouldn't support England because it is somehow "right wing", or dangerously nationalistic, to do so. The vast majority of England fans are not racists, although some of the nationalism can be over-the-top and unpleasant. It is down to all of us to ensure that international football is an occasion for uniting fans of different nationalities, not insulting and attacking each other.

This World Cup is more commercialised than any before. One of the venues is the AOL Arena, for goodness sake. And while football, like all sports, is good for your health, some of the products emblazoned over the event by spnsors, such as McDonald's and Coke, most certainly are not.

The aforementioned AOL Arena has over 2,000 "business seats" and 50 "business boxes". So fat-cat bosses with only a passing interest in the game can entertain their commercial contacts, while many working-class people are priced out of watching the game we love.

It's not just the World Cup. Domestic football has also become expensive to watch. Even if you stay at home, you have to pay to view most games.

Along with the commercialisation has come the celebrity cult. Sure we love watching the world's great players. But we do not need to know what their girlfriends are wearing today. And the biggest health crisis in Britain is the cuts in NHS jobs and services, not the condition of Wayne Rooney's metatarsal.

Until the 1970s, there was a maximum wage for footballers. Since that was abolished, pay has risen astronomically for the top players. Honestly, if Frank Lampard really thinks he is worth that multi-million-pound mansion he lives in, he could at least get some shots on target.

But pay has stayed low for players further down the ladder. Whilst the media and the money pours into the top level of the games, the lower divisions, non-league, and women's football are under-funded and unsupported by the authorities. And thousands of school sports fields have been sold off.

Campaigns such as No Sweat have done a lot to expose the appalling conditions in which sportswear and other merchandise are produced - long hours, poverty pay, child labour, management violence, no unions, ...

Football should be run in the interests of the fans, and the people who work in the sport. We need to reclaim the game - for working-class people, away from the fat-cat club owners, corporate sponsors - and the racists.

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