The beauty of capitalism is that it encourages competition in the market place. This forces companies to produce the best products for reasonable prices (in theory anyway, lets not get into monopolies etc and no, I don’t think the NHS should be privatised). So in areas such as consumables, capitalism is basically a pretty good idea. On this I hope we can all agree. It also empowers consumers, so if a product is not up to snuff you will most likely not grace the same sub-par company with your presence, charming sense of humour or indeed your debit card. You will instead seek out one of it’s competitors for a better product at an equal price. It generally doesn’t matter whether you bought your coffee from Starbucks or Cafe Nero, you went for the closest one or the one you had a voucher for. Either way you get a cup of over priced coffee.
This rather unique idea of empowerment vacates itself when football is the product. Consumer, purchased and product are replaced with fan, supports and team.
Now I’m well aware that you can be a fan of many other products, indeed I am a fan of many things myself such as the music of the band Muse. All that I can say to any notions of hypocrisy that may arise in the essay is this: fuck off, it’s my blog and I can write what I want.
Football fans more so than in any other area swim in the soup of fandom and brush aside any sense that their allegiance is a load of nonsense, sometimes even more so than the religious. As someone who is not a football lover, whenever I suggest that maybe the whole thing is a load of arse, people who do love the beautiful game will often say something along the lines of ‘you don’t understand, if you don’t like it then don’t comment on it’. Again, rather like the religious. If their team does well then they’ll say something like “we won”. The fan sees themselves as part of the team, whereas if the team loses its undoubtedly the result of a paid off referee or blind linesman. The club is infallible, again like religion. I think we can all agree from this point on, that supporting a football team is equivalent to having a religion. Except unlike religion (in theory anyway) you have to pay for the privilege of supporting your team.
The issue is that the consumer-product relationship has become bastardised. In the world of football it is the fan-club relationship. You aren’t buying into a product, you’re investing your dreams and aspirations in your team winning a cup or something. You love the team and will support them no matter what. All well and good and there is nothing wrong with investing yourself in something that matters to you. Except of course this is the world of capitalism and where there’s capitalism theres shareholders. See, shareholders like profits, profits at any cost. When a company starts to decline customers will jump ship and move onto the greener grass of a competitor. A fan on the other hand will stick by their team no matter what. They will stay with them during the downs, not just the ups. The fools. This makes shareholders very happy.
Because of the love that fans have for their team, this makes them incredibly easy to exploit. New management can (and in many examples, have) come in and transferred all of their own companies debt onto the team and began close the gap between profit and debt by screwing over the fans, knowing that like flies to a turd, they’ll keep coming back no matter what. This is whats known in complex management speak as ‘a stroke of utter genius’.
It gets even worse when you bring in the notion of ‘the transfer season’. This is a magical time of year where any sense at all in supporting a team is completely and utterly ridiculous. Like prehistoric fossils to an ancient text, it blows the whole thing open. During this season the different clubs (like Liverpool United and London City) can buy and sell players to compete for their side. So one season the hero of Liverpool United who lead their team to glory and represents everything that is right about supporting LU will happily switch teams as if enough £s are presented before them. LU will also be able to buy players from a rival team. This means that supporters of LU will one season be cheering on players who last season they had wished a rather nasty bout of the cancers upon. Likewise the people who they once admired will now be the subject of voodoo dolls.
This basically means that the fan only cares about the image, the outer shell. As long as its got a Liverpool United (I’m well aware it isn’t a real team, but I’m damn well not gonna use a real one in my blog) badge on they’ll support it. Doesn’t matter who owns, plays or coaches the club. If its LU its good enough by the fan, and they’ll pay through the nose for it. It’s sorta like someone who chooses their pasty based on what kind of pastry it’s made out of rather than what’s in the filling. They’ll happily take dog and udder over chicken and mushroom as long as the pastry is rough-puff rather than phyllo.
There, I’ve changed my mind. Football isn’t like a religion, it’s like a dog and udder pasty.