The industrialization of football has become an open threat not only aiming at the game’s historically evolved human ecosystem, but, as it has become more widespread in the recent decade, at the very existence of communities and rule of justice worldwide. The whole problematic rests on an ongoing process with a long long past.
Football, closely tied to socioeconomics, naturally grew a public ecosystem around itself, one on a democratic -albeit not operative- open admission basis, allowing a presence for all economic, political and demographic differences within its spectacle, thereby making the event significant for the state authority as a means of social control, too.
Though football clubs have all along been run by businessmen, the organisation of football as business via regional or global tournaments would emerge and gain momentum much later than the public ecosystem had been recognized as an inclusively organic compound, making football inalienable to the society.
David Goldbatt writes, in his voluminous work The Ball Is Round, that post-WW2 years saw the global burgeoning of the football spectacle that overrode Europe’s colonialist claim on owning the sport, which was soon followed by the spectacle’s simultaneous transformation into a global event and full business enterprise via increasingly aggressive monetization of international tournaments — starting with 1974′s World Cup, or the taking office of João Havelange, the first of a mere duo of notorious FIFA Chiefs since (the long office terms would not only in their duration be likened to a throne). Ever-increasing possibilities of media technologies, then started with broadcasting, have been its underlying driving factor. The rest is a story of sponsorships, deals, broadcasting rights, sales and profits in every way possible.
And of sizeable chunks of corruption accompanying them. Goldblatt’s richly detailed book tells about the different ways in which the organization was a twisted one-man show under each of its mentioned rulers. This brilliantly crafted article on the corruption tradition (!) is also a must-read on how things are run under the roof of the body organizing world’s football, and why we ‘should’ care about it. It is striking to see how the last two world cups almost identically stink.
Today’s protests by people point to the level football’s businessification through these measures reached, now destroying communities and defying an over a century old organic ecosystem, corroborated by these ever-piling corruption revelations about the local and international governing bodies of football, huge sums of money circulating around in international event organizations ending up pocketed by organizing entities at the cost of wreaking havoc in lives of host country’s locals, and local ramifications of high-end international club tournaments in the form of perpetuated budgetary inequalities between clubs, which alienate clubs under competitive and financial pressure from their ecosystem, viewing the latter as customers, mere sources of revenue.
The article also cites Goldblatt’s book:
‘Havelange’s second insight was that the commercial potential of soccer had barely begun to be tapped. The 1970 World Cup, the first to be broadcast live and in color throughout the developed world, hinted at spectacular possibilities, but Rous’ antique FIFA had done little to exploit them. At his first dinner as president, Havelange encountered the German businessman Horst Dassler, the son of the founder of adidas. Dassler, an aggressive, manipulative entrepreneur who was then serving as the CEO of adidas France, had thought a great deal about how to capitalize on the explosion in the popularity of televised sport. Over a series of meetings, Havelange, Dassler, and Dassler’s partner, Patrick Nally, devised what eventually became the template for modern sports sponsorship. As the soccer historian David Goldblatt writes in The Ball is Round, the plan had four components:
First, only the very largest multinational companies, whose advertising budgets could bear the load and whose global reach matched the TV audience on offer, should be approached as sponsors. Second, sponsorship and advertising would be segmented by product type: There could be only one soft drink, one beer, one microelectronics firm, or one financial services company that could be the official World Cup product or supplier. Third, FIFA would have total control over all forms of TV rights, advertising, stadium space, etc. Any and all existing deals in a host country would have to go. Fourth, FIFA itself would not handle the details of the sponsorship and TV deals. Marketing and TV rights would be handed over for a guaranteed sum of money to an intermediary who would sell them on.
To cover the last part, the selling of TV rights and sponsorships, Dassler created a marketing company called ISL, short for International Sports and Leisure, and established an office across the street from FIFA headquarters in Zurich.
The combined effect of Havelange’s two insights was to covert FIFA into a sort of hydraulic cash-flow machine. Dassler and Nally brokered deals with huge companies — Coca-Cola was the first to sign on, in 1975. The money flowed into ISL, which paid FIFA a fixed fee for the rights. To enjoy exclusive access to the rights, ISL also made off-the-books payments worth tens of millions of dollars to FIFA executives.7 To preserve the power structure, FIFA ExCo members funneled resources — and ISL money — to the regional confederations that supported them. The people at the top made deals with big companies, then filtered cash to the people at the bottom in return for the votes that let them make the deals.’
So the football clearly had not only been left to a corrupt public organization, but to a fully private and equally corrupt business that stank to heaven, too. what did we all expect them to care for, our communities? running our football?
Jim White of The Telegraph writes ‘We have for decades suspected Fifa of being the least transparent body in the sporting world. We watched as it claimed that the 2010 World Cup would transform South Africa, before wheeling out of the country with barrow-loads of booty, leaving behind a legacy of debt and white elephant stadia.’
Above NYT article by Dave Zirin points that ‘FIFA’s demands for security and infrastructure may end up displacing as many as 250,000 poor people, who live in the favelas surrounding Brazil’s urban centers. The cost of the games continues to tick upward, the latest figures climbing as high as $15 billion.’
Note that the events referred in the last three paragraphs date 2008, 2010 and 2014, in perfect succession.
An event that rakes in and leaves with a fully tax-exempt $3,5 bn from the country where over the half of people live under poverty line, leaving the country indebted and their people homeless, is harmful to the world, and has as much to do with people’s fun spectacle of football as a colonizer is detached from the goal of plunder.
‘Old men fluttering about knighthoods in Asunción lead to exploitation and murder in South Africa. For all that they act like minor Dickens villains, FIFA executives are not sequestered in a novel; they impact the real world’. Referring to the encounter of the heads of English FA and South American soccer confederation narrated in the same article, the author clearly expresses the fact and the consequence of the affairs let be steered by such.
This is why we need a new, clean football of our own.
The present mode of operation is driven by conceptual and subsequently physical amputation of the ecosystem’s organic constituents. The policy of homogenization to last detail by centralized and all-encompassing decision-making thus ensures full control. Technologies of control, notoriously known by all of us today, like electronic IDs for admission and cctv among others, are implanted into the envisioned operation of the spectacle. This was justified, as in other fields of life, by pretexts of reducing racism, violence and all such misdeeds, hiding the aim of sorting out the misfits and creating a sterilized environment for the clientele of fully monetized football, who, i.e. wouldn’t display any undesirable moods in connection with the broader socioeconomic realities of the moment. So that the white entrepreneur would have ‘an evening out’ with the kids..Football’s ecosystem was being downsized to those who could afford and would be no potential hazard to sterility. In a one-off and passively viewed spectacle format, the central bodies of regional and world sport claimed the say in any single show pattern, element and facility of this largest public event. On the other hand, the sincerity of their worries (!) about ending the violence in stadia proved very demonstratively to be a whitewash, indeed.
‘Every decaying institution rots from the head’ says Jim White. So, again, why care about decaying bodies (whose major concerns are far different from advancing people through football), instead of leaving them to decay at one forgotten corner?
Maybe our problem lies in not having secured an independent ecosystem from the outset. An ecosystem that one can clearly name of one’s own. One composed of football as the spectacle of aesthetics and inspiration, placed amidst audiences in a way non-manipulable by politics and secretive centralized systems out there allegedly to organize world’s (your) football.
Football is seeking people to develop its alternative ecosystem. We still have Russian, Nepalese, Indian people to save.
Every tipping point comes among ultimate stink of the old. Liberate football. Now.