“Anyone read Michael Grant’s article in The Times? Only saw a pull-quote but the headline is about not everyone cheering for Celtic to European success since the financial windfall will put them too far ahead of the other clubs. It’s that old UEFA distribution thingy. Auldheid had a sensible alternative a while back.”
Thanks Danish Pastry for giving Big Pink the opportunity to nudge me (over a coffee I paid for – so how’s that for redistribution of income? 🙂 ) to blog again on the issue of redistribution of UEFA money whilst he was advocating gate sharing as an alternative.
I recall the redistribution debate being discussed on the first TSFM podcast Episode 1-01 of 9th Feb 2014 which can be found here:
Listening to it again (I used “View in I Tunes”) I heard many of the recent comments on the previous blog being made in that podcast at or around:
9.58: The interdependent nature of the business of football. Why it is different from normal business.
10.50: Celtic/Rangers leaving the Scottish League making it immediately more competitive.
11.30: Clubs as a community resource (like museums or libraries not run for profit, providing a community service and staying solvent).
12.48: People have to let go of the notions that they have held about the nature of football and recognise it is a totally interdependent business.
13.55: Changing the Champions League format to European and Regional Leagues and raising the standard of all, not dropping standards of one to bring about competiveness.
25.50: A rethink at the top level with NEW thinking about redistribution of income using Champions League money.
27.50: The human dilemma.
So rather than repeat what was said originally and very well developed in the comments on the Michael Grant article on the previous blog, I thought I would look at what I think is the greatest barrier to change which was the last item above – the human dilemma. *
Modern football reminds me of a description of a scene from hell where a visitor looks into one room and sees an emaciated group around a table on which is set a large pot full of stew. They cannot eat because their arms have been set straight at the elbow and elongated so that they cannot get a spoon in their mouths. It is a miserable place. Then the visitor goes upstairs and enters a similar room with occupants similarly handicapped, but where everyone is well fed and contented. “How can this be?” he asks his guide. “Well downstairs all their energies are spent in the nigh impossible task of feeding their insatiable hunger, whilst up here they simply feed each other.”
The analogy is bent a little but not broken in the sense that there are fat and emaciated folk in the football version of the lower room but it is not a healthy place as the fat can themselves become emaciated over time (see Liverpool and even Man Utd) but, generally speaking, self-interest or rather what is perceived as self-interest, holds sway.
Human nature that causes the human dilemma is well reflected in normal business where dog eats dog, then eats the food of the dog it ate if it comes out top dog. Football however cannot exist on a dog eat dog basis because it is interdependent as a business. Dog eating dog is bad for business because over a period of time even the top dog will die of starvation.
Now without abusing the dog metaphor any further and risk attracting dog’s abuse, why is it that something which should be as self-evident as looking after each other is good for business, be such a hard sell?
I said in the podcast around 12.48 that folk need to let go of the notions they have clung on to about football, but why is that so difficult?
Perhaps the resistance to that change can be found, at least in the case of Celtic, who at present are asked in the current debate to make a sacrifice for others, either in the form of gate sharing or giving up some Champion Leagues winnings (if/when they qualify) can be found in the genesis of the club and the memory of that genesis passed from generation to generation.
Everyone knows that the original purpose that Brother Walfrid had for Celtic was to feed the poor in the East End of Glasgow and many of that poor had come from Ireland to be strangers in a strange land.
As a Calton man born in the Gallowgate, as was my grandfather (my dad was found under a cabbage in Well St) I’ve never really identified much with the Irish context of Celtic’s history, although I do recognise its importance to many supporters with Irish family ties, but that dimension adds a further layer to the human dilemma.
Think of it, you form a football club to raise money to feed yourself because you live in an environment where welcome mats are in short supply. That money raised is YOUR money. Your life depends on it as does your family’s as well as your close neighbour (usually in the same close). How prepared are you to share what income you have had to raise yourself with others who you believe have been less than charitable towards you?
Add that folk memory to the human selfish trait of wanting what you spend on football spent on meeting your own desire, which is to make you happy watching an entertaining and successful team on the park and you get an idea of where the resistance to a more equitable sharing comes from and how deep it goes.
I use Celtic here because they are my club and part of my life experience and I have no idea if other clubs experience that added layer of resistance to sharing, if indeed they are in position to share. But if we are ever to be able to introduce gate sharing or what I see as the easier alternative of redistribution of UEFA geld because in not coming direct from supporters pockets it has less of the Celtic folk memory layer to overcome, then those who will be asked to make a sacrifice have to be given the confidence that the aim is not to impoverish them (and the Celtic community memory of poverty and fighting it is as strong today in the form of The Celtic Foundation, The Kano Foundation and the numerous charity events organised by supporters and prominent blogs) but to enrich their neighbours, but doing so in such a way that they enrich themselves. That is the challenge.
In the upper room in the earlier hellish description, the occupiers present the ultimate example of charity in that in feeding each other they feed themselves.
- PS the podcast covers other issues that some 18 months later might still be of interest.