I recently saw an interview with Gabriel Kuhn, whose book, ‘Soccer and the State’, was part of the inspiration for me to write the Political Footballers XI posts last year. If you haven’t read the book I recommend it wholeheartedly. Kuhn highlights some of the key stories and people from football’s prickly relationship with politics.
Here is a key quote from the interview:
‘The way professional football works today, I don’t think you can be major and left-wing at the same time. There are some big clubs – the FC Barcelona probably being the most prominent example – that stand for values such as independence, social awareness, and participatory democracy. However, the money and the power involved, the demands of success, the unsettling notions of loyalty and rivalry – none of this sits well with what I see as the core values of left-wing politics, namely justice and solidarity. But this doesn’t make the progressive elements less valuable, nor does it mean that anarchists can’t enjoy football on the highest level. The challenge is to bolster the left-wing dimensions that exist and to oppose those that reflect and perpetuate an unjust political and economic system.’
This rings particularly true for me as the Liverpool team I support have been caught in between their working class roots and a craving to join the wealthy upper-classes for some time now. Liverpool were left behind by Manchester United at the end of the 80s, as United became the first team to really push the boundaries of what was possible in football marketing. The two sales of Liverpool FC were each supposed to increase the ‘brand’ awareness around the world and maximise revenue streams so that we could compete with the other top European teams. As a sporting strategy it clearly hasn’t worked so far. Each further descent into neoliberal hell increases the distance between the club and the supporters, and is having little effect on the performances.
On the flip side of this is the renewed focus on youth training and development, and a clear path into the first team from the academy. This, for me, represents what Kuhn is talking about above. A young player making his way through the ranks and into the first team instead of seeing his path blocked by an expensively bought player is something that all supporters, regardless of political persuasion, should cheer.
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A kind of quota system should be employed perhaps with a ratio of at least 70/30 for Players bought into the team and players graduating from the academy. This will make the clubs focus more on youth development, but most competitive things in life operate on a triangle or pyramid system, more people at the bottom than there are at the top, so no matter how much the clubs spend on youth development not all of the young players would make the top grade, so the clubs would have to buy players to make up the shortfall on quality and remain competitive.
They have something like that now, but not as stringent.
I am beginning to think that the best that could have happened to Liverpool was not buying another striker to replace Andy Carroll. I love that the young players can see a clear path through to the first team.
Obviously it won’t be a smooth transition but any game time they get will only help their future development.
It also helps that they have been playing high tempo, possession-based football in the academy for some time now, and now that fits with what Brendan Rodgers is trying to do with the first team.