How has Broadcast Journalism changed the world of sport with particular reference to football?
Neil Monnery - Journalism Year Three
The world of sport has evolved from its humble beginnings as a contest between individuals or teams. Now it is a massive global enterprise that employs millions, keeps hundreds of millions entertained and sees billions of dollars spent on it.
I intend to show throughout this dissertation that the explosion of sport and particularly football has coincided with the boom in broadcasting as well as the changing times that we live in. Sport has always been popular but nowadays with more leisure time and money being available to the average person, the whole genre of sport has become much more mainstream and that has been attributed to media coverage.
Sports stars are now celebrities in their own right. David Beckham is one of the most recognisable faces on the planet and can just as easily frequent the front pages of a newspaper than the back pages where sports stories have traditionally been found.
When a footballer getting a new haircut makes the front pages of national newspapers then you can see the effect that sports stars have on the media and popular culture. The newspaper business is quite simple; editors will want the story that most people will want to read on the front of it so consumers will buy it. The fact that sports stories themselves find the front pages shows how we have evolved during the past couple of decades.
Sport itself is embedded in Popular Culture and the two go hand in hand. I endeavour to prove this link and also relate it to the world of Broadcast Journalism and show how all three are interlinked. In addition I will look at the relationships between sport and issues such as gender, sex, race, class and nationalism, all of whom have an impact on sport as a culture.
The biggest events in football are the international tournaments culminating in the World Cup, which is held every four years and is defined as the pinnacle of the sport. During these events the overwhelming feeling of nationalism and national identity is felt by the general public but also by the journalists who are covering the games.
National identity and national stereotypes are often intertwined. We identify those from Latin countries to be great lovers, we see the Japanese as a very honourable race and the Caribbean people are seen as extremely laid back. These are all stereotypes but it can be argued that this is also part of the National Identity of these people.
According to 'National Identity - (Anthony D. Smith, 1991, Penguin, England p. 14) There are five fundamental features of National Identity.
· A historic territory or homeland
· Common myths and historical memories
· A common mass public culture
· Common legal rights and duties for all members
· A common economy with territorial mobility for members
These features are essentially true. However the final point could be argued as the European Union has a common market and thirteen countries in the EU now have a single currency (the Euro). There is a freedom to move around within EU member states and the ability to live and work without the need for visas, so it could be put forward that because of this those points and our common legal rights, the European people could feel some sense of national identity with one another.
It is said during surveys taken all over Europe during the summer of 2003 that 'more than 70% of Europeans want the EU to become a superpower - and more than 70% expect this to happen.' (The United States of Europe: The New superpower and the end of American Supremacy, TR Reid, 2004, Penguin, New York p.11)
The United Kingdom is sitting on the outskirts of Europe using the natural geographical barrier (The English Channel) to keep some sense of independence as Europe seems to motor along towards a Superpower. With plans for a European Army well under way it seems that a feeling of national identity will slowly erode away from what it is across Europe at this current moment in time.
It is fair to argue that we rarely see national identity in every day life but when it comes to sport it seems that the whole ideology is let out of the bag. National identity causes problems as living in a multi-cultural society some people do tend to take things to extremes but on the other hand with the strict sense of political correctness that seems to be placed upon the common man these days it gives more possibility for problems as political correctness is a subject that many people are not fond of and it makes them anxious and they tend to have a short fuse.
Nationalism is a close relative of national identity. In the book previously referred to by Anthony D. Smith, he looks at the ideologies behind Nationalism (p. 74):
· The world is divided into nations each with its own individuality, history and destiny.
· The Nation is the source of all political and social power, and loyalty to the nation overrides all other allegiances.
· Human beings must identify with a nation if they want to be free and realise themselves.
· Nations must be free and secure if peace and justice are to prevail in the world.
Again it seems as though the last point is the point of contentment. Not all nations are free therefore peace and justice does not prevail in the world, but even in countries which would be seen to be 'free and secure', justice does not always prevail. Nationalism seems to be a harder ideology to talk about compared to its close cousin national identity.
During such events as the World Cup, nationalism and national identity come to the fore as nations unite behind the players representing their respective countries. These matches are like theatre and are watched by giant television audiences all over the World, as sport is one of the biggest attractions television has to offer.
In terms of broadcasting, football is a major player in the television and Radio schedules. Arthur Asa Berger, in his book, 'Popular Cultures Genres: Theories and Texts' (1992, Sage, USA, p.5) concludes that all major television shows can be broken down into just four genres and states that sporting events are seen as contests. He argues that these contest shows are highly emotive and have a high objective. The only difference that these shows have compared to dramas are that these contest type shows are not scripted and therefore the drama comes from the not knowing what is going to happen next.
Traditionally these highly emotive shows have received the highest viewing figures, although other strong emotive shows(i.e. serial dramas, soap-operas) also figure well. This goes to show that emotive shows which get the audience excited will get more exposure and therefore will maximise possible marketing and advertising opportunities.
Marketing at its simplest is 'the delivery of customer satisfaction at a profit. The twofold goal of marketing is to attract new customers by promising superior value and to keep current customers by delivering satisfaction.' (Principles of Marketing eighth edition, Philip Kotler & Gary Armstrong, Prentice-Hall inc., USA, 1999, p. 3)
Sky television, as will be discussed later, has been very good in the marketing department and promoted itself as a brand leader. The purchase of Live Football at a big cost was a calculated gamble that came good and was the catalyst that changed the fortunes of the satellite television company.
By marketing football the way they did it attracted a new brand of football fan. The more wealthy person could more readily afford the subscription charges for the Sky system and they were exposed to football as the pinnacle of Sky's output.
A major principle of marketing is advertising and in recent years with the decline in terrestrial television watchers, marketing strategy has shifted to so called 'micro markets'. These are markets that are focused on narrow specific consumer groups. Adverts aimed at these markets have increased as advertisers look for new, fresh ways to promote their product.
Texaco are linked with ITV's Formula One coverage as they see the average Formula One fan is a driver and want to promote their oil and fuel to potential customers.
Alternative media includes many things including advertising on shopping bags, at certain movies, on billboards, on single-genre television networks and at sporting events. Identifying a market and aiming at enticing them towards your company and product has become a major part of the advertising industry in recent years.
A global marketing campaign has become part of multi-national company policy, and this is due to globalisation. As a concept it 'refers to the time-space compression of the world and the intensification on consciousness of the world as a whole' (Television, Globalization and Cultural Identities, Chris Barker, Open University Press, 1999, Guildford p. 34). What is meant by that is the pace of the world has sped up and that our use of time and space has changed.
Globalisation can be grasped in four very basic terms: (Television, Globalization and Cultural Identities, Chris Barker, Open University Press, 1999, Guildford p. 34).
· The world capitalist economy
· The nation-state system
· The world military order
· The global information system
Globalisation can only work in a capitalist society and it needs nations and states to spread. The global information system is largely due to the rise of television as a medium along with the Internet. This has meant that it is easy to find information from anywhere in the world at the push of a button.
Giddens (1991)* argues that modernity is like a juggernaut, an uncontrollable engine of enormous power that stands before it. Its links with globalisation though has suffered criticism that it is only one kind of modernity, that of the western world. Featherstone (1995)** argues that we should speak of global modernity's in the plural as different parts of the world have modernised in different ways.
So whilst globalisation has no doubt occurred, cultural differences must be taken into account as not the entire world has modernised along the same path. A person's physical location and what is around them will impact the way they grow, a scenario of a 'unitary world culture connected to a world state remains only at the level of imagination' (Television, Globalization and Cultural Identities, Chris Barker, Open University Press, 1999, Guildford p. 36).
So far I have demonstrated theories that will help me analyse the main question. I will now apply these theories into a practical context throughout the rest of this piece.
Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch was a best seller and the book was a 24-year diary of his thoughts following his beloved Arsenal Football Club. In the upcoming quote he talks about his memories of the FA Cup victory in 1971 where upon his club won the domestic double. The author is trying to get the point across that although he was not directly part of the action, he has been a fan for longer and therefore devoted more time than the players, so the victory tastes all the more sweeter to him.
"This Wembley win belonged to me every bit as much as it belonged to Charlie Nicholas or George Graham ... and I worked every bit as hard for it as they did. The only difference between me and them is that I have put in more hours, more years, more decades than them, and so had a better understanding of the afternoon, a sweeter appreciation of why the sun still shines when I remember it." (Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby, 1998, Riverhead, London)
The football culture has evolved away from the scenes of the 1980's where it was seen as a game for young male thugs and some saw the game as an insignificance with the drinking and fighting culture being the primary focus.
I used to travel to Portsmouth games with a former member of the infamous 6:57 crew. These were a group of young men who used to follow the football team around the country supporting the club but also looking for a fight and saw the violence as a huge part of the experience. If he did not experience a punch up during these long away trips then he felt that the day had not been fulfilled.
He has since mellowed and is a store manager for a well-known pizza chain with a family and two young kids. Looking at him now you would not think he was a thug but he was brought up in a culture where if you wanted to follow your football team then violence was a part of that. He told me it was 'upholding the name of Portsmouth'. A well renowned crew was important and this is the reason that football seemingly going to the dogs during the 1980s.
Football was not liked by middle England and it was seen as a working class sport that caused more problems than was worthwhile. Media wise Match of the Day was still on every week on the BBC and ITV Sport showed a live game most Sunday afternoons after winning the live rights from the BBC who were showing live games during Grandstand on a Saturday afternoon. The move to live Sunday games was designed so that fans could get to see their team on a Saturday afternoon as well as a live game on the Sunday. This idea was to become one that football fans across the country would come to deal with, as things would unfold.
Three major events were going to happen that would enable football to completely revolutionise itself. It all started with a national disaster when 95 Liverpool fans were killed at Hillsborough on April 15 1989. This was not through any acts of violence, this was due to a police decision to open a large metal gate enabling thousands of Liverpool fans to pour into the ground, these actions caused a crush. With the fencing up that was the style at the time to keep opposition fans from getting at each other the innocent fans were just crammed and a tragedy that touched the nation would unfold in front of the watching millions on BBC Television.
To see something so horrific happening live in living rooms up and down the country at what was a supposed safe sporting event showed that football needed to move forward. The ensuing Taylor Report would propose that all-seater stadia was the safest way to host large sporting events and the Football Association would take that on-board.
If that was the catalyst for change then Italia '90 would alter the public's feelings towards football in a very positive manner. A very un-fancied England team behind the leadership of the future Sir Bobby Robson went to the tournament with a Press blackout. The manager already knew he was out of a job whatever happened, the public did not seem to care about the team but suddenly they started to do well and in part due to the character of midfielder Paul Gascoigne and nice television times the country was hooked on the outcome of the semi-final between England and the old enemy West Germany.
England were to lose on penalties after an enthralling encounter which saw tears but also saw the re-emergence of the love for football back in its homeland. Despite losing, the game was on the front pages of the newspapers again and the public seemed remember what football is really about, its about the drama on the pitch, not what happens off of it, and a whole new generation of young football fans were born.
The star of the England team was a young midfielder who was set to move to Italian giants Lazio. Due to this channel 4 bought the rights to live Sunday afternoon Italian football, which was a surprise but a clever move by the channel. They showed top-flight football from Italy for the duration of the decade before finally giving up due to the rise in popularity of Sky's coverage of English football, which was the final part of the three things that were to happen.
The final major turning point was to change the world of sport altogether but in this instance it was football, which was going to be completely revolutionised.
Luxembourg based company Astra launched its satellite in 1986 just after British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) had won the rights to run frequencies in the United Kingdom using satellite technology. However in 1988 Rupert Murdoch announced plans to put his unlicensed Sky service on the Astra satellite within a year and have it accessible to British homes via a small satellite dish. In 1989 Rupert Murdoch had launched his company and Sky Broadcasting was born. British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) launched ten months later in March 1990. Both were losing money at a rapid rate so in 1991 they joined up to create British Sky Broadcasting, but it would trade under the Sky name. (Facts from BBC News On-line - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/entertainme
With Rupert Murdoch at the helm they knew that if they wanted to make headway in the market then they needed some bait to attract consumers with. He came up with the idea of buying the rights to domestic football. It was to be one of the greatest business decisions of the decade.
With the publics new-found love for the beautiful game and with stadiums becoming more safe following the introduction of The Taylor Report, football was a booming market and after the deal with ITV ran out in 1992, Murdoch's BSkyB won the rights to show live games from England's top league for £304m over the next five years. (Facts from BBC News On-line - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/entertainme
This new media medium was to completely change the future of television not only across the country but also across the globe. Viewers wanted choice and with the rise of satellite, cable and now digital operators this has meant that at any one time there are literally thousands of television shows being broadcast globally, over 200 in the UK itself on Sky's Digital platform are available at any time.
Sky followed up their success with getting subscribers to pay a set amount for football and other sporting events by introducing a Per-Per-View (PPV) system, which allowed certain sporting events to be bought for a one-off fee. Certain top-flight Premiership games were sold in this way but Sky resisted the temptation to put the big games on PPV because they feared that this would not go down well with the subscribers and so far they have stuck with it to a limited success.
Big fights are often shown on PPV but when recently a darts match between the two rival World Champions was shown as a one off £9.99 spectacular, many started to question whether Sky were going too far, they are still keeping the big Premiership games on regular Sky Sports but the moment they believe more money can be made by making the big events Pay-Per-View you can rest assured that the company will do what is in their own best interests, not the interests of the sport.
Sky Digital launched in 1998 and was followed by OnDigital, which was quickly re-branded as ITV Digital. They thought they could repeat the success of Sky's early 90's adventures with the Premier League so bought the rights to show Nationwide League games for £315m over four years on its ITV Sport Channel. (Facts from BBC News On-line - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/entertainme
So although they used the same business logic that has started the Sky revolution just a decade before, ITV Sport had backed a loser. There are two reasons that it didn't work out for them. First and foremost their main competitor Sky had already cornered the market and people were not keen on moving away from the company. Also they were offering a sub-standard package compared to Sky. Football had fast returned into popular culture but the top division with all its exposure and money had moved away from the other leagues so although the die-hard fans were still following their local teams, many youngsters are being brought up on a diet of Premiership television from their armchairs, so are supporting their favourite team on the television instead of going down to watch their local team which has traditionally been the way.
The terrestrial channels (BBC's 1 and 2, ITV, c4 and Five) were not involved in the live league game warfare; they simply could not afford to be. The live FA Cup switched hands between in 1998 and 2003 when ITV held the rights before the BBC won them back. Also for three years between 2001 and 2004 the highlights of FA Premier League games were shown on ITV and although they experimented with putting the highlights at a peak timeslot of 7 PM on a Saturday evening, the ratings weren't big enough to attract advertisers so it was relegated back to its traditionally late night Saturday slot.
Sky have the capacity to buy these expensive rights because they charge a subscription fee whereas the terrestrial channels are free to air. In the latest bidding for live rights Sky won all four packages but it was decided that it held an unfair monopoly and was asked to sub-let up to eight games out to terrestrial stations. They put the rights to lower-class matches to these stations but none of them came back with an offer that was acceptable to the Digital giant and therefore they kept the exclusive rights to all live Premiership football but they have been warned that this will not be accepted the next time the rights are up for auction.
This will mean that Sky will not bid anywhere near the £1.03bn they bid this time (Facts from Accountancy Age - Accessed online at http://www.accountancyage.com/news/1135
Football as a sport is riding the crest of a wave at the moment. Money is flowing into the game at a vast rate of knots; the players are highly paid and household names. Even referees are now full-time and get paid a very good salary and this is all thanks to the money, which the game is swimming in at the moment.
It is not just the domestic television contract, which generates money as the Premiership is broadcast all over the world. In America you can watch it on FOX Sports World, in France you can watch it on Canal+ and the list goes on. Globally the Premier League has branded itself as the most exciting league in the world and it is one that most people want to watch.
The globalisation of football and the marketing of the Premier League and that of the Premier League clubs has seen them become some of the worlds' biggest companies. If you go to the Far East you will struggle to go anywhere without seeing Manchester United, Arsenal or Liverpool replica jerseys. This is due to their brand being seen as a good brand to have and that has to do with the way the sport has succumbed to the modern world and modernity.
Marketing together with global media exposure is a match made in heaven for the profit hungry boardrooms of football clubs in England and across Europe. As any person in the marketplace will tell you, a good company will price their product at the highest rate a consumer is willing to pay to maximise the potential profit.
The cost of watching football has risen dramatically since the early 90s when Sky took over the broadcast of live top-flight matches. This season a season ticket at Chelsea could cost up to £845 to watch just 19 matches. That works out at £44.47 a match. A season ticket in the season before the Premier League came into existence would only have set you back £190. That means prices have skyrocketed by 444% in just twelve years. (Facts supplied online at www.chelseafc.com - Accessed January 09 2005)
Football's image change has coincided with the change of the clientele that is seen up and down the country at football grounds. The working classes are being slowly priced out of supporting their favourite team. Good business sense dictates that you charge what you can get away with and the boards of football clubs have taken this up. With interest from the middle classes in football, there is more money to be had so prices have increased and this has helped price out the traditional working class football fan.
Many clubs are building new stadiums; north London giants Arsenal are building a brand new stadium just a few hundred yards from their current Highbury home. The cost of the new stadium is £357 million and will hold a 60,000 capacity (Facts supplied online from www.arsenal.com/thestadium - Accessed January 09 2005). The main reason they are undergoing this project is to compete financially with the likes of Manchester United who get 67,500 in for every game (Facts supplied online at www.manutd.com - Accessed January 09 2005). Arsenal's current home has a 40,000 capacity so with the possibility for an extra 20,000 people coming through the gate for every game, it means they as far as gate receipts go can compete with the Manchester giant.
They have already sold the naming rights to the new stadium for £100m over 15 seasons to Emirates Airline. Sponsorship and Corporate naming rights have become a major part in football due to its exposure in the media and the status that football holds. Liverpool had their first ever shirt sponsor for the 1977-1978 season in Hitachi but they will be known as the 'Crown Paints' Liverpool as it was that company which sponsored them when they won the European Cup in Rome (Facts supplied online at www.liverweb.org.uk - Accessed January 09 2005).
The deals were not that big back then but now shirt sponsorship deals and naming rights cost tens of millions of pounds. Manchester United's current shirt deal with Mobile Phone Company Vodafone is worth £50 over four seasons but it isn't just shirt deals and corporate rights that bring in the money.
Due to the level of interest in football, Manchester United, the brand is something that companies want to be linked to. So no fewer than nine companies are officially linked with Manchester United (Facts and the following nine companies are supplied at www.manutd.com - Accessed January 09 2005)
Vodafone are the official shirt sponsor.
Nike are the official shirt manufacturer.
Century FM is the Official Radio Station of Manchester United.
Budweiser is the Official Beer of Manchester United.
Ladbrokes is the Official Betting Partner of Manchester United.
Dimension Data is the Official Business Solutions Partner of Manchester United
Fiji are the Official Imaging Partner of Manchester United and Official Sponsor of Museum and Stadium Tour
Pepsi is the Official Soft Drinks Supplier to Manchester United.
Wilkinson Sword is the Official Male Grooming Partner of Manchester United.
It could be asked why there is an 'Official Business Solution Partner' of Manchester United but it doesn't really matter. What Dimension Data wanted was to be linked with the club and therefore will be on all their corporate news and be on their website and gives them a public image that associates them with the brand that is Manchester United and puts them on the same level as Multi-National companies such as Fiji, Nike, Vodafone and Budweiser.
More proof that the explosion of football in the media has led to a change in how companies view the sport. Businesses like to be linked with other successful companies and the more successful the company, the more media exposure they will get.
Nike the sportswear giant is a world-renowned company but it is intent on cracking the football industry. They know that to dominate their field they need to dominate in football, which is the worlds' favourite sport. Currently Adidas has the football market conquered providing 80% of football sportswear globally. It has a virtually open cheque-book in their marketing plan to take over football. They recently signed a staggering $200m deal with the Brazilian national team to provide the team with equipment and shirts. (Principles of Marketing eighth edition, Philip Kotler & Gary Armstrong, Prentice-Hall inc., USA, 1999, p. 2)
They also now provide the official football of the Premiership and it was their ball that was used for Euro 2004. They are certainly making inroads into football and know that it is the next step after becoming the hip brand in the United States. Its famous 'swoosh' logo, which represents the wing of Nike; the Greek goddess of victory is one of the most recognisable brands in the world and in America superstars such as basketball player Michael Jordan, baseball outfielder Ken Griffey Junior and golfing icon Tiger Woods are all signed to the company to help promote their products. (Principles of Marketing eighth edition, Philip Kotler & Gary Armstrong, Prentice-Hall inc., USA, 1999, p. 2)
They are using a very popular marketing strategy by employing spokesmen and women to wear and endorse their products hoping that consumers will identify with them. Tiger Woods is one of the most famous sportsmen in the world and due to his ethnicity it was a master-stroke for Nike as he appealed to everyone because of his skill, drive to succeed and perceived coolness under pressure. Golf is another big market Nike wants to get involved in but it is football, which they are determined to conquer.
Whilst they are doing well for themselves they want to maximise their profits and to do this they need to not only compete in the global marketplace, they need to excel in it. As the worlds' game and the game that is exposed to most potential customers either through television or merchandise, it is a market that Nike have identified as key to fulfil their long-term ambition to be the number one sportswear company on the planet.
For the purists it is not a nice fact but fact it is, Football is now a multi-billion pound industry and winning on the pitch is not the be all and end all. The FA Cup fourth round draw was held today and Peterborough United were drawn away at Nottingham Forest. The boss of Peterborough, Barry Fry told the clubs official website, 'Forest are a huge club and are well supported. Andy Legg says that there should be 20,000 fans at the stadium, so I am delighted. It isn't the money spinning tie we wanted, obviously we were looking for a big Premiership club away from home, but Forest are a good side.' (Quote supplied from www.theposh.com - Accessed 10 January 2005).
They wanted a money-spinning tie, not a game where they could progress to the next round and possibly go on and win the competition. Peterborough winning the FA Cup is sadly not a realistic prospect and all they were interested in was using the greatest club competition in the World to earn some money. Exeter City got the dream draw away at Manchester United in the third round and therefore earned a lot of money. No-one expected them to actually get a draw but financially it is an exceptional result. They will get an extra £125k from the BBC, as they will broadcast the replay live in addition to the £600k they received from Manchester United as their part of the gate revenue for the original tie. (Facts supplied by BBC Sport On-line www.bbc.co.uk/football - Accessed 10 January 2005)
From the evidence provided it seems that money is now a driving force in football, but I have yet to even look at some of the sad cases where once great clubs have reached for the stars, only to plummet back down to Earth with a rather decisive bump. In the late 90s and early 00s Leeds United were the next big thing. With a director who was intent on bringing success to the Elland Road club, they started spending money without thinking about the potential consequences.
Signing Rio Ferdinand from West Ham United for £18m was seen by some as far too costly. He proved to be one of their good dealings in the transfer market after he was sold just eighteen months later for £29.1m. However other signings did not turn out as good, Robbie Fowler for £11m, Robbie Keane for £10m, Olivier Dacourt for £7.8m, Seth Johnson for £7m, in total the club spent almost £100m during Risdale's reign and it all hinged on their qualification for the Champions League and the financial rewards that come from such an achievement. (Facts supplied by BBC On-line www.bbc.co.uk - Accessed 10 January 2005)
So when they failed to do so at the end of the 2001/2002 season they had to sell the players and eventually even the ground. They were living the dream but reality had bitten back hard and fast. Out of the door went most of their star players over the next twelve months to help balance the books and when they got relegated from the top flight in the 2003/2004 season the rest of the clubs highest earners had to go as well. They also were forced to sell their ground and scrap plans to move to a brand new 40,000 all-seater stadium on the outskirts of the city. A once proud club had paid the price of failure and bad business planning.
The rise of football has led to more businessmen getting involved in the game. Football is now glamorous as well as being a good business venture. West London club Chelsea was sold by Ken Bates to Russian billionaire oil-merchant Roman Abramovich in July 2003 for £140m. (Facts supplied online at www.sharecrazy.com - Accessed January 10 2005) The new owner wasn't in the game to make money but he saw Chelsea as his new toy. He has more money than he'll ever know what to do with and in an instant he bought fame as despite not appearing on camera much he is one of the most recognised names in football.
He has already spent around £200m on players for the club as he aims to buy success both domestically and on the continent. It is a dream time to be a Chelsea fan but should Mr Abramovich ever decide that he has had enough of football and Chelsea FC and withdraws his financial support, then the club are hanging in a perilous state with an astronomical wage bill that cannot be financed by a combination of merchandise sales, gate receipts and TV money. The club could easily go down the same road as the likes of Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford City to name but a few who have hit financial difficulty and have subsequently drifted down the football leagues.
For all this talk of finance, football is still a sport. Most fans will only care about one thing, the result on the pitch. Times when football plays second-fiddle are few and far between in the eyes of football fans but they do happen.
Part of the fascination with football has always been the chance to air an opinion on the game, the goings on at a club, about the referee; it is one of the most important parts of the game to the avid fan. The Internet has opened up another new avenue, which has allowed fans to talk with many other fans across the globe. Football forums such as those on Rivals.net attract millions of hits each month as fans banter about the goings on at their favourite clubs.
The rapid rise of the Internet has meant that opinions can be more forcibly and more freely expressed. Many football websites have been set up and anyone can pass himself or herself off as a journalist and write about their club. This has also meant that with information so much more readily available, rumours spread quickly and the speed of journalism has become more fast-paced and with that the quality of Internet journalism is not as good as its newspaper counterpart.
Broadcast media has always been faster than its print based counterparts but the Internet even eclipses radio and television for providing information quickly. Sadly though it is also used for bad things and many police forces see the Internet has a growing source of a new breed of hooligan.
Whilst listening to Talksport on January 10 2005 (7PM - 8PM 1053/1089MW) presenter Adrian Durham was discussing the implications of the Fourth Round Draw of the FA Cup. Southampton had been drawn against south-coast rivals Portsmouth in what was undoubtedly the tie of the round. A local derby is always passionate but after Portsmouth's management team sensationally quit and despite saying in front of live television cameras that he would not become manager of Southampton, that is exactly what Harry Redknapp did under a month later and caused a heated rivalry to become extremely volatile.
The presenter's argument was based around the point that he believed that this game could spark scenes reminiscent of those, which were prominent during football's black days of the mid 80s. He quite correctly stated that Portsmouth fans have a history and quite bluntly stated that anyone who didn't believe there was going to be mass-scale violence at the game were 'burying their heads in the sand.'
He argued that Southampton manager Harry Redknapp should not even be at the game, as that would ignite the fuse that would set the Portsmouth fans off. He used the fact that there were problems at the Portsmouth v Southampton league match in March 2004 as proof that trouble was all but inevitable.
One caller rung up the show and told him that all the trouble that game was caused by non-football fans looking for a fight and correctly stated that none of the 43 people who were found guilty of public order offences during the riots were either Season Ticket holders or Members at Portsmouth FC.
Football has done well to shake off its image of twenty years ago due to increased safety at grounds, improved policing and a change in the culture of following football. However there is still a loutish culture in society that means some people like a fight, and an opportunity like this will see many using the game as an excuse to cause trouble.
Still we are not in the 80s and with three weeks to prepare you would expect the Hampshire Constabulary to be ready to control such a crowd. The game will be moved to a lunchtime kick-off to try and stop mass drinking before the game and away supporters will be urged to use the park and ride scheme from the outskirts of the city, and those who travel in by train will be herded to and from the ground by a police escort. These simple precautions will not stop trouble but they will help ease the fears of genuine football fans and enable them to travel to and from the game without having to face the prospect of violence.
Adrian Durham was accused by a caller of 'inciting' the situation to which he said the situation didn't need building up as the hatred and passion was already there. Well just by talking about the possibility of major violence, then by bringing that to the attention of football fans it'll cause panic.
Human Beings are a race of people who tend to follow the crowd and will act how they are told to act if they are told often enough. If Portsmouth fans are constantly told that they are going to riot and cause problems beyond the accepted boundaries at this football match then it is more likely that they will. Human beings are complex creatures but if it is drummed into them that they will do something then you'll find that they will do it.
Violence at domestic football matches is thankfully in general a thing of the past; it is not part of the scene any more. Fights on a Friday or Saturday night outside a pub sadly is still in the English Culture but not the English Football Culture but the more people talk about it, the possibility of it returning to the game increases.
The rise of sport in the public eye has led to dedicated radio and TV stations. Sky Sports News is a 24 hour a day sports news service whilst TalkSport is a 24 hour a day radio station dedicated solely to sport. With so much time to fill and competition for listeners from local stations as well as national stations such as BBC Radio 5 Live, it means presenters are encouraged to be all the more outlandish as it is what attracts listeners. Events such as those I describe could be classed as journalistically unethical but with so much time to fill and so much competition, presenters will do anything they can to increase debate and their listener-ship. It is said that 'there is no such thing as bad publicity', and by having this stance on an emotive issue it caused lots of fans who would not normally be listening to tune in.
The hooligan element in football has never completely gone away but it has become much more underground. Fights do not tend to just breakout at football matches any more, they are much more organised, through either the Internet or mobile phones. They generally take place in a back street well away from the actual game and innocent by-standers.
Sensationalism is a part of journalism and it does force people to have an opinion. Domestically football is an important part of football fans every day lives but every two years a major international tournament comes around in either the form of the European Championships or the World Cup and it is at times like these when domestic rivalries are thrown to one side and fans unite under their national flag as they look to win for their country.
The major international tournaments are a major winner for domestic television as audience figures are always amongst the highest in any given year. The Portugal v England European Championships Quarter-Final was watched by 20.66m viewers (Stat provided by the Broadcasters Audience Research Board - hereby referred to as the BARB, available online at www.barb.co.uk - Accessed January 11 2005). This means that over one third of the British population were watching this game. You have to ask yourself why so many people were interested in watching 11 men kicking an inflated pigs bladder about.
As I have said previously, football has moved into mainstream popular culture and coupled with it being a national side then it unites the country under one flag. It isn't about the football is many people's eyes; it is a modern version of war, just with less violence and much more civilised. Competition is still at the crux of human existence and we are involved in competing in everyday life. We compete for partners, we compete for jobs, we even compete for car parking spaces, without competition the human race would be a very different.
Sport gives us the chance to compete on the international stage and feel national pride. These are occasions when we can use our history and take on another culture, another country with its own individual identity in an arena that isn't a warfield. 'Two World Wars and One World Cup' is a common chant from the England fans when they play Germany, an auld enemy. It isn't exactly friendly banter but is showing the English pride and using our historical memories to try and get one over on an opponent.
It could be argued that sporting contests are a modern form of warfare. It is one of the times when national identity comes to the fore; in the United Kingdom people stop being 'British' they quickly become English, Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish. Union Jacks are not appreciated whereas St. George's Flags fly across this land, people show their heritage to their nation and the players who go out there are not playing for themselves, they are playing for Queen and Country, upholding the good name of their citizens.
However it is not just football where this is prominent. One of the most fiercely contested sporting contests is when India and Pakistan meet on the cricket field. Two countries divided by religious and territorial differences, and with war possible at any time, to see two sets of players representing their respective countries is something that really ignites the passions of Indians and Pakistani's all over the world, not just those still based in their native homeland. Indian people are brought up to hate Pakistani's and vice versa, it is part of their culture, it is deep rooted hatred that is better settled on the cricket field than it is on the warfield.
With the evidence provided it can be successfully argued that football as a genre has exploded and this has coincided with the expanding media opportunities that have been created. Sky television has enabled football fans to watch the top games at their leisure and with a clever marketing strategy it has moved football away from its working class routes more towards the middle classes. It has been suggested that football is the new rugby and rugby is the new football with rugby moving away from its middle class roots and becoming the game of the common man, particularly in areas of northern England.
Without Sky buying the rights to top-flight English football there is little doubt that football wouldn't be the multi-million pound industry that is now is. Football needed to move forward and needed a new look and a new breed of fan and coupled with the tragedy of Hillsborough and the performances of the national side in Italia '90 the pieces fell into place for this new breed of football fan to step into the game.
The role of the England football anthem World in Motion by New Order should not be overlooked as by coupling football with music it again shifted football into more mainstream popular culture and paved the way for 3 Lions by Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightning Seeds which captured the imagination of the England fans during the Euro '96 tournament held in England.
New stadiums giving fans more comfort and a better feeling of safety attracted families to the game and with the extra money from the television deal, better players were enticed over to these shores because of the big pay-packets they could pick up playing football in England. Players such as Ruud Gullit, Gianfranco Zola and Eric Cantona were amongst the early foreigners to join the football revolution in England and nowadays the English league has as many world-class footballers playing in it as its Spanish and Italian counterparts.
The Marketing side of proceedings can also not be overlooked. Football as a product has not changed, it is still 22 men kicking a pigs bladder around a pitch but the way it is marketed has moved on at a rapid pace in recent years. Now it is seen as the place to be, being a football fan doesn't come with a stigma anyone as hooliganism whilst not being stamped out completely has become much more underground. Going to a football match is not a cause for concern for your health and safety any more.
With more people going to watch football and watching the game on television it has led to more fans being interested in the game, this means that more money is spent on it as fans want replica merchandise and this means yet more money entering the game.
Football's boom did seem to coincide with the end of the last recession and therefore with more disposable income available to families it was the perfect time for football to reinvent itself and compete in a marketplace with music, films and holidays for how people should spend their hard earned money.
As with anything there was a lot of chance involved in how football became an integral part of popular culture in the United Kingdom. If it was not for the end of the recession, the move to all-seater stadia, England's performances on the global stage and most importantly the new media outlet of satellite television then football may not have become the huge global business that it currently is. Even with all these chance events it still had to move forward and Sky's business plan coupled with a quite brilliant marketing campaign were the catalyst to the modern era of football. Now football clubs are businesses first and football teams second, it is something in a way I lament but it is the truth and that is the world we live in.
A capitalist society will always strive to maximise profits that is what a capitalist society does. We all want more money to provide better for ourselves and our families and on that same notion, companies want to maximise their profits so they can bring in more money so the shareholders and owners can get better dividends and earn more money.
Money drives the western, modern world. If you have no money then you have very little, that is how it is seen. We live in a very selfish world where it is dog eat dog and on a business level, football competes with tens of other genres and hundreds of other companies for your money and they will want to erradicate their competition so that you spend more money in football related pursuits.
On a national front sport is undoubtedly the modern warfare. It is how countries face each other and gives their citizens a chance to show national pride and show off their national identity. In the multicultural society we live in there are very few times when this is possible and international sporting events are one of them whether it be football, cricket, rugby or even if Tim Henman was playing in the Wimbledon final. He plays for himself but he represents Great Britain and gives the general public a chance to become involved.
Simply put, without Sky's input into the way football is run in England then it would be completely different to the way it is now. It may have been the last piece of the puzzle but it was by far the most important and without its money or marketing strategy then football would not have grown the way it did and although it would have still been the countries most popular sport, it would not have become part of popular culture and would not be one of the most popular leisure pursuits which is it now without any shadow of a doubt.
Football in the UK is booming, Football in Europe is huge and Football the world over is quite a breathtaking sight to behold. It is the worlds' most favourite sport but it just forgot about it for a while, and now it is right back on top and the new wave of media played a massive role in the upturn of football the world over.
* This quote was taken from Television, Globalization and Cultural Identities, Chris Barker, Open University Press, 1999 but original featured in The consequences of modernity, Anthony Giddens, Cambridge, Polity, 1991
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