iconic picture from Blakes 7 RESIST

Resist what? Everything? No, just modern corporate sport.

Swim against the modern tide. That used to be part of the lyrics to some song in the 70s or 80s that I can’t remember. In the late 70s and 80s, all we seemed to do was rebel against authority and the Rich and Powerful. Mind you there was an awful lot to rebel against in those days. Whether it was CND, Mrs Thatch, poll tax, whatever, we resisted. Nowadays people just accept things, it’s a strange carry on. But if we don’t resist against those who want to force change upon us, or at least try to resist, we will never know what we can achieve. Football belongs to the masses, not the suits.

Football belongs to the fans.

It seems that more and more sports are being swept up into the big corporate conglomerate models of the US style buying, selling and trading players and teams. Take the IPL for example, where the competing teams choose players to play in their side in what seems like a bidding war at the start of the competition – actually it is a cricket cattle market auction. There isn’t any history, there’s no long standing  allegiance, no nobel cause rooted in passion for your team. It’s just like it used to be when we were kids, taking turns to pick your footie team. Even if you couldn’t stand the lad, if he was going to score, you picked him. In the NFL and MLB, players can be traded every season like Top Trump cards. The teams as I understand it are franchises, all dependent on the whims of their current owners, who can simply up sticks as they so desire, even, if they fancy it, to a completely different state, let alone a different city. The US of A is a very big country, but nothing can stop the owners from packing up though. There’s also no relegation, and therefore no promotion, so it’s just the same players rotating round teams who can afford to buy them. It’s highly dependent on agents and business deals. The richer you are, the more powerful you are. The paymasters are in charge.

Football isn’t like that. Well not the football that I want to watch anyway. Football teams belong to their grass roots. Local kids should be able to look at their local teams, who have home grown talent, and have something to aspire to. 

It’s not just football that is being affected. Look at cricket again. We used to have a great county championship tournament. Players were proud to represent their county or at least adopted county. Yorkshire County Cricket Club  was very unique, as up until 1992, no one born outside of Yorkshire’s boundaries was allowed to play for the team. When they did abandon the rule, it was only the legendary Sachin Tendulkar who was the first non Yorkshireman to grace our County Club. At the time, Fred Trueman apparently called it a “bloody disgrace” and whilst now it would be an absolute scandal and there would be no end of parliamentary debates about it, in those days, it meant that our county was proud to stand firm and field only home grown talent – no matter how bad they were. But you can’t and shouldn’t judge what we did decades ago  by todays standards, or the Italians would summarily be sued for what the Romans did between 27 BC and 429 AD, and don’t even get me started on those Vikings!

Even in these modern times, there are still clubs like Athletic Bilbao who have an unwritten rule that states that only players from the Basque Country and Navarre, or the Northern Basque country in France are to eligible to play for them.

In 2017 there was a massive controversy when the question of Catalan independence was raised. For you younger readers, Barcelona used to be a vocal champion of the Catalan people, the Nou Camp or Camp Nou has the words “mes que un club” written on it’s stand. Translated into English ” More than a club”.

Unfortunately since 2017, Barca has sold out in a lot of respects, with some fans claiming it has been reduced to  “Madridification” in it’s bid to be a global brand. Barca used to proudly be the only club without a sponsorship logo on the front of their shirts, however, now that they are skint, all that has gone out of the window.

Football belongs to the fans though, as our great FA says – fans matter!

We need to resist.

Football, or at least the football that I know and love is fiercely partisan. It’s them v Us, and if you are not with us, you are against us. Something which had to be spelt out to Alan Smith that day at Stamford Bridge. I was amongst those in the crowd that day, sat on the side in that shitty stand, on the receiving end of his two fingered gesture when we sang “You go to Scum, you don’t come back” . The same applies Jordan and McQueen, who, after a 40 year gap are still not welcome at ER by certain fans who really know how to hold a grudge. We’re Leeds United, we don’t give a f***. That’s what makes it so special. We are Leeds and we are proud of it. How I long for the fans who sing “all Leeds aren’t we” and all the rest of these new songs to actually believe this. Sadly, as demonstrated by the comments on social media of late from some of our “fans”, we are probably not all Leeds.

I am realistic. I know we don’t own the Club. We don’t make the rules, we are not in charge, it’s not our money. You need to be one of the Rich and Powerful to own a football club, unless you are GFH of course, who were skint and powerful and managed to “save” our Club by buying it from B*tes according to a certain fan group. And if you believe them, you’ll believe anybody. Sentiments from the recent Tracey Crouch review were similar. Fans don’t want to own their clubs, we just want to have some say and we want the owners to respect the match going fans. 

The Premier League, UEFA and FIFA are all basically in it for the money. Football is a cash cow and they are milking it, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You only have to look at the last six months and the attempt to launch the European Super League. These football organisations hold the rights to a massive money making business opportunity. Football to them is just a huge commercial enterprise, full of dodgy dealings, corporate glad handing and TV, advertising and gambling revenue streams. The fact that Platini and Sepp Blatter are currently being charged with fraud isn’t a surprise, the only surprise is that it has taken so long. It is pitifully laughable that the EFL chose to pick on Cellino, claiming he was unfit to be our owner because of some VAT on a yacht, when all the shady dealings were going on with the awarding of the World Cup etc. Pathetic to say the least, when Shaun Harvey couldn’t even tell us if Ken B*tes actually owned or sold Elland Road under his tenure.

We can resist this corporate globalisation.

Some sportsmen are actually doing things. As much as I dislike Djokovic, he is standing up against the big sponsors in tennis and refusing to play along with them. I have read somewhere that part of the terms and conditions of sponsorship in tennis is that you are duty bound to appear in TV interviews after a game. Unlike football which is 90 minutes, plus Fergie / Klopp time, a single mens tennis game can last hours. 11 hours in that Isner v Mahut match at Wimbledon in 2010. Yet they are all forced to sit there, like performing monkeys facing questions like “how do you feel?” and they can’t reply with “bloody knackered, mate, what do you think?”. Even Ronaldo covered up a Coke bottle in an interview in 2020. 

Corporate sport is fake, it’s choreographed nonsense. Words are rehearsed and pre planned to fit the required corporate image. Answers are set and practiced using language that has been carefully opinion polled and monitored by the image marketers to ensure that nobody says anything that might upset anyone else, in case it damages the brand or doesn’t fit the narrative. Like Trevor Sinclair last week, who raised the delicate issue of whether the Sheffield Utd player had received his required intervention in his arm, following his mysterious collapse on the pitch. His feed was summarily cut by a panicking producer.  Oh dear, Trevor.

All we want on MOTD is to see the highlights and replays of the action / goals from different angles. We don’t want to see three middle aged, rich men pretend that they are not reading from a scripted autocue, with carefully rehearsed cliched dross, speckled with the fake Wrighty loud bursts of laughter. As the brilliant Mary Whitehouse Experience guys before they grew up used to say, “Chinny reck on” .

This is why Bielsa is such a breath of fresh air. His interviews at times are just majestically maverick. 

The PL wants all the teams in the league to fit the brand, right down to the same seating style in the dug outs. It doesn’t matter if the stadium is shiny new like Spurs, or like the 1930’s relic that is currently our West Stand. It all has to be the same, so it looks good on the telly. Even though each team has a unique history, with an equally unique fan base, they can’t treat individual teams like individual identities. I agree that standardising things like away ticket prices is a boon. But they expect a one size fits all, and it clearly doesn’t. Not many clubs will take their full allocation of away  tickets to every game, especially the long distance ones. But we do, and we fight to the death for them as well. Not all the PL clubs fill their grounds to capacity, but we do, and tickets are like gold dust.

Our club want us to fit the PL brand, and it’s probably somewhere in the terms and conditions of the PL to do so, but when it comes to ticketing that’s a different issue. Bearing in mind when it comes to away allocations the rule is something like 10% of the total capacity up to 3,000 max, not many of the PL clubs take their full allocation of away tickets. Of those clubs that do, many have an effective closed shop for away tickets, dependent on a points system with a historical loyalty record of regular ticket purchases including home season tickets. I was speaking to a Spurs fan who has just accepted he’s never going to get an away ticket, even though his season ticket is more than double what we pay at Leeds. He and many others respect the fact that long standing loyalty trumps new fans. When we asked Leeds to continue with it’s loyalty accrued in the doldrums over the last 16 years of non PL football, well you know what happened.  

The PL wants football to be available to everyone all the time. But at the expense of the League and FA Cups, but UEFA and FIFA would rather the Chumpions and Europa Leagues take presidence over all. After all, European football is the main selling factor to the global TV audiences, isn’t it? The home nations Cup competitions are minor inconveniences, apart from the fact that winning the FA and League cups still get you into Europe – until they eff around with that one, of course.

Did you know Leeds don’t have another scheduled away 3pm kick off on a Saturday after the Chelski game until February? Unless the True Gods of Football decide different in the meantime. But fans matter?

Clubs like Spurs and Man City (albeit without consultation of the fans) have bought in paperless e-ticketing. Most have gone cashless. Why? Because it’s convenient for them. With the plus side that they can monitor your every purchase and tailor you ads on all your devices to their company sponsors. Hmmm. Did they ever ask what we want?

If you ask the average match going fan, they would rather the club spend money on decent beer and food and facilities, and make it cheaper, than splashing the cash on swanky turnstiles and MORE electronic payment systems that crash when the going gets tough. At the start of the season they introduced touch screens for beer that didn’t have the capacity to recognise that a product was sold out, so people were merrily ordering and paying for something that just wasn’t available. Would that have happened at the cash till? 

As for the e ticketing. What happens if you have someone who doesn’t have a smart phone because they can’t afford the £35 (and the rest) a month for one? What about people who still have a Nokia 3210? What about people who can’t afford the latest tech? This is active discrimination against the digitally excluded. Paper tickets are green, can be recycled, but more importantly are a lasting tangible memory. Even plastic season ticket cards can be recycled. E ticketing requires electricity and no end of tech management to protect your security and data from being hacked, all which requires masses of servers using masses of power. Not as green as what you think.

My final salvo is banking.

When Leeds first introduced card payments for tickets, it was a given and accepted- progress. They started with the initial admin charge for using a bank card. It was just one charge for every time you bought something regardless of how many tickets you bought. Fairs fair. The banks charged them for using the service. Then under B*tes, they said that they had to charge a transaction card for each ticket you bought. Eh? Why should the banks charge them for every ticket you bought in a single transaction? They were only processing one event, surely? Now it’s common place.

Recently Amazon have decided to stop letting us use UK based Visa cards for purchases. Why? Because the bank charges are too high? Given Amazon make so much money from UK sales, how much can UK based Visa companies  be cutting into the mass wealth of Jeff Bezos? He’s sending weirdly shaped rockets into space for a laugh. He doesn’t need the money. Are the banks so ruthless?

If we go completely cashless, we will be at the mercy of the big banks. Then they can do what they want and hike up the “transaction charges” as they like. We are not going to be able to stop them. It’s a quid now, but once the system gets ingrained, the routine £1 may well end up a fiver, and we will be powerless, slaves to the big banks and big corporations. If you stick to contactless, you won’t even see the money leaving. You could be paying anything to get into the ground, and no know about it – but hey – that’s progress. NO! Cash is king

Swim against the tide.