In contrast with the situation I mentioned back in January, all talk of the Football League rebranding seems to have been forgotten, because there’s now some proper lascivious scandal for the media to froth over.
In the past week or so, two stories have sparked off the old “is TV rotten to the core?” auto-pilot journalism once again. Before the Leicester City players had even thought about getting their kits off (literally or figuratively, it’s up to you and your lawyer) Liverpool’s Michael Owen and Gerard Houllier were receiving death threats.
In both cases, the media (especially the tabloid press) were quick to suggest the final downfall of English football. Yes, that same press which supposedly built English football into the global brand it is today… well, that’s what they like to think, anyway. Brush aside the occasional good-time Britpop anthem and the small gang of Islington columnists who briefly thought it’d be fun to support Arsenal as a change from Tai Chi classes, and you’re left with a popular sport going through ups and downs, dramas and crises, just like it always has done. Except that by creating this dual hero/villain, this alluring, duplicitous siren who takes our money in return for the promise of golden balls, the media has an instant set of stories for future use. As long as it’s all going well, we’ll join in on the terraces, but as soon as it goes sour, we’ll be calling for scalps. After all we did for those superstars, they throw it back in our faces.
It’s all so easy, isn’t it? Much easier than to consider that Football, like the Music Industry, the Church or the Immigrants, is a huge and multi-faceted collective. There are people of different class backgrounds, personalities and outlooks on life, and there are links to other industries and organisations. In every community you care to define, there’s a number of people who will find illegitimate ways of controlling and optimising the world around them. Now, do you attempt to understand the problem of criminality in society as a whole, or do you allow the specific community to be defined by that criminality?