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Demise of the Beautiful Game: An Analysis of Football's Recent Past and Future

Derby Fans holding up a banner in protest of their club's owners
Derby Fans holding up a banner in protest of their club's owners
Aditya Rai

Football has captivated the attention of the entire planet for more than a century. Its simplicity is unrivaled by any other sport. lt has become a part of cultures across Europe, South America and Africa. With the rise of social media and the quality of football coverage at an all-time high, football's popularity is exploding in Asia too.

Football and capitalism

A young fan showing his disapproval of his club's owners
A young fan showing his disapproval of his club's owners

The immense popularity of the sport makes it a lucrative industry to be involved in. Clubs like Manchester United, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are all worth billions of dollars. A multi-million takeover of football clubs is a very common occurrence, with Newcastle United being the most recent example.

BREAKING: Newcastle's takeover by new Saudi owners has been approved, the Premier League has announced.@TomSkyNews says it's a "seismic moment" for the football club. Latest on this story: trib.al/IfTMp76 https://t.co/DrfOycrKWm

The problem with the rise of capitalism in football is that football clubs are not regular companies, they cannot be treated as ordinary entities. Football clubs are tied to the fabric of the identity of their cities. Clubs being run solely for profit has created a divide between the clubs and their fanbase.

Let's take a look at 3 examples from 2021 showing us how the beautiful game is being torn apart :

European Super League (ESL)

Florentino Perez, the President of Real Madrid was said to be the architect of the ESL
Florentino Perez, the President of Real Madrid was said to be the architect of the ESL

In 2021, 12 top European clubs decided in secrecy to break away from the European Clubs Association (ECA) and form their own breakaway league. The plan was to create a league of 20 teams who play each other every week. ESL was created to rival the UEFA Champions League.

The teams included the 'Big Six' - Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal from England's Premier League. Spanish giants Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and other major European clubs rounded off this alliance of rogue clubs.

Football as a sport is exhilarating due to every match having a consequence. For example, if you do not perform well in your domestic league, you might not secure a place in next season's Champions League. The ESL model was to mitigate this risk for the clubs involved and keep all the profits to themselves.

The move was met with widespread and unanimous criticism from fans across Europe, who argued that the ESL took away the competitiveness of the sport. Pundits across the globe spoke out against the proposed move. Gary Neville along with Jamie Carragher were two of the fierest critics of the ESL.

"Forget allegiances, forget who you support, they are scavengers, they need booting out."Gary Neville sounds off on the 'European Super League'.(via @footballdaily) https://t.co/TOYNvulMuv

The fact that the fans were not consulted before taking this decision infuriated them. Unprecedented levels of protests took place, forcing the clubs to abandon all plans of the ESL.

The fall of Derby County

Wayne Rooney, the manager of Derby County can only hope his club does not go into administration
Wayne Rooney, the manager of Derby County can only hope his club does not go into administration

Derby County FC was one of the original founding clubs in the English League system. It has won the division one title twice and has a glorious history attached to it. However, fast-forward to the modern day, it faces the risk of liquidation.

Mel Morris bought a 22% stake in Derby County in 2014 and became the sole owner the following year. Derby were fined £42m by the Football League for breaching its Financial Fair Play rules. Mismanagement from Morris has thrown the club into chaos, plunging the club into a staggering £60m debt.

Derby County have 21 points from 32 league games this season. A very real risk of relegation looms over the club. The future looks grim for Derby County and its fans. The only way out for the club is a buyout from an investor who would be willing to pay off Derby's massive debt.

The Qatar Winter World Cup

2018/2022 FIFA World Cup Book Handover
2018/2022 FIFA World Cup Book Handover

2022 will see Qatar host the World Cup in the months of November and December. The selection of Qatar as the host city has been mired in controversy ever since it was announced in 2010. Qatar faces multiple human rights violations charges by multiple human rights bodies across the globe.

The regular season will have to be halted in order to play the World Cup in the winter (due to extreme heat in the summer months). These factors point to the fact that money takes precedence over the spirit of the sport.

Qatar, hosting the World Cup despite multiple allegations, highlighted Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, the then-FIFA president's wrongdoing. He was banned from all FIFA activities after investigations by the FIFA Ethics Committee over corruption in the bidding process to host FIFA tournaments.

The need for reform in the structure of our game has never been more pertinent. If things do not change, another attempt like the ESL or the fall of another historic club like Derby is not far away!


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Edited by Shardul Sant

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