Romance and Business: The Case for Football
First it was the Russian billionaire, Roman Abramovich, taking off the financial limits on football in the Premier league. For all the blatant cynicism that greeted it, his model has proven to be successful. 15 trophies in 13 years can only mean one thing in football: Success. But there is a dark side of this unprecedented wealth. Managerial attrition at Stamford Bridge is simply ludicrous. That it has been a tale of 12 managers in 15 years is less of the issue. What perpetually boggles the mind is that the club’s revolving door on managers haven’t necessarily led to failure. The facts will suffice here. Chelsea have won 15 trophies since the reign of the Russian billionaire; more than any other premier league club in the same period. But the Chelsea model has opened the floodgate to the Sheikh Mansours of this world to acquire City and the Thai billionaires to take over Leicester City. With the infusion of capitalist funds came capitalist tendency. Part of the romance football had, died. It was 'Owners power' that prevailed and in this new world there is little room for sentiments. Football managers more than ever before now live and die by results. Past achievement are relegated to the dustbin. The mind is senile to remember previous glory and all we do is live in the moment.
The world was unanimous in its outcry against the sacking of Italian tinkerman, Claudio Ranieri, by Leicester City owners. How could they even dare? This was a man that wrote what is arguably the greatest ever football narrative ever told when he led lowly Leicester to the trophy last season. They didn't just win the league, they did it at a canter. If 10 points gap at the end of the season was not a procession to the trophy I don't know what is. Yet, barely nine months after this fairy tale, Claudio was axed. His sin? Leicester were languishing in 17th place, 1 points beyond the relegation zone. You'd think he has earned the right to have a season in hell after last season's achievement, but such is life in modern football. Club owners are trigger hungry. They know when all is said and done, this sport is business, and business is about winning...And winning I should add is relative.
What does this all mean for the football lovers who see their club being run like a ruthless fortune 500 company? They learn to live with it. One reason for this is that football fans move on too quickly. For all the love fans have towards a manager or player, they are not so deluded not to know that it is just mere passion for them (at least for the most part). Hence, they always move on. Increasingly too, the place of ‘fans power’ is diminishing while the role of ‘player power’ is on the rise. For all the rantings that happens on Arsenal Fans TV daily on how Arsene Wenger is everything detrimental about Arsenal, he has remained the manager; even with a 13 years spell without the trophy.
Make no mistakes about it, we still love and will always love the game. It is the idiosyncrasies and unpredictability, it's ruthlessness and allure, its lows and highs, that still make us love the game. However, it is just that these days it is less romance and more of a demand to win. Our following is increasingly premised by success...And this success is majorly for bragging rights and business reasons (betting etc). We still genuinely love football but for slightly different reasons these days. The romance is not entirely divorced but fans like the lover who goes into a relationship with his head are now a bit more careful.
In football as in life, the show must go on. For a moment after Brexit, it appeared like the moon was going to drop off the sky. For a split time after Trump won, it looked like the apocalypse will come. For a span of time after Ranieri was sacked, it appeared like football will never remain the same again. But alas, none of those doom tales happened. The sun rose the next day. The pound steadied itself, America accepted the reality of president Trump at the oval office and the Foxes fans turned up en masse at the King Power cheering their team on to a resounding victory against Liverpool barely 4 days after their most successful manager was axed. One thing is clear: The show must always go on.