Why am I looking at all those old Football Fascism pieces?
Because I heard young Liverpool football player Raheem Sterling on BBC radio the other day, being pressed to respond to alleged complaints from alleged fans that he is being ‘greedy’ by turning down a fabulous new contract with Liverpool with a reported £100,000 a week. Here’s a link to the TV version.
Sterling made the not obviously unreasonable point that he was waiting until the end of the season to decide whether to sign a new contract with Liverpool or not. He basically implied that he wanted to keep open his options for playing for a club that is likely to have a serious and sustained chance of winning top trophies.
As usual, Jose Mourinho talks sense:
“Every player has a price. It doesn’t matter which player,” said Mourinho. “If you ask me now, for example, Eden Hazard, we can speak about him because he’s signed a new contract.
“Do I want him to leave Chelsea? No. If he wants to leave, if he doesn’t want to work with me, if he doesn’t want to play for Chelsea, does Eden Hazard have a price? I think he has a price.”
It’s expecting a lot to want Sterling to tell his critics bluntly to get lost and mind their own business. Imagine the outcry. What? He doesn’t care? About the opinions of the fans?
But look at it from first principles. He has three options.
1 To accept the new lavish contract. Good move! Done well
2 To go somewhere else and get more. Good move! Shows that he made the right decision by not settling for Liverpool’s scrawny offer.
3 To go somewhere else and accept less. Good move! Shows that he is taking a tough decision based upon his own assessment of his long-term prospects.
The odious idea here here is that Raheem Sterling is being ‘greedy’ or ‘money-grabbing’ if he accepts Option Two. Do the ‘fans’ and the BBC interviewing elite deliberately sell their houses or cars or Ebay trickets at lower than the market value to show that they are not ‘money-grabbing’? Thought not.
Raheem Sterling has the right (and some of us Randians might suggest obligation) to sell his services at the best price he can get for them. Nothing greedy about that.
Yes, it bewilders us overweight lesser fry that young footballers can be multi-millionaires simply because they can kick a ball far better than we can. Isn’t there something wrong with a society that allows (sic) that to happen when people are homeless or hungry in famine-stricken Africa?
Complex question. But the greed in this case does not start with or need to dwell on Raheem Sterling. His choices are possible only because hundreds of millions of people round the world including ever-more millions in Africa itself choose to spend a little of their money in watching him play.
It is this ‘greedy’ global demand for his services that allows the English Premier League TV rights to sell for such colossal sums of money (as opposed to, say, the Mongolia League) of which lots trickles into the pockets of the actual footballers and their crafty agents. If everyone round the world who pays to watch English TV chose instead to pay that money towards helping the poor, that would be a different world to the one we have. Who knows? It might even in some respects be a ‘better’ world. But the choice would be made freely by countless people round the planet, not by busybody governments.
That said, it is galling to listen to the BBC pushing its annoying questions about ‘greed’ to Raheem Sterling when in the very same programme it contributes to the interminable hype that pushes up English TV football revenues. And needless to say, no top BBC executive is likely to be asked to explain live on radio his/her money-grabbing propensities.
Basically, football is now a trail-blazer in global market principles. The mawkish ‘fans’ who phone in to BBC Radio Five Live chat-shows to moan about the way that football is dominated by money these days are delusional. They rush to watch their teams do well and gloat when some foreign billionaire arrives to pour in money to froth up some fleeting success based on importing people (usually again foreign) with special skills and no loyalty whatsoever to the club or the town/city concerned. And they ignore the fact that the local fans who trudge to watch the actual matches are a negligible proportion of the globalised fans who also are paying to watch the matches and allowing the clubs to bring in such super talent from across the world.
In short, football success comes from hard-headed investment by owners and managers. They need to take tough decisions about how best to deploy their talent and available money. So do the players. That’s how it works.
Long before the current globalised football market-place, you had mere genius. What would this astonishing player’s skills be worth today?