Corbyn renews the call to bring football back to the people and it’s resonating with fans

Jeremy Corbyn and football in a football net
Peadar O'Cearnaigh

During a speech in Newcastle on 5 October, Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn made a promise that shows he’s with the people. He promised to:

take the beautiful game away from the billionaires and hand it to the fans instead.

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While Corbyn is not the first to make such a call, his message resonated with the Newcastle United fans present, whose club is owned by billionaire Mike Ashley. And while Boris Johnson has to answer whether his backers could make billions from Brexit, Corbyn, a keen football supporter himself, wants to channel money into the real people’s game.

Not just rhetoric

So it made sense when Corbyn said:

the Labour government will make the Premier League clubs pay money for grass roots football

And while mere speech making can come easy, Corbyn has promised to make sure the Premier League invests 5% of its TV rights income in the grassroots game. He said a Labour government would ensure supporters’ trusts could appoint and sack at least two members of the clubs’ boards. It would also allow supporters’ trusts the right to buy shares in a club when it changed owners.

Online reaction

A number of people took to social media to show their support for Corbyn’s plan. Even if some of the publicity came from a surprising source:

Other people got behind the idea as they simply can’t afford to go to matches any more:

And it even appears as if Corbyn has won over some new support:

Wealthy sport

Mike Ashley isn’t the only billionaire owner in the premier league. As things stand, it has 12 billionaire club owners estimated to be worth $90.8bn (£73.6bn). Additionally, the clubs earn millions every year while ordinary fans have to fork out hundreds of pounds, even for the cheapest season tickets, to watch their team.

Mike Ashley

And the billionaire involvement is starting to irk fans. Some Newcastle fans feel they’ve “suffered 12 years of Mike Ashley”, and they want him out. They’re asking:

all fans to participate in a full boycott of St. James’ Park, club merchandise and all businesses associated with the club until Mike Ashley leaves the club.

Ashley was also brought in front of a Commons committee to answer questions about working conditions at his company Sports Direct. Some of the staff there were paid less than the minimum wage. Newcastle United, like many clubs, is also sponsored by an online gaming company, which is disturbing given the high level of “probem gamblers” in the UK.

Future of football

Corbyn’s plan makes sense not only for Newcastle fans but for football fans all over. Because, as Corbyn said [0:33m]:

Football is our lives, our community, and it’s the place where people go to socialise and enjoy each other’s company.

Football should belong to the people, not the billionaires. And there’s only one party sending out that clear message.

Featured image via Twitter – Channel 4 News & Pixabay – KelvinStuttard

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    1. Of itself this statement can be construed as arising from a politician seeking the popular vote and thus of little interest of itself.

      However, it gives Mr Corbyn entry to an immensely important broader issue couched in a context football fans understand. It’s not so much ownership of so-called ‘clubs’ that matters as how this enables an egregious example of rentier economics. This particularly evident for Premier League subscription broadcasts; however, the problem encompasses almost all professional ‘sport’, digital output from the entertainment industry (e.g. film and recorded music), and much else including access to learned papers emanating from academia.

      Legal ‘protection’ of so-called ‘intellectual property’ by copyright, patents, and to some extent trademarks (when abused to bully others as when Olympics organisers/profiteers threaten long established business with ‘Olympic’ in their name), supports distortion of market-economics through sanctioned monopoly; incidentally, this also gives rise to monopsony as when producers of digital ‘content’ are obliged to accept take it or leave it terms offered by distribution cartels. Copyright, destined to be an anachronistic concept now the digital era and Internet are upon us, has a far more deleterious effect than supporting price-gouging; it stifles cultural development/evolution by discouraging ‘derivation’ from ideas; in effect, without permission and payment, no composer may publish an orchestral ‘Variations on a theme from the Beatles’ (assuming that plebeian music has sufficient merit to justify attention) until a time period of something like 70 years following publication plus lifetime of author(s); looking on the bright side it does mean the ‘music’ of Justin Bieber the ‘Gaga person’ will remain in a cul de sac and be forgotten long before copyright expires. Set ‘derivation’ to one side because it does not apply to protecting ‘intellectual property’ associated with sport broadcasting.

      Popularity of football has enabled the Premier League to insinuate tentacles into nearly every wallet in the UK. Subscription is voluntary but anyone patronising a public house bar or dining room contributes too, regardless of taste for sport, through prices inflated to enable the landlord’s payment of an eye-watering subscription. In passing, the recorded music industry, represented by the ever grasping Performing Rights Society, places a ‘tax’ on all public premises (workshops too) where radio broadcast music is played despite the broadcaster having already paid for the ‘right’ to broadcast it; think on that when next visiting a barber shop.

      Individual household subscriptions to Premier League broadcast football also are considerable sums representing serious opportunity cost for less well off households. No wonder a thriving black market of ‘pirated’ broadcast football streams exists. It offers what people want at a cost they consider reasonable. Despite claims to the contrary, nothing is ‘stolen’ because digitally encoded information has no intrinsic monetary value; any sequence can be replicated/stored at trivial cost and hence ‘scarcity’ necessary for conventional market-economic thinking cannot be. ‘Piracy’ of digital ‘content’ may be a civil or criminal offence but certainly not a moral transgression.

      With respect to general ‘piracy’ of ‘content’, e.g. film and recorded music, the morality of paying the asking price is backed by specious claim of needing to support creative activity. In reality, the bulk of revenue goes to distributors for little effort on their part. The Internet makes it feasible, quite simple in fact, for creative individuals and outfits to seek voluntary patronage from admirers; completed works have no monetary value (scarcity argument) but offer reputation justifying people contributing to completion of new works. No longer rentier economics, it is that of skilled operatives offering their services. Leonardo da Vinci gained commissions of increasing worth as his reputation grew. He lived off these negotiated payments. He could choose to set aside income for old age. It would be absurd to imagine Leonardo, or any other artist/artisan demanding ‘royalty’ payment whenever anyone viewed his completed works. Should visitors to the Vatican have been taxed for Leonardo’s life time plus seventy years?

      The starving creative artiste argument supporting outrageous prices for digital sequences distributed with negligible ‘added value’ cannot apply to the Premier League. Players would earn a living wage in absence of the League. In that case, ‘piracy’ represents merely slight diversion of a potential income stream away from a host of middlemen making no contribution towards the cultural virtues of football, should there be any.

      Points made above about the Premier League could be springboard for Mr Corbyn to highlight the breadth and depth of impact of rentier economics upon ordinary people. Indeed, a substantial proportion of national disposable income is syphoned off by copyright rentiers. Worse still, are the sums paid for rental (licensed use) of imports of supposed ‘intellectual property’ of no intrinsic monetary value. Much of this goes to the USA (Hollywood crap) and is lost as opportunity for local economic activities (e.g. money spent in shops and restaurants, and thereby supporting employment).

      Mr Corbyn could consider waste incurred by the Intellectual Property Office, PIPCU and other police forces, and trading standards officers, spending taxpayer money enforcing specious property ‘rights’ on behalf of copyright cartels awash with cash and well able to attempt enforcement by civil law means.

      Rentier rot pervades swathes of our economy including physical products, e.g. pharmaceuticals, protected by patents. In particular, any pharmaceutical derived from university research ought belong to the ‘commons’.

      Another point for Mr Corbyn to bear in mind is ‘intellectual property’ in context of trade deals B. Johnson may seek with the USA. The USA exports far fewer tangible goods than ever before. For these it depends upon imports from elsewhere, especially the Far East. ‘Intellectual property’ along with trading arcane financial derivatives has achieved prominence. In addition to fearing introduction to the UK of chlorinated chicken and unbridled fracking, we should anticipate demand for draconian measures, some perhaps forbidden in the USA itself by its Constitution, to protect this illusory ‘property’.

      —–

      Released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 international license (sic).

      atlanticcouncil@protonmail.com

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