Football at its best: the sense of local pride as Norwich City return to the Premiership. Football at its worst: FIFA officials arrested on suspicion of corruption. And sadly money casts a long shadow over even the best football moments. The media all too soon turned Norwich’s triumph into a discussion of the financial impact of their move to top flight football and their long term success in the Premiership will be as much about the the depth of their owner’s pockets as the skill of players and manager.
I gave up watching football the day of the first million pound transfer. With such ridiculous sums of money now involved it is hardly surprising some turn to corrupt practices. The money paid to some top footballers each week would pay the staff bill on a hospital ward for a year. What does this say about our sense of values? We are told that the sums of money involved are the result of market forces. If that is the case then that is a powerful reminder of the folly of allowing market forces to shape society.
Surely a nurse caring for the sick or a care worker looking after the vulnerable is doing an infinitely more valuable task than a person kicking a football, so how can the enormous disparity in salaries be justified? The present problems at FIFA are not just a crisis for football but a reflection of deeper concerns about our shared values and priorities. Discussions about whether Sepp Blatter should be president of FIFA are a distraction. The real debate is about the kind of society we want and the people we really should be investing in and giving value to. Is it the footballer or the critical care nurse who are the real heroes of society and the role model for a generation?
Money has turned the once beautiful game ugly. Until the game once again centres around raw local talent and civic pride, football will remain tarnished. FIFA may not be run the way we want but it may be being run the way we deserve.