The Lead

What is football?

Is it a form of entertainment, like monster truck rallies at your local indoor arena? Or is it a public good, like a city park?

The question, posed this way, might seem facetious, but it’s apparent that there is a lot of confusion and contradiction in how we regard the role and purpose of football, particularly in Europe.

Take this weekend. The Daily Mail has tried to make something out of nothing in reporting the perfectly innocuous post-match comment from linesman John Brooks, who told Joe Hart, “They’ve paid 62 quid over there, go and see them” (which sounds oddly New Testament to me for some reason). Brooks was of course speaking of the fact that many Manchester City fans had sent back their allocation over the high ticket prices for the away match at the Emirates, which sparked subsequent protests in the away section including banners and the like during City’s 0-2 victory over Arsenal.

The paper thought it appropriate to get in noted psychologist Graham Poll to explain “When you’re in that cauldron for 80 minutes or so after the sending off, you can say things without thinking. It’s weird and hard to explain. The tension can cause abnormal behaviour: a dopey smile, an inappropriate comment. You’re so focussed on your job, you’re not thinking straight about other things,” as if Brooks had asked Hart if he’d like to see his stamp collection hidden on the moon. In any case, the incident has led to a broader discussion about ticket prices.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, to his credit, spoke fairly on the matter with BBC Radio Five Live, noting that, “It is easy to latch onto the Arsenal example. They have clearly made a judgement and I think the Man City fans, in fairness, have done what they should do if they think it is too much and not turned up. It does make people think again and that is actually what the market should do.”

In other words, the fact City did not fill their allotted seating capacity reflects a high price lowering demand. It’s the miracle of the free market.

Those challenging this view have remarked that football is instead more like a public good, a community-based institution, thereby requiring some sort of ticket price cap out of principle. But would this need to be subsidized? Or is the club supposed to somehow eat this cost? If so, how does this jibe with the notion that football clubs should be managed with an eye to financial responsibility, which would in normal circumstances involve maximizing revenue, including that from gate sales? Opera, after all, is often considered a public good in need of government subsidy, but still normally charges prices for tickets that well exceed what most people can afford for an night out.

Still, football is not strictly a business, either. Nor is it strictly a public good, like a museum. Is it both? More one than the other? Amid the many stories that float up to the media surface only to quickly subside, I think it’s worth a continuing discussion over just what we believe football is, exactly.


A look at Milan Borjan’s year in the Turkish league.


Arsenal, Tottenham, United and Liverpool want stricter financial controls.

Female referee praised on Twitter.

Cech says Lampard still very valuable to Chelsea.

City confirm Kompany’s red card appeal.


Sneijder has until Monday afternoon to decide his future with Inter Milan.

Parma confident Donadoni will remain with the club.

La Liga

Ronaldo says he’ll fulfill his contract at Madrid.

Del Bosque proud Spanish nationals play in top European leagues.

Barcelona set a new record.

“It’s not impossible that PSG and me see each other very soon.” -Falcao


Wolfsburg’s director of sport admits players’ wages are too high.

Van der Vaart fit to start in this weekend’s match against Nuremberg.

Bit and Bobs

Benfica’s Matic scores an insane goal against Porto.

Kompany more than just a brilliant footballer, his social engagements equally praiseworthy.

Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.