Why football is important

A while back, I signed a government petition, “Review the need for a statutory owners and Directors Test in Football”. As a result, I got an email today:

The Petitions Committee would like to hear your views on why football clubs are important, and who you think should be responsible for ensuring they survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

Share your views by completing this anonymous survey: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/CYLH7W/.

So I filled in the survey. (It doesn’t take long, and if it’s something you have an opinion on, you should feel free to do the same.)

In response to the main question, Why are football clubs important?, this is what I wrote:

Two reasons. One, which you will be hearing a lot, is that they are important hubs for the communities where they exist, providing not only employment but a shared sense of identity and culture. As someone who supports a club not local to me, I am not going to dwell on that aspect: others will be better able to expound on it.

The second reason is this: football is so important precisely because all fans know deep in their hearts that it doesn’t really matter. We can invest so much emotionally in our teams, and enjoy their triumphs, however small, while knowing that their defeats are ultimately not that significant. This paradox is at the heart of sport, and it’s more important than ever during a time of national and international crisis like the current one. When the grind of daily life wears us down, there is football to turn to: a high-stakes game of skill, athleticism, tactics and insight that, in the end, we know will endure. The season may be a disaster, but there is always next season. But now, there might NOT be next season.

This matters a lot to a lot of people. I am guessing there is not much overlap between readers of this blog and football fans, but any of you who are fans can contribute to the survey if you wish.

3 responses to “Why football is important

  1. Your second reason is probably one of the best justifications for sport fandom I’ve run into. I’ve never been much of a sports fan. Playing an athletic game with even bare minimal competence, e.g. not tripping on my own laces, has always so far beyond me, I never got involved with or paid much attention to athletic endeavor.

    My town has a grade C, or perhaps D, baseball team, the Lefties. I can hear the distant crowd watching and cheering a game from my yard. Admission is free, but I doubt I’ll ever attend a game. Despite this, it seems to give a lot of pleasure to a lot of people. There are the players who can’t be in it for the money, and there are the spectators, locals and visitors, who flock to the games and cheer on the players. Unlike so many other things, like the COVID case count or how to refit our aging high school campus, it isn’t at all important, but even I can agree with cry of “Go, Lefties!”

  2. That’s it exactly! And, although my own team is a successful one, I see this factor at work even more with people who support teams with little or no chance of ever winning anything. There is a purity about it.

  3. Cecelia Holland made the relative purity of sport a central theme in her Belt of Gold set in Byzantium. Given the battles for the throne, it must have been a relief to be able to show one’s support for the Blues or Greens.

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