Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Good of the Game: Football, Society and Globalisation

Last night I went to an event at Bramall Lane called 'The Good of the Game: Football, Society and Globalisation'. It was hosted by the University of Sheffield and was a panel discussion involving Howard Wilkinson (former England and Sheffield Wednesday Manager), Lee Strafford (Sheffield Wednesday chairman), Kevin McCabe (Sheffield United chairman) and other local and national figures involved with football. I'm not sure if the event was titled ironically, as the panellists ended up bemoaning the current state of football rather than discussing its potential for good, but nevertheless, it was interesting hearing what everyone had to say.

Topics included football's current debt crisis, how society engages with England's national team, globalisation's impact on football's connection to local communities and the future of the Premier League, and it seemed that the majority of the panellists were unhappy with the way football was being run at the moment, at least in the UK. Due to the global popularity of English football, there's currently a large amount of wealth involved in the game, but the panellists argued that too much of it was going to players and their agents, when it could be spent on sorting out struggling club's finances and nurturing football at a grass roots level. Whether such changes will be made is unclear, but it was mentioned that something will have to change soon, especially when it's predicted that the amount of money involved in British football is soon about to drop.

I went with a mate who studies Chinese at Sheffield University, and we were both interested in the development of Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United's relations with Asia, so after the discussion had ended we went and had a chat with the two chairman, Kevin McCabe first. Sheffield United already have a partner team over in China called Chengdu Blades, but things haven't been going too well for them - they just got relegated down a league for match fixing, and McCabe said he'd just recently fired everyone working for him over there. He still has plans for China though, and invited us back to discuss things with him again.

After that we went and had a chat with Lee Strafford, who also seemed enthusiastic about Sheffield Wednesday's overseas expansion, but when we pushed him on specifics he didn't have much to say. According to him, the club are investigating possibilities right now, but he seemed more interested in expansion into the US rather than Asia.

Being a Wednesday fan, it always feels strange going to Bramall Lane, and we stood out a bit 'cos just about everyone else apart from us was wearing suits, but all in all it was a great experience, and a rare chance to take a look behind the scenes at the two big football clubs in Sheffield.

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