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Opinion

What has happened to Newcastle United? This is what hit me…

2 weeks ago
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It has taken me a while to write this, I used to write something about Newcastle United once a week.

I used to spend every Saturday afternoon travelling around the country watching Newcastle United.

I used to spend my morning and evening commute catching up on NUFC related matters on social media, reading The Mag, reading what other fans had to say.

Now I don’t really care. I flick onto twitter once a day, don’t watch any live games, don’t even play PlayStation. Worst of all, whenever I catch up with my Dad, a common response to him bringing up football is ‘Sorry Dad, I haven’t really been paying attention’.

What’s new though?

In the grand scheme of the past 13 years you would have to say… nothing much. We have all been on this journey together under Mike Ashley but the past few months have brought to my mind that it’s not all about Mike Ashley and Newcastle United.

It’s actually about the beautiful game. Or as it is more befitting to describe it today, the horrible game.

Money in football is nothing new. Trust me, I know. If you go back over 100 years and five generations of my own family, you’ll come across Alf Common. The first footballer to be sold for £1,000. Even in 1905, national newspapers described the ‘decline of the game’, with one newspaper talking of a new ‘white slave trade’ (yes really!).

So, what is it?

The overpriced tickets, six clubs overruling the other 14, obscene wages, price of football shirts, the tv times, the racism, sky sports, clickbait journalism, agents, kick off times, decline of the cups, a World Cup in Qatar, transfer deadline day, tax evasion, the overpaid (and sh.t) former footballer pundits, the carefree billionaire owners, no safe-standing, huge sponsorship from gambling companies, influence of foreign states, reliance on tv money over fan loyalty.

Most of all though, it is the utter contempt for fans and spectators. No longer can I care so much about something that does not care at all about me. I’m only 25,  yet the game I grew up with (which is still the PL, the advertising etc.) already seems like a faraway memory.

Of all the events/examples over the past 13 years that could have ‘hit me’ in regard to the impact the horrible game has had upon myself, and I imagine fellow NUFC fans, it was this:

The only thing that kept me going this summer, that gave me hope in my football club, is that they would soon be bought by an oil-rich Middle Eastern dictator with one of the worst human rights records on the planet.

Is that what football, and the Premier League, has done to us? If so, I’m better than that and I know most football fans are too.

Somehow, it just doesn’t quite seem like football anymore – or even sport for that matter. There is no competition. How can we be interested in something, like the season ahead for example, if we already know what is going to happen?

What the last few months has taught us is that fans don’t really matter— Premier League football clubs do not need us to survive, fans are no longer the financial foundation of a top level football club, we have been replaced by tv companies and tv rights, and thus clubs (as well as the PL itself) are now beholden to the needs of their new ‘true’ customers.

Take the Newcastle United takeover saga – it was confirmed in the Financial Times that Richard Masters had met and discussed the takeover with Qatar and Bein Sports. All but confirming that the decision to accept or reject a takeover was unofficially influenced by a foreign sports broadcaster. The reaction the Premier League and their cartel of ‘big’ clubs were not in opposition to Saudi Arabia’s horrific human rights record, or the thousands of Yemenis who have died during an illegal war in Yemen, but to act against another club threatening to compete/disrupt the paradigm at the top of the table.

As I glance through social media, read the comments section of articles, listen to ‘journalists’ or listen to the increasingly annoying and self-loathing fan tv podcasts, I become even more worried that fans themselves are being turned into mouthpieces for an organisation that holds them with such disdain and contempt.

I see little talk about Wigan and Bury, Hearts or Partick Thistle, but fans excitement at Jeff Hendrick on a free, and three players from the two worst teams in last year’s division. This is what football has done to us, it’s no longer a sport or a ‘team game’ but now the dictionary definition of the phrase ‘money talks’. When money is spent, our memories go out of the window, we no longer care about morality, or human rights, heck, we don’t even care about our ‘fallen’ heroes, Shearer, Keegan and dare I say, Benitez. All sense and logic have gone.

It’s funny, over 115 years after the ‘white slave trade’ comment sparked by Alf Common, we now look forward to a World Cup being built on today’s ‘modern-day’ slave trade. A country built by foreign workers with little to no human rights and where it is illegal to be gay. We all thought it would be a failure as we speculated fans won’t go to the World Cup for this exact reason – but now we know we don’t need fans, we just need fake fan noises, goal music, tv rights and sponsorship.

Perhaps I’ll feel different in the future. Mike Ashley may leave, I may move closer to home, or I may be sucked into all this nonsense as well.

However, the fact that football is booming at a time of immense suffering should be a stark reminder to us all what it has become.

You can follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanComyn

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