FOOTBALL: OUR BEAUTIFUL GAME

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by James Anthony

So much is written about institutions which are culturally important to us. Visual arts, music and literature — to give some examples — are all vital art forms for Norwich and are rightly given a lot of local attention. They allow people to experience different aspects of life and opinions whilst inspiring and intriguing across the city. It can be a minor hobby for some, but a whole life for others. These arts enhance so many lives and need to be protected for the good of the citizens of Norwich. We often hear that arts funding and exposure is in a crisis (and this is an important discussion) but so is something else which I worry may be overlooked by the progressive media.

Football, while not exactly a form of art, holds many of the same characteristics as art institutions when employed on a citywide scale.

Football not only entertains, but brings people of different classes, races and cultures together for a common cause, invoking feelings of great happiness as well as great sadness at different times. For me at least, watching football makes me feel more emotional than perhaps any form of art. Watching Norwich City FC win makes me feel as good as any film, artwork or piece of music could ever make me feel, and I think the majority of football fans will agree. Non-football fans often fail to realise this and the sport is often ignored and badly stereotyped by those who do not experience it.

watching football makes me feel more emotional than perhaps any form of art.

People may not realise just how culturally important football is for the local community. Norwich City FC in particular are an especially crucial pillar of the community. Almost every other week over 25,000 people turn out to see their team play, with thousands others tuning in to matches on the radio or supporting Norwich by watching the games from home. I count myself amongst those 25,000 people and understand just how much our team means to the city.

The club also supports several local projects, one of the most well-known being the Norwich City Community Sports Foundation. They help over 38,000 people every year achieve their goals through sport, supporting some of the most disadvantaged, disabled and talented people across Norfolk. All this is without being able to fully quantify the massive economic benefits and jobs also provided by having a successful club in the local area.

(via BBC)

(via BBC)

Unfortunately, football and football funding is also in crisis. Several clubs such as Cardiff, Hull and most notably Wimbledon in the past (amongst countless others) have seen rich, culturally detached owners try to remove key community aspects of the clubs such as team colours, names and the location of their club grounds. Supporters have also faced huge ticket price increases, despite even more money being generated through television deals and sponsorship deals. Grassroots football has been in decline for several years. As someone who referees football matches week in week out, I have noticed the drop in participation and increase in teams leaving local football mainly due to costs. This is a massive shame.

There is no doubt that football is in crisis. This crisis needs to be noticed by our elected representatives and those in the media who may not identify as football fans, as well as being spoken about by football fans like me. We all need to accept — fans of the sport or not — that football is a vital part of life for so many people across the country and it needs to be protected. Football isn’t just a game, it is a community asset.

football is a vital part of life for so many people across the country and it needs to be protected

In 1997 the government set up a Football Task Force to look at the future of the sport and a new form of this wouldn’t be a bad idea. There should be constant reviews of the football governing structure to ensure it is more inclusive, effective, and that it always serves the interest of football fans. The big money that is poured into the top level of football should be keeping ticket prices down, helping lower leagues and most importantly, strengthen grassroots football. It is time the government did far more to ensure this.

Football provides so many of us with a link to our city, as well as links to other people. Those who aren’t football fans should see the importance of football for bringing a community together and help pressure the government and generate debate about protecting one of the most significant institutions. Maybe we need to view football as cultural and as having huge community value almost like an art institution. There is a reason they call it the beautiful game after all.

Featured image via .grf-football.co.uk

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