Football Club: The Dystopian Cult Of Premier League Football
Trigger warning: If you don’t want to experience the results, look away now. All death threats and offers of hand-to-hand combat should be sent to the appropriate email address where they will be judiciously filed under spam.
The first rule of Football Club is that you always talk about Football Club. The second rule of Football Club is that you always talk about Football Club. Third rule of Football Club: someone yells stop, says no, doesn’t like football – treat them with unadulterated contempt. What do you mean you don’t like football? What, are you gay or something? This is football after all; a game of poetry, chance, outstanding natural beauty… the human fucking condition.
Surfing an expanding grey area between the encroaching dystopian present and a quasi-utopian protection racket, professional football has grown into a one-size-fits-all tumour big enough to plug the emotional void of meaningless consumer-driven modernity. Lacking the vocabulary to articulate existential discontent, and saddled with a machismo comprehensively preventative of further linguistic acquisition, millions of males pour their malfunctioning hopes into the despotic chasm of the English Premier League. Many will go so far as to hospitalise themselves and others for the cause. Some will kill.
Akin to the most reviled characteristics of organised religion, top level football has long since passed beyond the threshold of palpable reality. From the cognitively challenged to the condescendingly intelligent, it seems capable of inspiring a uniform obtuseness that no other spectator sport can manage. For research purposes I posted a Facebook status asking people to list what they thought were the worst aspects about modern Premier League football. Among the various civilised responses that cited advertising, astronomical wages, poor television commentary and pervasive cheating, the snub-nosed and pious reply (from a not unintelligent individual) that I was waiting for appeared on cue: "People that ask stupid questions questioning the modern game." The fourth rule of Football Club is not to question the bastardisation that the mutated modern game has undergone. It just is – and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Indeed, if seems if you were to roll the worst traits of consumer-capitalist homo-sapiens into one sport, you would end up with the current state of football. As fans are loathe to acknowledge, ‘The Game’ is a circus of influence and will, of plutocracy, deception, and short change. In a sustained two-decade campaign of pomp and circumstance, its omnipotent governing body FIFA managed to reach experimental levels of corruption under the guidance of evergreen overlord Sepp Blatter.
As football's former führer, Blatter lived heartily off the fat of a land he traversed primarily by private jet to the general applause of a religious leader. Such opulence has clearly had a trickle-down effect throughout the sport, and nowhere is this more apparent than the English Premier League – or EPL in these Americanised days – where club organisations and players alike take gratuitous care to piss upon fans from helicopter height in a shower of egotism and profit margins.
Still the crowds come; like spendthrift dodos ambivalent to their plight, fans swell at the stadium cliffs edge. Many of them will be fresh off the back of a five year waiting list to spend multiple grands on a low-level season ticket. Here, replete with novelty haircuts and armed to the cuffs with platitudes, they go to watch ‘role models’ play a game so beautiful that its occasional ensemble cast of greed-engorged sex offenders and dim-witted racists can temporarily be vindicated as indispensable assets to humanity on the proviso that they are able to ensure victory at great and perpetually rising expense to the spectator.
And yet in spite of such flagrantly deceitful overtures, football has paradoxically remained the Game of The People; a cultural common denominator between planetary oligarchs and show-pony socialists everywhere with every other go-between minion swept up in its irresistible bombast. This is of course much to the bamboozlement and dismay of the disinterested outsider, who will nonetheless find the sport impossible to avoid thanks to the ceaseless media onslaught and the inexhaustible public fervour of the surrounding environment. For the fifth rule of Football Club is that there is no escaping Football Club. Did you see the game last night? My dear human, believe me when I say, that this is not a game.
To err on the side of social theory, perhaps it is the adulation of fame and wealth and the quickest route to it in a climate of ever diminishing opportunity that is the defining factor of Premier League football’s undying popularity. Rooted in materialist allure, its cult parallels the totemistic talent show obsession that has engulfed mainstream culture and permanently embedded itself in the public psyche. In todays renewed feudal domain of money-men and their automation legion of highly tuned and humourless cashletes, any trace of grounded common comradeship has been replaced by a sporting strain of slavish and virulent celebrity worship that is about as enchanting as a hernia.
More likely it goes deeper into more primitive territory. Within the socially reinforced mass media melee of Arsenal vs Tottenham, there is buried an evolutionary ill that cannot be quenched by B&Q, parents' evening and the occasional outing to Zizzi. Lost amidst the oppression of listless day to day living, the chest-beating desire for primordial one-upmanship lingers. And, like the morning erection that stops you from pissing the bed in your sleep, it waits for the command, proving to you its worth.
And with the unstoppable force of a novice wanker, the command will always come. The whistle sounds: logic, motor function, and self-preservation are mentally overridden, with all sensory impulses rerouted to a biological cul-de-sac banked somewhere mentally offshore. To observe the testosterised gurning and cro-magnon yelling after a pass gone awry or missed goalscoring opportunity is to observe a species struggling to shoulder the latent toils of macroevolution. Beneath the televisual comfort blanket seethes the same emasculated circuitry of Tyler Durden’s Project Mayhem – just without any of the ideas. So pick up your knuckles gentlemen, you need them for punching each other.