Why football is losing its identity


The beautiful game…

Football, a game which captivates the hearts of hundreds of millions around the world.

A sport where misery can change to magic within just a split second.

‘It’s just a game,’ your mother may shout, but it’s not that, it’s more than that.

It’s alive within us, like a bacteria, it spreads and grows, till we let our weekends be defined by 22 men, simply kicking a ball around.

You cheer, you shout, you cry, but some don’t understand why you care so much.

For the love, hate and passion of the game, football will forever have us in a chokehold.


The beautiful game…


In 10 years, football has changed exponentially, for good or for bad, that’s for you to decide.

However, like anything, football evolves over time, adapting to new technologies or sciences, which upgrade the way the sport can be performed.

But the steady downfall of the sport hasn’t just come in the last 10 years, but for a while now.


1 Timothy 6:10 – New King James Version of the Bible:

‘For the love of money is the root of all evil.’

Money drives people.

This entity is what keeps the economy ticking.

However, the desire for money can go beyond putting food on the table or supplying for your family and may reach out to the dangerous goal of consistently wanting more.

This ‘evil’ seed can corrupt and ruin anything no matter how pure.

In football it’s no different.

The best example for this came all the way back in 1992, when football, particularly in England, changed forever.

32 years ago, the Football League First Division became the Premier League.

With this came the beginning of the broadcasting dictatorship over the game.

Sky Sports bid and won the rights to show the action, creating a pay to view subscription service to profit off it.

Now in 2024, to watch just 128 Premier League games, it costs £26 per month extra on top of a Sky TV package or £33 per month as an individual sports package on Now TV.

This equates to £396 a year to simply watch ‘the beautiful game.’

In a cost of living crisis where people can’t afford to even put the heating on, Sky are charging £400 to simply watch football.

Another issue with football and money is overpaying of players.

It’s a simple fact footballers are overpaid, but in some leagues, particularly seen recently in Saudi Arabia and formally in China and America, clubs will pay way over the odd’s to bring players away from Europe.

Whilst there’s nothing really wrong with this, it’s the fact that for a lot of these players moving, money is the sole ambition and the former love for the game and huge desire to compete in the biggest competitions, is no longer there.

It’s the sad reality of how money, in different ways, has tarnished the passion for the game for both fans and players.

Something which tops all of this off was the creation of the Super League. A footballing idea which only existed because of the desire of more money from greedy owners.

Need I say anymore.

Broadcasters and inconsiderate scheduling

Additionally, this greed for money has a huge effect on the matchday fans.

The big broadcasters like Sky and TNT Sport know the more popular teams like Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea will generate greater revenue for them as more people will watch televised games with these teams in it and thus they can earn greater add revenue and increased subscriptions.

Subsequently, these teams are televised more often, but at the detriment to other teams who are scheduled at inconvenient times for fans.

Supporters are expected to make a 300 mile journey for a 12:30 Saturday kick off or 8pm Tuesday evening game.

The fans make football what it is, yet the Premier League and Football League seemingly ignore this and don’t even consider the supporters.

Obviously, sometimes this is inevitable due to the volume of games needed to be played, but often it’s a great example of the lack of consideration the governing bodies have for the actual fans.

Ticket Prices

Football is rooted in its undeniable foundation of being a working-class game.

But with every year that passes, it seems club owners alienate these fans in favour of profit.

More seats in big stadiums are being changed into hospitality seats or executive seats.

Likewise, due to the commercialisation of the game, big clubs like United have become a tourist hotspot.

Whilst this is certainly not a bad thing, as it boosts the club’s international profile and strengthens its support, it’s the increasing of prices from owners to force the ‘working class’ matchday fans out of going in favour of earning more from the ‘tourists.’

What I want to make clear is that ‘tourists’ are and should be welcome anywhere, its just the blatant disregard of the fans who made the clubs what it is today.

This issue has become so prominent that in 2008, a group of Liverpool supporters broke away and created AFC Liverpool which is a not for profit football team which competes in the North West Counties Football League. They were specifically formed as a result of rising ticket prices.

As per a report from the Guardian back in 2011, it cost as little as £3.50 to watch United in 1989/90 season, and with 77.1% cumulative inflation since, it should cost £6.20 for that ticket, but the cheapest was £28, a 700% inflation.

These ‘working class’ fans are a huge part of what made football so special and thus the significant neglect of these supporters, is a major reason in why football is losing its identity.

Money blinded owners

Football is a business.

Many fans won’t want to admit or believe this, but any owner of the football club is a business owner.

However, the key difference between a good and a bad owner is their genuine intentions with the club.

Since football has become so money driven, more and more ‘profit led’ owners have invested in football clubs.

Their intentions stem from financial gain rather than footballing success.

Whilst profit is essential for any business, this prioritisation of revenues leads to an abandonment of footballing decisions.

What’s best for the football team is put second to ensuring the owners get returns.

At United, this has been a consistent issue since the Glazer family takeover in 2005.

Over £1 billion has been taken out of the club through debt repayments and dividends to the American investors.

Old Trafford, once a state-of-the-art stadium has been left to neglect, likewise the Carrington training ground.

Money is spent, but only through the vast revenues the club generates due to its global reach.

The structure behind the scenes was built on inefficiency, with anyone in powerful positions always having to go through Joel and Avram Glazer for any decisions to be made.

As a result, football has been put on the backburner with the commercial side taking prominence since the takeover.

Ultimately, United is the perfect example of what bad profit driven owners can do and how ill-intentioned investors are damaging clubs.

State backed ownership

Another issue with modern football is state backed buyers like Paris Saint-Germain, Newcastle and Manchester City.

The two main issues are unlimited wealth and sports washing.

Due to the financial backing coming from the state themselves, the teams have an incomparable amount of money compared to other clubs.

Whilst this isn’t that bad, it can be seen as ruining competition as smaller sides like Bournemouth or Sheffield United just wouldn’t be on an even playing field.

However, with financial fair play (FFP) and increased regulations around this, the money these state-owned clubs can actually spend, is still dependant on their revenues and thus this prevents them from just spending an unrealistic amount of money each window.

The bigger issue with these state ownership models is sports washing.

Whilst you cannot assume exactly what these owners’ intentions are, owning football clubs can be an effective way to improve their countries reputation.

Ethical morals can often be forgotten in favour of that ‘pot of gold.’

Ultimately, more needs to be done to ensure any potential buyers of football clubs are rigorously checked on their background before purchase.

The City Football Group and joint ownership

In 2013, the City Football Group was created.

This is a company that runs various football groups.

It’s 81% owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group.

This business runs teams like Manchester City, Girona FC, Palermo FC and a recent ‘football collaboration’ with Istanbul Basaksehir.

This and many other teams like Melbourne City and Troyes.

This model is similar to a club having an affiliated team.

However, the key difference with this model is that these teams aren’t always significantly lower leagued clubs.

Girona are currently third in La Liga, just one point off second place Barcelona with a game in hand.

Istanbul Basaksehir sit seventh in the Turkish league but won the title in 2019/20.

Thus, these first division sides could all compete against each other in competitions like the Champions League.

Now this poses a genuine threat of ruining the integrity of football.

With two teams having the same owner, if they played each other in a European competition, this could, with the wrong influence, lead to corruption and match fixing.

This is not to suggest the City Football Group would ever do such a thing, but with the emergence of this business model, more investors may create similar companies and subsequently increase the risk of this ‘exploitation’ occurring.

Ultimately, in a world where corruption does exist, all it takes is one bad egg to enter football and completely ruin the integrity.

Thus, these business models simply should not be allowed, and just kept to allowing affiliate clubs in lower divisions.

Robotic football

This is a more controversial one.

When we think of the Premier League and the best era to watch, a lot will say the Barclays years.

From Luis Suarez to Eden Hazard, the period when you had a whole host of stars combined with the skilful magicians like Adel Taarabt and Yannick Bolasie, all tearing up the league.

Since Pep Guardiola’s arrival to City, football has shifted and has become a mechanical game.

Football has no-doubt developed with far more tactical input on the field, but what is this at the expense of…

We’ve lost our creativity and excitement as the flair players no longer have the free roaming abilities but must stick to their rigid instructions.

Take Jack Grealish for example, he defines the modern winger.

Grealish was an exciting attacker at Aston Villa but has developed into a ‘safer’ player at City under Guardiola.

Gone are the days of exciting wingers like Ryan Giggs and Marc Overmars and now we have wingers who don’t beat a man, or dribble or do anything skilful but are solely focused on output and efficiency.

Whilst this no-doubt will improve performance, it just isn’t as entertaining to watch.

Unfortunately, football moves in era’s and this state of the game is unlikely to change, but the indoctrination of the Guardiola playbook has certainly tainted watching football to some degree.

Ultimately, we will always enjoy football, as it’s the sport that defines us, moulds us and made us who we are today, but it’s rapidly losing the identity of what truly made it ‘the beautiful game.’