I never cared for those who knock football, who mask a distaste for the working class in their crowded, crowing, carnivalesque masses by attacking its most obvious manifestation, who think all sport should be like pre-McEnroe Wimbledon – “Mrs Evert-Lloyd to serve. QUIET PLEASE!” Then there are those who look back to a mythical past – Nobby dancing round Wembley like a court jester made King for a day, Bobby embracing Pele, giants as players and men and, in SW3, Chopper kicking everything above ground at 3pm and Ossie shagging everything above ground at 3am. Of course those things happened, but plenty rather less romantic stuff did too, and the racism, sexism and homophobia, the brawls on and off the pitch and the chairmen who spent nothing on fans’ facilities from one year to the next, are often edited out by the rose-tint on the spectacle lenses.
“Jumpers for Goalposts” knocks football all right, but from a different perspective – that of the football fan too young to be cynical, too wise to be naive, too disgusted with what happened yesterday, last week and last season to need a Golden Age to evoke in order to justify their views. In a 200+ pages love letter to a lover rushing into the arms of another (Money, need you ask) Rob Smyth and Georgina Turner answer The Supremes’ question with a forensic dismantling of the culture of the game, its players and administrators and its media. Combining wit in the writing, breadth and depth of source material and years spent watching the game, thinking about the game and writing about the game, our two guides paint a grim picture of a game whose soul is sold.
The charges are profound and proved, but Mr Smyth and Ms Turner are fair, even finding some praise for Sepp Blatter – nevertheless the case is built meticulously, concluding with a Debit and Credit account that drives nail after nail into the game’s reputation. I found myself nodding in agreement, though less in anger than in regret – how did it come to this? And then I recalled that one of the many soundbites in The Bible says that “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” – and I asked myself if I knew of any institution that has loved money more ardently than football has over the last twenty years? Just banks, I suppose – and look what happened to them.