The beautiful game is perhaps one of the very few things that can truly unite the world- in 2014, 3.2 billion people watched the World Cup Final in Brazil, per FIFA. The game is, without a doubt, a truly wonderful spectacle. However, several new influences have reared their heads recently and are changing the game from the one we all grew up with- notably: money and social media.
The former, money, has always been a part of football. Plying your trade as a footballer is a job, after all, and players need to be paid. However, long gone are the days when footballers earnings were close to that of your next door neighbours, when players set to the field for one reason above all: they loved the game.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the lure of 'footballer lifestyle' is becoming an increasingly prevalent factor in the game, with players content to knowingly take money over playing time. In the Premier League, a player plying his trade for a top ten team can expect to earn around 50 thousand pounds a week, that's twice what the average workman in the UK would earn in a year, and arguably, the latter is more likely to hold down a job that he or she doesn't actually enjoy. Fair? Absolutely not.
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However, asking if the sad reality will ever change will result in the same response. Football is becoming, or has become, a commercial game. The influx of money has created a power shift in football that shows no signs of slowing down: Chelsea, Manchester City, PSG, AS Monaco and Malaga have all been on the receiving end of mass investment from abroad since the turn of the century and, naturally, have seen their fortunes change for the better as a result.
Competition is not a thing to oppose, however, there is a certain dejection you can't help but feel when 'smaller' (or, less rich, perhaps) teams are having their players purloined by the attraction of a cheque at the end of the week, especially when those same players perform for a half-empty stadium, leaving their former club often in desperate need of a replacement but lacking the funds to attract them.
Gone are the days when clubs could build a side over a couple of years- nowadays if the squad fulfils its potential it will be picked apart by richer sides, leaving the manager at square one- if he maintains his role, of course.
Loyalty, it seems, now has a buy-out clause (as does the world cup, by the way).
Managers, particularly of the low-budget sides, have an increasingly hard job. Yet, managers of the larger sides face a rather different problem. Emerging recently, in correlation to the increasing influence of social media, is a new type of fan: the fickle fan.
Nowadays, the football world is constantly in contact on social media. A team loses, everyone knows, and everybody and anybody is free to share their opinions on the matter at hand. Yet, the once seemingly harmless comment section of any major sports page has seen its influence increase. Pages are now responsible for flying flags over stadiums enticing the fans to turn on their manager, to dress up as rival managers to send clear messages to the board.
Unfortunately, it seems to be the more impatient (to put it politely) fans that voice their frustration through social media. Easily impressionable fans bounce off this frustration and by the next day, there is a new hashtag trending.
Perhaps the most telling example comes from the Chelsea comment section, which is currently littered with cries for Jose Mourinho to leave the club. Ask any sensible Chelsea fan, and the idea is ludicrous. Yet, the ability for (fickle) fans to voice their opinion and bounce off the poorly formed conclusions of other fans has seen the idea gather pace.
Worrying? Yes. Frustrating? Absolutely.
Too much money and the increasingly prevalent influence of poorly formed opinions of some fans on social media are problems that show no signs of letting up, in fact, they seem to be exponentially worsening.