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Published on May 23rd, 2014 | by Bill

‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ – Barclays and the Premier League

Viewers of BBC Newsnight (20th May) saw the report that Barclays were threatening to turn their backs on sponsorship of the Premier League even before Richard Scudamore’s sexism. When a bank with a glowing toxic reputation distances from your brand, you have a problem.

A careful viewing of Barclays’ expertly produced Premier League advert shows that the idea of community the bank wants to attach itself to, is not one that Scudamore’s organisation promotes. You’ve probably seen it: the young female City fan picked up from her house by a supporters’ coach; a West Ham-following father and son crammed on a Tube on the way to the game and an elderly Evertonian seeing out his golden years on the terraces, all finding their way on public transport or walking to the ground in a pre-Thatcherite vision of communal values.

What you don’t see in the video is the young woman being called “gash”; the Hammers fans paying over the odds to watch a team with no competitive role and an old man going to his grave (God forbid) with fans marginalised.

“I can’t stop loving you” says the Leo Sayer cover on the commercial, the perfect theme for the fans dysfunctional affair with an amour that treats them badly. Except that some supporters are waking up to the faithlessness of the Premier League:  a league where the glint of the Big Six’s badges blinds; where football has become “sports entertainment” like American wrestling with the big hitters pre-ordained to prevail; where excessive parachute payments create a glass ceiling in the way of progression for teams without a sugar daddy; where solidarity payments with the Football league are so mean for clubs living hand to mouth, that policies like the E.P.P.P are forced through with a threat to withdraw funding. Over and above all this, ticket prices for fans increase at five times the rate of inflation. “Got your ticket?” sings Samantha Whates in the ad. No, because they cost eighty five quid.

And that’s without discussing plans for B-teams and a League 3, ideas that the Premier League has detached itself from but that, almost as a side effect, re-enforce the domination of the Power Six clubs and the authority of its two-man board while destroying the football pyramid without detracting from the real job of whoring the top clubs around the world.

The Hammers are a good choice for the video, a proud club with no chance of breaking the top six yet whose support at board level is finessed with a tide of cash down Bow Creek. Coincidentally, it was Karen Brady who found time for definitive support for Scudamore whom, she declared, was “categorically not sexist”.

It might well be that Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters’ Federation with combined memberships of over a million go from being shunned to facilitating wide-scale reform in the game that might return football to the community roots, Barclays once sought to tap into. However much the “modernising” Premier League and F.A resist, fan ownership of clubs (be it 20%, 51% or full control) may well pull the game back from the money-before-everything globalisation that didn’t do the banks any good either.  Elites in the game fear the two issues of safe standing and fan ownership as they mobilise fans and democratise the sport from the terraces up, recreating solidarity in the despised “ends”.

Moreover, with plans for a common sense, supporter led “manifesto for football” combined with progressive political reform such as Damian Collins’ Football Governance Bill and Clive Efford’s football betting levy there may be a chance to kill several birds with one stone.

Push football fans too far and to use old fashioned parlance (that Barclays execs attempt to manipulate) you become liberty takers, likely to hear a few home truths well hidden till now. There is only so long that supporters will turn a blind eye to a sport governed for and on behalf of six clubs to the detriment of the eighty-eight others, the hundreds more in non-league and the national game.

As the sweetly sung Barclays’ ad ode goes

“I could say everything’s all right…

I could say that’s the way it goes
I could pretend and you won’t know
That I was lying”

This article was written for STAND by Tom Reed, for more from Tom, check him out on twitter here.

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