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For better, for worse

Cameron Carter assesses the latest flickerings on football's moral compass

Just over this short summer, several individual events or trends have been declared “good for the game” by journalists, managers, bloggers and FIFA presidents. Sepp Blatter used the phrase to describe Real Madrid’s surely booze-fuelled spending binge. In the British press, a series of journalists running on empty queued up to declare that John Terry’s transfer to Manchester City, if it actually happened, would be “good for the game”. Elsewhere it was ventured that a second powerful spending force in Manchester would benefit pretty much everyone in the living world. It is all very well bandying this phrase about when your editor requires a 500-word opinion piece by lunchtime but it doesn’t appear that anyone has done a scientifically applied cost-benefit analysis on the subjects. Here, three arguable propositions are measured in brutally clinical conditions in order to determine whether they are, empirically speaking, actually good for the game.

1. Manchester City become a major force in Premier League

Benefit Here, the benefits to the game and its adherents are obvious. The affected indifference of Manchester United fans to City’s unstoppable march up the table, thanks to their expensive and viciously rotating forwards, will be a joy to behold for the neutral. And City will rise up the table because they reached tenth last season with 50 points, after spending £32 million on Robinho alone, while the season before that they only came ninth with 55 points and, oh no, that doesn’t really bear close scrutiny. Brilliantly, though, Manchester United fans will be heard theorising that one cannot buy a great team (as United and Chelsea have), while everyone is aware, of course, that one can. One certainly cannot borrow a great team or land four world-class strikers with a cheeky bid on eBay.

There will be an economic benefit to the Manchester region as a whole with demand increasing for TEFL tutors as City, like a first-time player of Championship Manager, go out and buy the best forwards from all over the world without worrying too much about the defence because defence is boring. Language is so important in fostering a culture of international communication and it is said that Robinho and Elano struggled to fit in at first mostly because of a problem with the concept of “overcast”. Meanwhile local estate agents will experience a resurgence in the housing market, notably for suburban properties with games rooms, electronically-operated gates and large plasma screens in every room that simply weren’t shifting in May.

Cost The downside of all this will be more City matches on Sky and ESPN, which means more shots at the ground of Liam Gallagher giving the camera the finger in a beige Harrington jacket. This is difficult enough to watch by oneself but how is it possible to explain what the man is doing to curious six-year-olds? I simply tell them the popular singer is testing wind direction and let’s hope it doesn’t change now because he’ll be stuck with that sneer.

Another cost to society of City’s rebirth will be the spectacle of their fans suddenly appearing in towns and villages all over the country wearing this season’s replica shirt. “I didn’t realise our dentist was interested in football,” one will murmur as a sad-eyed figure in sky blue totters into the pub on Showdown Sunday, bewildered by the size and sound of Andy Gray after 20 years of small-screen wilderness.

2. Futsal will help a new generation of British players develop their technique

Benefit British players with the technical skills of Pelé, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo, all of whom developed their game playing Futsal, will emerge like pregnant turtles from the Caribbean surf. The phrases “Easy Ball”, “Back Door” and “Too Much!” will gradually disappear from the game forever and crowds will be hushed by an unending series of step-overs, crossovers, cute little flicks and spins. Less noise from the ground will add value to the nearby residential area and, again, the economy will benefit.

Cost British players will develop a lack of taste for any type of physical contact, including the corner-kick hands on chest, or even the hot breath on the neck from a centre-back keen to deprive the target man of any time on the ball. A new generation of footballers will evolve with a wholesale distaste for any kind of human touch, putting them off fornication, dogging, even dry-touching to whale song, and forcing them to become lifelong bachelors who never fully undress. This will serve to deplete the player gene pool significantly, causing a dearth of new children born in the UK with the quick-feet gene. And then it’s back to the long ball into the channels and putting it into the mixer for the big man.

3. Real Madrid’s summer spending will save the world

Benefit The fact that Real Madrid can buy Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka for £136m means, as far as Sepp Blatter is concerned, that everything is lovely and the world economy is fighting fit. If only the club could bail out Spain’s collapsed construction industry by selling just two of these players into sexual slavery, he might have a point.

Cost The labour hours lost while wage-slaves in the world’s shrinking workforce try to work out exactly how much more per hour Ronaldo is earning than them.

From WSC 271 September 2009

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