With general elections expected next year, the Israeli political system is in turmoil. For members of the Knesset hoping to make their mark before the primaries, this is almost their last chance. Joining the attack on the democratic values of the state seems to be the best way to make an impression. In the last month there has been a deluge of law proposals designed to limit the freedom and integrity of the Supreme Court, press, human rights organisations and top non-Jewish footballers.
Although post-war Germany was divided into two states in 1949, football clubs on both sides of the border were determined to maintain sporting relations. Despite political tensions between capitalist West Germany (FRG) and the socialist East (GDR), numerous cross-border friendlies took place on public holidays in the early 1950s. These proved massively popular with supporters on both sides of the divide. In October 1956, 110,000 East German fans filled the new Leipzig Zentralstadion to watch 1.FC Kaiserslautern, whose team contained five players from West Germany’s 1954 World Cup-winning side, beat SC Wismut Karl-Marx-Stadt 5-3.
On a warm August evening in Tbilisi's Boris Paichadze National Stadium, a crowd of over 20,000 is roaring on the Georgian champions Zestafoni in their Europa League play-off against Club Brugge. But, strangely, the majority aren't supporters of either of the teams involved in the tie. Most are fans of Zestafoni's main domestic rival and Georgia's biggest club, Dinamo Tbilisi.
Since the turn of the year, a committee of MPs from across the political spectrum have been interviewing football administrators to work out whether the game’s governance is “fit for purpose”. The hearings are over, the committee’s recommendations are due in June and the case for reform is compelling.
Labour's suggestion for the governance of football reflect changes in political momentum, a failed financial model and thoughts about the future of the game. Tom Davies explains
Time was when politicians would stand on what they would do to football supporters, not what they’d do for them. However, the Labour party proposals to give fans a stake in their clubs – first option to buy them when put up for sale as well as to compel supporter-friendly reforms to the game’s governance – indicate how far we’ve come since the days of ID cards and away fan bans.
On the 25th anniversary of the start of the national miners’ strike, Jon Spurling looks at the industry’s long-established links with professional football that have since been swept away
Twenty-five years ago football and coal mining had in common the fact that Margaret Thatcher clearly didn’t see a long-term future for either within British society. In 1985, a Socialist Worker article drew parallels between the 1984 “Battle of Orgreave”, where around 10,000 pickets squared up to as many police, with the violence at Kenilworth Road during a Luton v Millwall FA Cup tie in 1985: “The images of violence and of raging anger (although those witless football fans have no cause at all) lead us to question whether the fabric of society is close to collapse in Thatcher’s Britain.” Two years after the strike ended, at a time when the minister for sport Colin Moynihan mooted the idea of a compulsory membership scheme to curb hooliganism, a letter to the Guardian expressed a fear that “a high handed government, with sheer contempt for the working classes, is, if one looks at recent events, attempting to utterly destroy two bastions of working class Britain.” To take the comparison to its conclusion, both industries had been irrevocably altered by the late 1980s. In the wake of the Taylor Report into the Hillsborough disaster, and Italia 90, football would become gentrified, and machines replaced workers as colliery closures continued apace. “The working class’s links with both football and mining were, directly or indirectly, rightly or wrongly, severed by Thatcher’s government,” remarked former Labour MP Roy Hattersley in 1992.
Bruce Wilkinson looks at government attempts to control how football tickets are sold
Football supporters are making a growing number of complaints about the ticketing industry and the huge expansion in secondary sales. In response the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has combined with another clumsily titled ministry, that of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, to produce a consultation paper on the issue. Modern technology has revolutionised ticket buying in many positive ways, such as giving a wider range of purchasing and payment options, but it has also democratised touting on an unprecedented scale. This ranges from supporters buying extras in order to make a bit of cash to organised gangs hoovering up blocks of seats and agencies offering big match entrance at extortionate rates. Internet-based auction sites have radically changed resales, giving the opportunity to make a quick buck to anyone with good broadband access and limited scruples. As a consequence, legislation is struggling to keep pace.
While Lilian Thuram has made some notable left-wing gestures, one of his black predecessors in the France defence has made a sudden switch to the right. Andy Brassell reports
Basile Boli’s appointment as national secretary for co‑development with President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party has been on the cards for a while. It may seem surreal to those who remember the robust defender scoring the winner in Marseille’s 1993 Champions League final win over Milan, getting away with headbutting Stuart Pearce during Euro 92, or indeed helping his mate Chris Waddle reprise his recording career post-Diamond Lights (with the Anglo-French duet We’ve Got A Feeling). Yet though Boli’s career since playing retirement – which came in 1997, at the tender age of 30 – has included media work for the TV channel France 3, it has otherwise been quite atypical for an ex-pro.
With local club Hapoel lurching from crisis to embarrassment, left-leaning fans in the Israeli capital had had enough. Shaul Adar reports on their decision to start again after failing in a takeover bid
In May, Uri Sheradsky, the sports editor for a Jerusalem local paper, wrote a column in the weekly edition. There was only one subject on his mind. While Beitar Jerusalem won their first championship for nine years, his team, Hapoel Jerusalem, were dropping down limply to the third division for the first time.
Goodwill went out of the window when the British government banned Palestinian youth players from touring north-west England. Richard Bagley explains football’s importance in Gaza and the West Bank
An away match at Chester probably wouldn’t be a highlight of most international footballers’ careers. But, to a group of talented young players from Palestine, it promised to be one of the most memorable experiences in their lives. A project called Palestine: Something to Cheer About had secured the backing of the English FA, the Professional Footballers’ Association and a host of other bodies for its effort to use the positive power of football to help teenagers in one of the most deprived areas on earth. But the Under-19 tour fell at the final hurdle – and, to the organisers’ disgust, without even a squeak of protest from the footballing authorities.