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Opinion: The Sad State of the Game

A BBC article about Swansea City got me thinking last week about how much I hate top tier football these days. 

Swansea City v Bolton Wanderers - Premier League Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Do you ever get the feeling that there are so many clubs out there losing their soul? I chanced upon a BBC article about Oprah Winfrey being a Swansea City fan, which can be read here. Now I hope I’m not the only one now thinking errr what?

It transpires that little old Swansea City are all the range in Hollywood with figures from the industry involved in the American take over not long ago. Mindy Kaling, probably best know for her roles in the US Office and the Mindy Project as referenced in the BBC article, is one of these investors.

'A Wrinkle In Time' European Premiere
Kaling no doubt discussing her love of Swansea at A Wrinkle In Time’s UK premier in London
Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Disney

The BBC article includes some quotes from Kaling but I want to highlight one in particular which says;

There is so much I hate about this quote and so much I just cannot get my head around.

How does a random Hollywood actress get into a position where she “believes in” Swansea City. With all due respect to a club currently enjoying a fantastic run in the Premier League which has included lifting the League Cup, just how and why? As the BBC point out they are not a glamorous or famous club. They are not from somewhere glamorous or famous either. They are not a club who will be in the top tier forever, as is evidenced by their struggles this season they are one of so many clubs enjoying a finite amount of time at the top. What about them would inspire such belief from someone on the other side of the pond who has never even been to the Liberty Stadium?

Bradford City v Swansea City - Capital One Cup Final
Swansea winning the League Cup in 2013 against Phil Parkinson’s Bradford City
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

The part of that quote though which really annoys me is the “I don’t think it is going anywhere”. Well obviously it is not. That whole comment seems to show a fundamental misunderstanding of English football. It’s not like in America where franchises come and go, these clubs have all stood the test of time, and hopefully will all continue to. Clubs will enjoy more and less prosperous spells and Swansea will fall on hard times in the future as we all do. But these clubs exist today because they can fight through those days and come out stronger, so yeah they are here to stay.

This maybe ties into a view that football us not unlike prime time TV. Episode after captivating episode is pumped out, except they are not going to cancel football even if the ratings do rise all fall based on how talented the supporting cast are. Unlike the US Office there is no sell by date for this long running franchise.

We then get some quotes from Swansea City themselves, rubbish like;

I mean seriously? There is plenty of talk these days about clubs selling out their souls, amd for me that quote is that problem in a nut shell. If Bolton Wanderers released an official statement saying something like that I would be fuming. Having celebrity fans is fun, but that quote just stinks in a similar way to Bury tweeting every local team not in action on an international weekend to try and get some bored and disinterested fans down to their game. Football is about all of the fans, not some Hollywood actress having a bit of fun with some spare change they found down the back of the sofa.

Swansea are far from the only side who are entering into the realm of an identity crisis. Many clubs have sold out, some are reaping the rewards while others suffer.

One end of the spectrum is Manchester City. Now if that happened to Bolton I would happily go along for the ride don’t get me wrong. But this is a club now unrecognisable compared with less than ten years ago. This is a club with a rich history which is now nothing more than the play thing of some rather unsavoury people.

Brentford v Blackburn Rovers - Sky Bet Championship
Dejection as Blackburn drop into League One
Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The other end of the spectrum includes some of our local rivals Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool. Both have fallen on hard times thanks to their owners and have defiantly lost a part of their identity along the way. These are clubs with rich histories too. Blackburn of course have lifted the Premier League title and Blackpool boasted Stanley Matthews when he won the Ballon d’Or in 1956. In this second category you have to hope that some day soon they will break free of their tormentors and be able to rebuild. To paraphrase Swansea’s beloved Mindy I don’t think those clubs are going anywhere.

There are the exceptions in the middle like Bournemouth. Their benefactor has run the club so smoothy that no one even seemed to realise they had one bank rolling them. This is truly a club on a wonderful adventure while retaining their status as a real football club.

It is not all that long ago that Bolton were heading in the wrong direction on this front with a real disconnect between the fans and the players. Phil Parkinson and his team have bridged that gap once more and we should be glad that as a club we have not lost our identity.