May 10, 2019


How football raised its game: Our national sport has been transformed by the free movement of labour and capital (Ian Birrell , r10 MAY 2019, UnHerd)

English football at both national and club level is in strong shape after an extraordinary season - one of the most thrilling that I can recall in half a century of following the sport.

But one of my favourite moments was rather more mundane: when Neil Warnock, manager of struggling Cardiff City, delivered a rant against the Government's inept handling of Brexit. "I can't wait to get out of it," he said, referring to the European Union. "I think we'll be far better out of the bloody thing. In every aspect. Football-wise as well, absolutely. To hell with the rest of the world."

This was a surreal pleasure. A perfect metaphor. Here was this Yorkshireman of pensionable age, struggling with failure to compete, lashing out against globalisation - while standing in front of his club's 'Visit Malaysia' banner.

Vincent Tan, their wealthy foreign owner, even changed the colour of their shirts to attract more Asian fans. Their club chairman was born in Cyprus. The players come from Denmark, Iceland, Ireland and Spain in Europe, along with others from Africa, Asia and north America.

Even though relegated, this club shows how top-flight football has thrived as teams have evolved into international coalitions. The sport is now a commercial powerhouse with billions of worldwide fans. The Bluebirds may not be good enough for premiership survival. But their standard of play is far higher today than many more successful clubs in the recent past and their brand has global allure. This is how Cardiff City can pay players two million pounds a year to play in its fine ten-year-old stadium - and even hand fringe players a seven-figure annual wage.

Posted by at May 10, 2019 4:00 AM