August 19, 2012


People say my book sold football to the middle classes. I disagree' : 'Fever Pitch' author Nick Hornby reflects on the ways in which he, football and society itself have changed in the 20 years since his hit memoir was first published (Nick Hornby, 8/17/12, The Telegraph)

English football has changed since Fever Pitch was published in 1992. Indeed, more has happened in the last 20 years than in the previous 70 or 80. The game has got faster and better, and the players are fitter and more accomplished. Our stadiums are mostly safe, but tickets are ruinously expensive and much harder to come by, and crowds are consequently older, and quieter. Just about everyone who has ever played in the Premier League over the last decade is a multimillionaire, by definition, but in the early Nineties, England's most gifted player, Paul Gascoigne, was playing in the richer and infinitely more glamorous Italian league. Both the lira and its lure are now gone. If you subscribe to a cable sports channel, you can see two or three games a day, games taking place all over Europe. It's easier to watch a Premier League game on TV in New York City or the Canary Islands than it is in London, and you can talk to someone in any bar in the world about Arsène Wenger's apparent stubbornness in the transfer market. My previously dour and unlovable team suddenly became a byword for aesthetic perfection, and enjoyed possibly the greatest period of its history; for a few bewildering years, between 1997 and 2006, I could watch several of the best players in the world every other Saturday.

Most of these changes can be traced back to one event, the Hillsborough disaster, and to one man, Rupert Murdoch. After Hillsborough there was a general recognition that something needed to be done - that the enormous, crumbling concrete terraces weren't safe, that an afternoon's entertainment should not carry with it the threat of injury or even death. And Murdoch saw that his TV network would become indispensable to huge swathes of the population if he bought the rights to the most popular sport in the world. He flooded the game with money, foreign stars turned up in their hundreds, and the clubs jacked up their season ticket prices to pay the newly astonishing wage bills.

Posted by at August 19, 2012 8:51 AM

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