Saturday, May 30, 2009
The 1979 FA Cup Final: When football was still the People's Game
I’ve written before of the way neoliberals love to trash 1970s Britain. The reason why of course, is that the decade saw the zenith of progressive politics, not just in Britain but around the world too.
The neoliberals don’t only tell lies about the state of the economy in the 1970s, they trash every aspect of 70s life. Including football. Football back then was nowhere near as good as it is today, according to the manic Thatcherites. It was far too working class (not an executive box in sight)- and it really was quite appalling how little clubs like Notts Forest and QPR and Ipswich could compete for honours with the bigger clubs. That would never do would it? Let‘s change the structure of football so only the very richest clubs can win things. And we’ll change the structure of our economy and society too, to benefit the super-rich.
And that's exactly what the neoliberals did.
I just hope those who trash the 1970s watched ITV’s recent showing of the ’Big Match’ programme of the highlights of the FA Cup final of thirty years ago.
May 1979- a highly significant date as it was then that Mrs Thatcher came to power and British society and economy underwent radical changes. We saw the impact of those changes by watching the match.
First, neither team's shirts carried advertising (or even the players names on the back). There were no players from outside Britain and Ireland on the pitch: football had yet to be globalised. There was the great sportmanship- illustrated by the generous tributes the two managers, Terry Neill and Dave Sexton, paid to each other when interviewed side by side after the game. There was the dress of those in the crowd-while a few supporters wore their teams scarves- none were dressed in replica football jerseys- as most supporters are today.
The programme provided a snapshot of Britain at the end of one era, and at the start of another.
That summer, Liverpool became the first team to have advertising on its shirts.
A couple of years later, the rules were changed so that the home team kept all the gate receipts: the spirit of greed, unleashed by Thatcherism, was entering the sport.
British football, society and economy was never the same after May 1979.
And watching the Big Match video reminds us of the less commercialised, less money-obsessed world we have lost.
Oh, and it was also a classic game of football, with three goals in the last four minutes.
So much for those who say that good football only came to Britain with the advent of the big-bucks Premier League.
Watch and enjoy the incredible climax to the 1979 FA final above, and reflect on the world we lost when ‘Money Power’ and ‘Market Forces’ started to dictate every aspect of our lives.
And another thought: for those who believe that the Premier League has raised standards and improved English clubs chances of winning trophies in Europe, I give you this simple fact:
Number of times English clubs won the European Cup between 1977-84: 7
Number of times English clubs won the European Cup/Champions League since the advent of the Premier League in 1992/3 : er, 2. (er,3- as PJD reminds me in the comments, I forgot Liverpool's win in Istanbul in 2005). But it's still a very poor 17-year haul compared to the period 1977-84.