The Use and Abuse of Football Analogies

Comparing the potential mismanagement of Leicester City FC to the insane way in which Leicestershire’s fire services are being attacked by Nick Rushton and Peter Soulsby, Fire Brigades Union representative Duncan Reece used the following footballing analogy:

“Its like Claudio Ranieri going into his team meeting today and saying, er, we’ve decided fellas that, actually, goalkeepers are a thing of the past: in the modern game they’re overrated. We are not aiming to win anymore — Schmeichel go and get the bottles and bring them on at half-time, because the important thing is that we’ve got is a great big stadium and we’ve got the nicest kit.” (October 8, BBC Radio Leicester)

The ‘stadium’ being the recently built and largely empty £11 million fire services headquarters in Birstall, that will be kept open despite plans to close two fire stations, including the only station in Leicester city centre. Ominous plans presently under ‘consultation’ also include the termination of “three of the four busiest pumps in Leicester”.

FBU difference in serviceAs Reece continued: “The fact that we can’t play the football anymore doesn’t seem to matter, for me that’s how ridiculous these proposals seem.”

In opposition to Reece’s progressive use of a football analogy, inane ‘journalists’ like Eamonn Holmes marshal popular analogies against the public good. In his now infamous Sky News interview, Holmes dressed down Jeremy Corbyn for wanting to restore democratic processes to the Labour Party:

“Look, let’s talk football,” explained Holmes. “Your man’s Arsene Wenger my man’s Alex Ferguson. Do you think they go into a dressing room and they say, ‘listen boys, how are we going to line up tonight, what are we going to do tonight?’ […] No they don’t. Fergie always said he had to make it clear, there was one boss. That’s not your way of doing things though.” (September 30)

FootballCorbyn calmly pointing out that organising a democratic and participatory process of governance “is actually not the same as managing a football team”. That said, restoring Party democracy will be a huge task. This is because recent Labour leaders have favoured a more authoritarian style of leadership, and have actively fouled the long-standing democratic structures of their Party.

Of course, Holmes was totally ignorant of the fact that the Labour Party draws upon a proud history of enabling normal members of the working-class to influence policy decisions. This is why Holmes, with his belief that democracy is best run like undemocratic corporations, belittled Corbyn by rudely explaining: “You can’t listen to them all… it ain’t going to happen is it?”

Corbyn patiently explained to Holmes that in a democracy people don’t want or need “some all-seeing, all-knowing leader that will decide everything”. Adding, that encouraging the political process “to be inclusive to all people is something that’s good about politics, good about a democratic society”.

But Holmes, maintaining a patronising tone, very much in keeping with the democratic deficit exemplified by Rushton and Soulby, cut-off Corbyn’s aspirational talk of democracy by saying, “It’s never going to work!” So much for democracy.

This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury on 11th October.


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