Subbuteo returns to emphasise the chasm between the simple game of football of the 1970s and the modern day multimillion pound corporate industry.

September 4, 2010

A regional daily newspaper has found a new way around the ban on photographers imposed by Southampton Football Club – by using Subbuteo table football figures to recreate a match!! The Swindon Advertiser invented this surreal idea as a way of covering the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy match between Swindon Town and Southampton, as the latter brought in the controversial ban on press photographers at its ground last month, stipulating that newspapers should instead pay for images taken by its own professionals.

Although no longer possessing the power and clout they once had, regional papers have quite rightly refused to buy the club’s photos and many have found alternative ways of covering the game, including using pictures from cartoons.  Anthony Marshall, chief sports writer at the Swindon Advertiser, decided to use the popular football game of the 1970s, Subbuteo, to recreate key moments from the match.  He meticulously painted the plastic football players so they were in the correct colours and set up a pitch in the office of the local newspaper.  He then recreated  the match on the Subbuteo pitch and had photos taken of the key incidents.  Anthony Marshall summed up the farcical situation at St Marys, when he commented: ” Regardless of their history – when a club in the third tier of English football starts talking about image rights then you know something is drastically wrong with the game we all know and love.”

The very act of using the using the simplistic and popular game of Subbuteo from the 1970s, to circumnavigate the foolish greed of modern day football clubs perfectly emphasises and illustrates the malaise that has crept into the modern day game since the advent of the Premier League, funded by the revenue streams from Sky TV!! Let’s face it, even in it’s day Subbuteo was a clumsy, fiddly, pedestrian tabletop game, but it evokes memories of a sport that was played for the people, not for the benefit of financiers, entrepreneurs and shareholders. For most of the 20th century, the fan was the main shareholder in the football club, as the club relied on the gate receipts from the turnstiles to fund it’s business. Of course the financing of the club was supplemented by the sale of match day programmes, Bovril and a meat and potato pie at half time and perimeter fencing advertising.

In the 1980s, we witnessed our football teams’ traditional shirt colours clashing with the garish logos of club sponsors, but we could live with that. In the 1980s, we could still relate to the player: he was one of us, a down to earth, working class bloke  with a talent who earned in one week, what we earned in a month. In 2010 the chasm between the fan and the player is massive, exemplified by the fact that the top players earn in one week, what the average person would earn in five years!!

We were told that the advent of the Premier League in 1992 would herald the dawning of a golden era for the football fan, but all that has happened in the intervening eighteen years is that the sport has been submerged in corporatisation and commercialism, and the fan has become totally disenfranchised and divorced from the game. The drowning out of the vocal support of fans by the tedious vuvazelas during this summer’s World Cup matches, is symbolic of the muting of the fans’ voice in the modern game in general. And that is why England’s dismal performances in the World Cup were met with such derision and hostility: all we wanted was for the players to forget their Bentleys and Ferraris for a month, and instead drive the nation’s ambitions towards the latter stages of the competition with the same passion and pride that the fan exhibits every match day!!

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