I watched most of the closing ceremony of the Olympics, aside from my gripes at a few of the acts chosen (not for this blog post) – wow, great and gutted it’s all over – the main, able-bodied event that is – of course the Paralympics (the super human) start soon. After watching the handing over of the Olympic flag to Rio, I feel like there’s a gap in my life, there’s less to talk about – though I don’t struggle so much with that
An Olympic sized hangover
I’ve loved every minute of the games, what an outstanding success for Great Britain. Well done to Team GB, the organisers, the volunteers who’ve grafted so hard, the lucky spectators who got in to support the events and the fans nationwide (and not forgetting the tourists who’ve visited) they’ve grabbed a hold of the event and really taken it to their hearts – did you see the crowds in central London on Sunday for the Men’s Marathon? Stunning. I really never saw all this success coming, if I am honest I was pretty dismissive of it amongst family and friends – and I’m very happy to be eating my words – I’m dead proud for everybody involved.
It’s been special, maybe I’m too wrapped up in it, I just feel that this has been very important for Great Britain to experience, will we ever be the same? I hope not.
Why isn’t football feeling this real anymore?
I’ve always had the same feeling about footie tournaments ending, the Euros and World Cup, especially when I was a kid. In fact, in the run up to tournaments starting I literally felt sick with excitement – in a blink it was followed by that sinking feeling telling me that it’s ended, another 2 year wait ’til the next big one. The thing is, I am more gutted about the Olympics ending than the recent football tournaments. Which surprises me, why is that? It’s simple for me – this Olympics has been a true people’s sporting event. Here’s three examples that spring to mind…
- Olympic characters – just think of the main man Usain Bolt – all fun, interaction, taking pics with spectators camera’s – you would not really get that at football tournaments, or even Premiership games. I am not sure we have the characters in our game really these days either, people that will laugh and joke, players that are just people who are loving it and are really with the fans, me included if I look myself in the mirror these days.
- The mutual appreciation – we as spectators celebrate each and every win with the athletes, it’s feels personal somehow, you can see how open most athletes are, their gratitude, appreciation and pride at what they’ve achieved. The crowd feeling it back. Equally the guys that lose out on medals – have you hear how much they repeatedly apologise on live TV to their fans, compatriots and coaches. The level of heart and passion, it’s humbling.
- The sport is bigger than the athletes – this is it in summary for me – the smiles on so many faces of the athletes and spectators is evidence. There’s a connection.
What might football take from this?
Football has got lost up it’s own arse in so many ways – we get told this a lot as footballers in some shape or form – and compared to the Olympics it’s true. Can we honestly say that football at the Olympics fitted in? I don’t think so, the athletes there were still more detached, somehow. I’d go as far to say that it was a side-show, I really hate admitting this out loud about a game I adore, a game that’s my life.
It’s time football got a bit of humility. Seriously. Our game was always the ultimate peoples game, crossing all boundaries, like the Olympics. Yet it’s not anymore and surely we want to get that back? We need to.
- Players – we’re not bigger than our game. We’ve worked hard to get where we are and I wouldn’t take that away from any player at the top of their game. And yet, this sport has gifted us so much in terms of wealth as the ‘business of football’ has taken over and injected the cash. The truth is that too many of us (not all) need a reality check, I include myself and have said as much recently, we’re not bigger than the fans. Maybe we can learn something from Usain, Mo and Team GB. Some humility, gratitude and appreciation for the people who ultimately pay us – connect more with the fans somehow.
- Club (owners) – you’re not in the driving seat, the fans are. The Olympics teaches us this. Modern club owners are capitalising on decades and decades of clubs being a part of a community, you didn’t personally make this happen, you’ve bought into (and buyers continue to do so every year – the extreme with Man U recently raising capital at the NYSE). Bringing your money, enterprise and high-level professionalism to the game is good, no question, and yet it’s time to ask – is it going too far? Clubs bleat about the fans needing to support them, to buy the tickets and more merch, yet so often treat the fans with a level of disdain as though they’re cattle to be hearded. In short they act like big consumer brands. A road to ruin, surely?
- Associations (the FA, FIFA etc) – please let’s get some of the politics out of the game. It feels as though money is sucked into the higher echelons of management in our sport, employing more and more bureaucrats and pen pushers but with no real return for the sport itself – it feels a bit like the NHS in some sense!
- Broadcast and press media – time to plug into the fans’ conversation. I direct my frustration at the mediocre channels and press trying so desperately to be involved and lead the conversation and failing, the crap stories and awful negativity – urrggghhh – please stop it. It hurts the game. Yet when it’s done well – wow – take the BBC for the London Olympics – look at the level of quality, it works well when an accessible and open sport meets quality media investment. I’ve been impressed with Gary Lineker too, honest. Embrace the spectators having a voice through social media, this is the new media dynamic, it’s been partially embraced at the Olympics – and it’s heading like a steam-roller into football, whether we like it or not.
What say you – am I talking rubbish or making some sense? Let me know below.