Football Sold its Soul to the Media?
The increase in investments in football has been considered as a force of good since it has revolutionized various aspects of the game for the better. In actual sense, money has revolutionized football by contributing to its development as a globalized sport that connects people together. These investments have also been characterized by the increased inclusion of the media, especially television in the football. Media has played a crucial role in changing the face of football just like increased investments in this sport. However, there have been numerous concerns and questions in the recent past on whether football has sold its soul to the media, which is increasingly changing the face of football. Actually, the increased use of the media and its impact on football has remained a major controversial issue. While this trend has been associated with some major benefits, it has been characterized with controversies and assertions that football has sold it soul to the media.
History of Football
In the old days, football was not broadcasted on television and other media to the extent that it is today (Stumpo, 2012). During this period, fans would have to attend the live game or wait until the end in order to know the final score either through radio announcements or on printed newspaper the following day. Football scores were not available on the Internet as it is today where people can receive live updates of events and scores on the pitch.
Generally, football has a long and detailed history that is largely traced back to England where it was developed and codified. Actually, the contemporary worldwide game of football was first formulated and developed in London, England in 1863. The sport was initially developed as a means or tool of uniting English public schools and universities. Nonetheless, there is evidence that team football games started in English schools as early as 1581, though the modern worldwide game of football was codified in 1863. Therefore, England is considered as the home of the oldest football clubs and the oldest football competition throughout the world.
Since its inception, football has remained the most popular sport in the history of mankind and continued to experience considerable developments and transformations. The constant development and transformation of this sport has largely been attributed to its increased popularity throughout the world. One of the major developments in football is the inclusion of the media, particularly television. The sport was first broadcasted live on television in the United Kingdom in 1937 by the British Broadcasting Corporation or BBC (“History of Football on TV,” n.d.). The first football game to be televised was a specially organized friendly match between Arsenal and Arsenal Reserves at Highbury, London. This was followed by live screening of international football and the FA Cup final the following year by British Broadcasting Corporation. The first World Cup tournament was screened live in the United Kingdom in 1954 whereas ITV started to broadcast live matches in 1955 from the newly-created European Cup.
Following these ground-breaking events, television has remained a crucial part of the global game of football. The initial years of the use of television in football was basically to reach out to a wider audience that would otherwise not attend the game or watch it live. Moreover, television was primarily a platform that would promote the growth of the sport through increasing its popularity worldwide. Football fans or supporters considered the use of television as a platform for them to keep up-to-date with the events in the game.
Development of Football
As previously mentioned, in the early years of its inception, football was a sport that was formulated and developed as means of unifying English public schools and universities. Similar to other sports, football played a significant role in cultural life in the early days. Actually, football was a major part of England’s cultural history and contributed to a sense of national identity and pride during its early years. During these years, football was part of a culture of self-development and growth, pattern of famous festivity, a special form of entertainment and a means of promoting moral education.
However, the sport was largely popular among the elite and was associated with increased violence and lawlessness to an extent that it was initially prohibited in certain places in England where it was first formulated and developed. Despite the continued problem of violence and lawlessness that characterized football in its early years, its attracted widespread popularity to an extent that it was used in various places for different reasons and purposes.
In the past few decades, football has undergone several developments and transformations that have contributed to its major changes in the modern society as compared to the early days. The sport has changed to an extent that it is now more than a sport since it is currently a brand and the most popularized game across the globe. The increased globalization and popularity of this sport is attributed to the fact that it is currently watched and loved by billions of people worldwide and has emerged as a billion dollar business and industry (Bayley, 2013). As compared to the early days, football in the modern society is increasingly commercialized through increased investments by companies and individuals. The massive investments and tremendous impact of the media on football has contributed to concerns that major investors are destroying the roots and soul of the game. These money-making mandarins are accused of destroying the game through constantly seeking for means of globalizing, commercializing, and sanitizing the game.
Actually, football has entered into an era or period of spending giants and more investments by private investors and media companies. One of the most significant negative impacts of this trend is that the fans are no longer a major consideration in efforts to develop the game. These investors and spending giants seem to increasingly ignore fans with regards to how the game is run and developed. In essence, the control and running of football in the contemporary society is primarily based on money and the power of the media, particularly television. Therefore, the injection of huge amounts of money and increased use of television in the sport is gradually creating a sense of danger and uncertainty.
Impact of the Media on Football
Major developments in football in the recent past have been centered on two major factors i.e. The injection of huge amounts of money and increased use of the media, especially television in the game. As previously mentioned, the media was initially a platform for the growth and increased popularity of football. The media had a tremendous impact on the sport by contributing to the increased popularity of football, which in turn resulted in considerable changes and developments of the sport over the years. The media has gradually become a component of popular culture through which it influences football.
One of the ways the media has impacted football is through affecting the way with which people view and understand the game. This is primarily because media coverage of football and other sports is not merely concerned with the game but it certainly continues to make implicit and explicit statements that influence people’s perception and understanding of the game (Whannel, 1992, p.2). These statements, which are made through words and pictures, relate to various issues including the position of men and women, sense of nation and class, and relation to other countries.
Secondly, the media has changed the face of sport, especially football in the past three decades together with sponsorship. These changes include shaping kit sponsorship, marketing of football matches, and decisions on where the World Cup tournaments are hosted. The increased media coverage of football has made the sport to become a branch of advertising and public relations, which have changed the face of the game. Third, television and the media in general has become a huge source of revenue for football and other sports because of its ability to draw huge television audiences worldwide. This has in turn created a platform for huge earnings for football through sponsorship deals that generate huge amounts of money. As a result of acting as a huge source of revenue for football, the media has transformed contemporary football by resulting in the emergence of billionaire owners and private investors in this sector. This has allowed several football clubs worldwide to spend unlimited amounts of money on buying the best players rather than promoting the development of young talent or home-grown players.
Negative Impacts of the Media on Football
Despite the previously mentioned positive impacts of the media on football, there are several negative impacts. The negative impacts of the media on football are largely attributed to the fact that it has promoted and attracted external influences on the game. The first negative impact of the media on football is that it’s distortion of people’s view of some sports personalities, countries or ideas. Media has sometimes distorted people’s view regarding sports men and women because of its influence on people’s perception regarding the sport. This distortion occurs through biased news and information sources that sometimes portray extreme favoritism towards some players, leagues, and clubs (Stumpo, 2012). For instance, British media tends to show extreme favoritism towards English players, leagues, and clubs as compared to foreign personalities or entities, which contributes to distorted views of these foreign entities.
Secondly, the media has contributed to the inflated costs of both local and foreign sports personalities because of biased new or information as well as influence on how the game is managed. In the modern football world, the cost of both local and foreign players is largely influenced by the how these players are viewed by the press. The inflated prices of players sometimes do not reflect the actual value and talent of the player. Moreover, these inflated prices have made players to become targets for paparazzi across the globe as well as the focal point of much gossip and speculation.
Third, the media has made it hard for some locals to attend games and follow their team by attracting sponsorships that have in turn contributed to high ticket costs. While a football club plays a crucial role in communities since it acts as a tool of bringing people from poor backgrounds together for the love of the game, high ticket prices because of sponsorship deals has made it difficult for some clubs to promote social integration within their communities. Unfortunately, the media has played a role in driving away fans because of constant increase of ticket prices, which are unaffordable to many families (Bayley, 2013).
The other way in which the media has negatively influenced football is through the portrayal of various sports personalities. The media has largely influenced or affected the lives of players outside their actual value and made them the focus of much gossip and speculation. In some cases, reporters have acted unethically in attempt to create a story that would promote the sale of their respective news or information pieces. In some cases, media sources may influence the ability of a player and drive away his/her fans by constant attempts to portray a negative side of the player or his/her inside life away from the glare of the cameras.
As previously mentioned, the media engages in unethical practices in representation or portrayal of players by showing extreme favoritism. The media’s representation of a player is sometimes based on the price tag, nationality, and ability of the player. As a result, the media would tend to favor coverage of players on the high-end of life as compared to those who are massively talented but still growing in various football academies across the globe. An example of favoritism that the media demonstrated in representation of players is upholding conventional masculine and feminine stereotypes. The media tends to place males sports personalities above females athletes, particularly football. During the World Cup the coverage of players in red top newspapers and tabloids tend to focus on star players and those with a high price tag and seemingly ignores the other crop of players. The coverage of these players is sometimes based on the sponsorship deals they have with private investors and commercialization initiatives fueled by the media. Therefore, to a large extent the media has negatively affected football through bias reporting in various measures including extreme focus on star and highly-priced players while ignoring others even in major tournaments like the World Cup.
Impact on Young People
According to Whannel (2002), the power of the media has constantly been a major point of concern since there are fears associated with the loss of power for certain institutions (p.3). As evident in this analysis, the media has had considerable positive and negative impacts on football with seemingly more negative effects and external influences than positive ones. Media coverage of football and other sports have had several impacts on young people whose perceptions and views of sports personalities are shaped by the media. One of the major impacts of this trend is that it has made young people to increasingly look for role models in football and other sports. Young people seemingly expect football to provide positive role models because the media has generated too much money and extreme nationalistic rivalries in football. The extreme focus on star and highly-priced players has made young people to assume that the lives of these sport personalities are the perfect kind of lives to emulate.
Secondly, this trend has had a bad influence on young people since the bias coverage and other external influences brought by the media to football have relatively resulted in the collapse of a moral framework (Whannel, 2002, p.4). The collapse of a moral framework among young people is attributed to the fact that media has contributed to increased commercialization of football. Consequently, football is no longer a sport that promotes social integration and unifies people but is increasingly considered and viewed as a tool for making money. For young people, football is no longer a sport with significant social values but a means or profession for money making. This has in turn contributed to the conceptualization of the media as a fund of bad influences on young people through its influences on football.
Third, this trend has negatively impacted young people by relatively destroying or preventing a symbolic arena where football heroes can parade and epitomize the noblest values while providing role models to which young people can aspire and emulate. The symbolic arena has seemingly been destroyed since the media sometimes provide negative or biased news in football. The symbolic arena of the sport has been damaged by contributing to a platform where the game is no longer free from corruption because of increased commercialization.
Football is a game whose origin was to promote social integration and unify people as well as acting as a form of entertainment. Since its inception, the game has undergone several developments and transformations including increased media coverage. The media coverage of football and football players has had considerable positive and negative effects on football. One of the major effects of the media on football is increased commercialization of the sport and creating several external influences. Given the far reaching effects and changes that the media has brought to the sport, it can be concluded that football has sold its soul to the media.
Bayley, J 2013, Football Sold its Soul for Money, Backpage Football, viewed 7 January 2015,
Live Football on TV n.d., History of Football on TV, The Ultimate Football TV Guide, 7 January
Stumpo, A 2012, Has Football Sold Its Soul to the Media? Bleacher Report, viewed 7 January
Whannel, G 1992, Fields in vision: television sport and cultural transformation, Routledge
Taylor & Francis Group, New York.
Whannel, G 2002, Media sports stars — masculinities and moralities, Routledge — Taylor & Francis Group, New York.
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