Is football becoming middle class? It’s not that simple. The old industrial north from which professional football sprang is gone. That “working class” exists only in the lives of its elderly surviving members. You have to stake your claim to being working class nowadays. But the idea of what being middle class was has also changed. It used to mean more than just being white collar. Those values too have changed. And no one really wants to lay too much claim to them.
Anyone who knows anything about British sociological change since World War II will find that preceding paragraph entirely unsatisfactory, and that’s OK. It’s a huge subject.
What is true is that people do want to claim roots within, links from, a “working class” and that many use football as one of their means of doing so. Especially in the media.
The way they choose to do this shows ignorance of what real working class life was like. Instead, what comes forth is a bizarre mixture of pretend accents, gangster-worship, and cod nostalgia. Professional football was an overwhelmingly northern phenomenon, but this is a southern one. Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle, Sunderland and Glasgow are innocent.
I’ve just moved away from a small town in the south that’s got this real bad. Imagine a miniature Milton Keynes full of rootless people locked into a neverending audition for EastEnders.
It can have the look of satire at first, but then you realize that they’re deadly serious. Which brings me to satire. Easily the most overrated and self-seeking form of comedy, it’s become the locus of many middle-class people’s political education. But this time, it’s found a proper target. I hope you agree with me here – that what follows is long, long overdue. I think it should be on continuous loop on huge screens hung over a thousand high streets and malls in the south until the message gets across.
Enjoy. I certainly did.