14 November 2021: The sorry capture of Geordie pride
It has taken me a while to digest those pictures of Newcastle United fans wheeling and whooping with delight at the Saudi takeover of their club. Instead of feeling shame at this corruption of their club, they are lost in humiliation at Newcastle's failure over many years to be a top club, and believe that Saudi money will free them from that humiliation. Where would one start to re-engineer the emotional dynamics of this sad situation amongst those fans who have allowed their pride to be perverted in this way? And would there be any point, unless ownership can be taken away? In the short term the only thing is to hope they will be relegated.
4 November 2021: The murder of David Amess
When the killer of David Amess is brought to trial, and more information about him appears in the public domain, it is a safe bet that we will be presented with yet another disturbed individual whose chosen way of trying to manage his own inner turbulence was to visit murderous violence upon someone he didn't know, and to rationalise his action with a smattering of Islamist rhetoric.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali's recent articles in Unherd rightly point to the influence of toxic ideas which are given space in the ambient culture, but she misses the key role of individual psychopathology as a driver of attacks, and as the basis of commonalities between Islamist and extreme right-wing violence. An understanding of its sources is the starting point for any effective containment of terrorism of all sorts.
20 April 2021: The paradox of a football superleague
Ownership of a football club may in itself bring sufficient narcissistic reward for some of the men who have bought clubs - to be in control of such an emotionally powerful and socially important thing must be a gratifying experience. And in the best cases, little or no money is being made, but the owner develops some feeling for the club and its fans. But in other cases, including it now seems the 'dirty dozen' across three countries, the narcissistic need is not satisfied at the level where good can still be done. It must drive on towards deeper and wider control and relentless accumulation of wealth.
Across the last three decades football has become a domain of great appeal to people interested in accumulating wealth. They may have no feeling for the game at all, but they see the wealth potential in the enormous appeal which football now has globally, one based on its specific form and capacity to evoke involvement and excitement. However, part of that appeal (as of all sport) rests on its unpredictability, which is generally not good for business. So the ultimate source of football's wealth, the appeal it has for audiences, is its flaw as a business. The European SuperLeague proposal, even if it is a negotiating ploy and not a real plan, fails to appreciate this, which could undermine its potency as a threat. Its aim is to stabilise the budgets of the fifteen permanent members by guaranteeing they do not fall off the gravy train. But as David Baddiel and no doubt many others have pointed out, who would want to pay to watch endless exhibition matches in other countries with little or nothing at stake?
However we must beware a complacency about the 'beautiful game' and its current place in global culture. Just as owners may be in it for narcissistic reason, so may some fans, to whom there is a magical boost to self-experience in identifying with a team full of galacticos, a club with a massive stadium and an image of limitless wealth.