What price will football pay for these allegations?

Bradford City fan’s will always fondly remember the football boom years. The time that the Premiership broke away saw us make a march out of the trenches of the lower leagues and a push through into glory. We took the hits for it and are suffering now but in our private moments we all know that even these times, bad as they are, are worth the slump for the glory of that 1-0 win over Liverpool. We were not the biggest benefactors of football’s boom years, but we shared in the good times.

Some people put the boom down to England’s performance in the 1990 World Cup and one moment specifically when Paul Gascoigne turned the watching million’s perception of footballers on it’s head.

Post Gascoigne footballer’s were not – as Wor Jackie Milburn called it – “chasing a bit of leather around the field” they were emotional. They were artisans, perhaps artists. They cared about the game and invited you to to. In that moment of Geordie tears footballers changed and football changed with it.

Gascoigne was only half of the whole though. Like the semi-final in Italy, the semi final at Hillsbrough that proceeded it by fourteen months was watched by millions and was a theatre of tears and like Gascoigne the visuals changed perceptions. Footballer’s may have waited a year and a bit for the populous to look at them differently but in the hours, days and weeks that followed Hillsbrough football supporters stopped being the scarf round face thugs of Millwall or menace of The Leeds United Service Crew and started being victims. These people were not coming to smash up your town centre any more, they were burying their friends.

Once Gascoigne cried and a nation of Mother’s who had previously forbade the 2.4 from going to the local ground saw no harm in letting little Chris and Kirsty continue the buzz of the World Cup in the following August and what-the-hey she might as well come herself the boom was inevitable and most of us rode the wave until the summer of 2001.

It was ITV Digital’s demise that gets the blame but in all honesty the whole game was living too fast on too little. One can argue as to why the boom years ended: Chris and Kirsty may have grown up or the processional nature of the Premiership might have made the game less worth emotional investment in. It could be that the high paid footballer doing naff all Alen Boksic style turned off too many people or it may have just been that as the boom put football into pop culture it left it open the the swing away that such any pursuit that goes for fashionability suffers. Pop culture might have started to reinvent itself without football within it. If pop culture lasted for ever the kids would listen to The Beatles not Busted.

Whatever the reason football’s boom slowed and slumped and this is where were until last Sunday morning’s rape allegations against eight Premiership footballers. Now everything could change again.

Without even passing comment on the allegations or possible involvement – in fact in a sense it really does not matter to the game if people are guilty or innocent – the stink from this will make as marked an impact on the game as Gascoigne’s tears did thirteen years ago. Footballer’s will not be artists or artisans, they will be seen as criminals. Come one come all just as the likes of Lee Duxbury and Paul Jewell drew a crowd on the back of Gazza’s emotions so Paul Evans and Ben Muirhead will see audiences dwindle because the same sort of people who were drawn to the game will be repelled. Chris and Kirsty might be called Cosheen and Kris these days but they will not be at the local ground because who’s Mother is going to let them watch footballer’s play in that context?

Who is going to pay money to have their corporate logo’s emblazoned on footballer’s shirts? Who is going to pay money to entertain their clients at a football match in that context? These revenue streams will not go, but the once torrent of money will become a trickle.

Football, the cool sport of the 1990s, will be shunned and financially it will pay the price.

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