Imagine a government monopoly in ten-pin bowling where prospective bowlers must first apply with their local government council for a permit to play on a government-sponsored team. That would certainly be a bad idea. Similarly, in most countries government is a problem for the sport of soccer football. Exacerbating the problem of government are corporations - themselves creatures of the state. It remains a story of how government and their offspring - the corporation, has been a tool for greedy elites to enrich their pockets at the expense of the powerless. Soccer football has become a victim of corporate statism, pure and simple.
John Sugden, an investigative sociologist at the University of Brighton in England and author of the award-winning "Boxing and Society", has teamed up with colleague Alan Tomlinson to apply the methodology of participant observation to the study of soccer footballs' governing body - FIFA. Sugden and Tomlinson are not only creatures of Britain's socialist society, but prisoners. Their progressive leftist views are fruitful in discerning elite behavior but ill-serves them when trying to arrive at solutions to the problem. The British duo advocates more government for a problem generated by government in the first place, which is absurd. Government and their corporations are the problem, not the solution.
Beginning with a preface on page 7, the authors' saga runs for 277 pages ending on page 284. There is no bibliography and no index. It is a story more than it is a sociological or ethnographic account of an investigation of FIFA governorship and corruption. Despite these shortcomings, the authors are great storytellers and know how to write for story. This book is well-crafted and easy to read. It's 15 chapters are : Chapter 1) Blattergate; Chapter 2) The Blazer-and-Slacks Brigade; Chapter 3) Goodbye, Colonel Blimp; Chapter 4) The Big Man; Chapter 5) The Predator and the Protégé; Chapter 6) The Bounty Hunter; Chapter 7) The Big Boss; Chapter 8) A Rumble in the Jungle; Chapter 9) From Protégé to President; Chapter 10) The Politics of the Belly; Chapter 11) Tout Heaven; Chapter 12) The Best Club in the World; Chapter 13) Bidding Wars; Chapter 14) The Terminator; and Chapter 15) Fifaland.
The problem of government is give ample treatment by the authors. They tell us that FIFA leader Joseph Blatter "reeled in the face of accusations of administrative malpractice, financial mismanagement and outright organisational [sic] deception and fraud" by the media against "the FIFA president and his network of cronies, crooks and charlatans who have made personal gains from their lofty positions" (pp12-13). When Blatter was reelected double the margin from his previous election, it revealed that most governments "were worried about what would come out if Blatter lost, for so many had done well over the years out of him"(p13).
Another example of government as the problem is "When football emerged from colonialism as one of the few institutions which captured the imagination of diverse populations, it became a target for political interference and economic exploitation by powerful political elites" (p162). The authors explain that "Football administrators are often appointed and fired at the whim of unelected political leaders who want to have control of national teams and get their hands on any money which football generates" (p162). They conclude "We would not want national governments to run football".
John Sugden and Alan Tomlinson did a nice job of setting forth the problem of government, which is yielded like a cudgel by elites against those unable to take hold of it for themselves. What do the authors think should be done? Curiously, they say "FIFA must be brought within the embrace of an accountable international organisation [sic] such as the United Nations" with the caveat that "the UN and the EC have their own problems" (pp280-281). More government is not the answer to the problem of government in sport. If government is the problem, then it cannot be the solution. The answer is to abolish government games, thereby allowing individual teams to direct their own affairs. To get there, FIFA will need to be defanged.