Is Figo the man for FIFA?


It is official, Portugal legend Luis Figo is in the running to be the next FIFA president. The 42-year-old will certainly face a battle to unseat the incumbent president Sepp Blatter when his latest term comes to an end in May but he is backed by a number of influential figures in the game and he has the credentials to do the job.

Ordinary Fans

FigoFor us ordinary football fans, the FIFA presidency seems distant and it is hard to get too concerned about an election which seemingly has little to do with our playing or watching experience. Indeed, if the football betting experts at blue sq and other sites are to be believed, it is already a foregone conclusion.

Reputation

As the world governing body, FIFA have had to deal with allegations of scandal after scandal in recent years and have also been alleged to have allowed money to become the dominant consideration. The awarding of the World Cup to Qatar could be viewed as a prime example of where finance has overruled common sense. It also seems that the thoughts of fans, players and coaches have been completely disregarded by those in power in this case.

Pragmatism

Figo, as a seasoned international with experience of having played in two World Cups and three European Championships, would bring pragmatism to the presidency. If not necessarily knowing what fans want and need, he at least knows the views of players. He would not have allowed the World Cup to be degraded in such a way.

Strength of Character

In his first announcements as a presidential candidate, Figo has set the right tone. Unlike others who may have interests inside the organisation already, he recognises that FIFA’s reputation needs rebuilding and recognises that at this stage it is an organisation synonymous with alleged scandal. If Figo is to be successful, he will need to show guts and determination. He will need all of the strength of character that he showed when he left Barcelona for Real Madrid in 2000. As football fans there is little we can do to influence the outcome of the election but, for the future of our game, we must hope desperately that Figo, or a man like him, is able to succeed.

My First Game – Southend United


Southend United 1 Manchester United 0
Roots Hall,
Southend-on-Sea (att: 11,532)
League Cup
7th November 2006

Alex Johnson

In regards to being a football fan, I was undeniably a late-bloomer. When I was in primary school, I remember that whilst every other boy in my year rushed to school early to watch the 2002 World Cup on the big screen in the assembly hall, I stayed at home and played Pokemon on my Game Boy.

So, it is safe to say, I was not enamoured with the game like many others were at that age. However, when I became a teenager, and feeling that I needed to get in on the conversation, I had a change of heart. Undoubtedly, this was because Southend were playing Manchester United. Usually, my local team – having bounced between the two bottom leagues for a couple of decades – played against opponents neither myself nor even my football-addicted friends had heard of. But, even I had heard of Manchester United and knew how cool it would be to see them or, looking back, how cool it would be to tell people I had seen them.

Thankfully my dad, probably elated that I had finally shown some interest in his beloved Shrimpers, was happy to get us both tickets and did not question me about my motivations. I remember walking to the stadium and how, slowly but surely, fans converged around us along the way. It was like trickling streams all running into a powerful river. By the time we entered Roots Hall, we were surrounded and the anticipation was palpable.

Manchester United, who are currently 40/1 to win the 2014/15 Premier League, according to the football betting, were playing Southend for the first time. This was when Manchester United were at the height of their powers. Sir Alex Ferguson (pictured below) had just celebrated 20 years in charge at Old Trafford and the club were the defending champions of the League Cup after beating Wigan Athletic in the 2006 final. It was a fourth-round match and one which was not expected to be anything special; that is if you were not talking to a Southend fan.

My dad, ever the optimist, was convinced Southend had a shot and he was one of the more reserved fans that day. I remember everyone reassuring each other and pumping each other up as we went to our seats. It felt as if everyone had to keep talking up Southend’s chances or we would realise what we were up against.

I do not remember much of the match. I recall the throb of the crowd and the tense feeling that threatened to crack at any moment. In my mind, Southend were constantly inches from going down on the scoreboard during the first half. It was like watching a bull ram a rickety old fence, with the breaking of the defences being a matter of when not if.

Then it happened. Jamal Campbell-Ryce was fouled and Southend’s Freddie Eastwood stepped up for a free-kick. If I close my eyes I can still see how Eastwood’s shot seemed to defy gravity as it curled into the top corner of the net, hooking past the outstretched goalkeeper’s hand like a boomerang.

There was a moment of silence, like nobody dared quite believe what had happened. Then, the crowd exploded and my dad nearly sent me soaring into the row in front of us.

What followed, after half-time, was perhaps the tensest 45 minutes of my life. In my mind, Southend pretty much lined-up in a human wall during the second-half and it seemed that Manchester’s attacks were bombarding them every second. There were close-calls, near misses and pretty much everything in between. I think no-one dared hope that it could happen, that we could stay at 1-0. The look of relief on my Dad’s face when the final whistle blew is forever etched in my mind.

It was dramatic, eventful and historic. It was Southend’s first goal against a Premier League team and scored them a winning head-to-head with Manchester United, which still stands to this day. Moreover, I can honestly say, if it wasn’t such a significant match – and one showing the best that the sport has to offer – I would not be a fan today.

Back Home


“From back home I’ll be thinking about them 
When I am far away
From back home, I’ll be really behind them 
In every game they play
I’ll share every goal they are scoring
Out there
I will still hear them roaring 
And they’ll give all they’ve got to give 
For the folks away from home 

I’ll be watching and waiting
And cheering every move
Though I think we’re the greatest
That’s what they’ve got to prove
Once more they will meet with the best
Like before they’ll be put to the test
Oh they’ll give all they’ve got to give
For the folks away from home

I’ll see as they’re watching and praying
That they put their hearts in their playing
They’ll fight until the whistle goes
For the folks away from home”

Churchill-poster-282x400January hasn’t been the easiest month to be a Rooks fan.  A stonking away win at Grays Athletic (not that I can claim all the credit with my comprehensive scouting report mind) and the rousing home win in the Sussex Senior Cup quarter-finals versus Eastbourne Borough tempered with three defeats on the road where the team have hardly mustered a shot on target, let alone at goal. Despite the indifferent form that has yet to see the Rooks rise up the table, you have to go back to mid-September to find the last team to leave The Dripping Pan with all three points, and even them it was the league leaders Maidstone United.

For the first time in 2015 I was back in the country when Lewes were playing. My work travel schedule had so far meant I’d been in four different countries whilst Lewes had been playing recently. Following the action via Twitter is hard, especially in those nervous last few minutes. In the game versus Eastbourne Borough I was presenting at a conference in Sydney. My woops when Barry tweeted “FT: 2-1…” certainly woke up a few people at the back of the room, whilst when we conceded the opening goal on Monday at Kingstonian I’m not sure the Emirates lounge in Kula Lumpur totally appreciated my “For fuck sake” outburst. Technology gets better every day, so it can’t be long before Barry will streaming games through tiny cameras in his glasses across the world, saving me the pain of Twitter freeze.

But now I was Back Home (for those who don’t recognise the slightly amended version of the 1970 England World Cup Squad song), for a week at least, meaning all would be well with the world, Lewes would turn on the style and three points would be guaranteed. What could make the day better? How about some cheap beer left over from the previous night’s Beer Festival? Oh, go on then. Surely that would be the compelling event that would see East Thurrock bring their biggest away following ever?

IMG_3174A week ago I was sitting in a bar in Williamstown, just outside Melbourne (Victoria not Derbyshire), with a fellow Lewes Owner, sitting a Fat Yak in temperatures of 37 degrees. Heck, I even had my shorts on. Seven days later I was shivering on the pitch, reading out the teams. But who needs sunshine, well proportioned bar staff and killer spiders (I saw my first one later that afternoon) when you could have a pint of Harvey’s Scottish Ale, a Golden Goal ticket from Ethel and the roar of The Jungle? That was rhetorical question by the way.

In our award-winning* series of articles of Economic Theory explained by football, we looked the theory of value which surmised that the more football we watch, the less interest we have in each game. Having seen just three games in 30 days in 2015, my interest levels were at an all-time high. I’d take a scrappy 1-0 win today and it would be the best game ever.

Lewes 3 East Thurrock United 2 – The Dripping Pan – Saturday 31st January 2015
First the positives.  We won, and up until the 94th minute, we won comfortably.  Two first half Sam Cole goals capped one of the best Lewes performances we had seen for many-a-month.  Despite the heavy, muddy pitch, you also have to doff your cap to our groundsmen Jack and Joe who had worked wonders to give us a game despite the conditions.

16413741852_73be8c88a5_hOn the negative side – East Thurrock.  Light yellow numbers on white shirts, in the dim Non League floodlights?  Really?  Nobody in the ground could see the number of the player who scored either of their goals, so when one of their officials decided to criticise us for a) announcing the wrong scorer and then b) not announcing their second scorer is a bit rich.  In the first half another of their officials had accused Lewes of cheating to take a two nil lead.  Firstly, Elliott Romain took a dive, apparently, when he was clean through on goal and had pushed the ball around the keeper.  The referee saw it as a penalty, although how he didn’t send off David Hughes was a mystery as Romain was in front of the defender before he was impeded (see Boysie’s picture and make your own mind up on both counts). Sam Cole stroked the penalty home then added a second when the ball fell at his feet three yards out after a free-kick from the right (awarded after Muggeridge dived according to same official – it was an eventful 5 minutes waiting for my food I can tell you).

IMG_3169Let’s take a minute to talk about Non-League food.  Not only did we have the beauty of the Beer Festival brews (Aspire and Scottish Ale ticked every box) but also the food on offer.  We don’t just do chips you know. We do “Poutine”…and they were absolute awesome (and so was the bagel).  Add in a superb first half performance and it was up there with my wedding day.

Lewes started the second half liked they meant business, scoring a third when Griffiths headed home, then Fraser hit the post.  Our lucky Talisman Patrick Marber thought we may need four to be safe and he was nearly right as East Thurrock came back into the game.  Higgins (although we couldn’t see that at the time) scored twice, the last one in the 94th minute to give the final score a rather flattering look.

I couldn’t have asked for a better homecoming.  Football, beer and food.  Three of the four ingredients to a great day.  I will keep tight-lipped on the fourth just in case the Current Mrs Fuller has other ideas.

 

 

Economic Theory explained by Football – Part 8 – The Theory of Value


In the eighth of the Football-themed Economic articles, one of the world’s greatest mysteries is unravelled – The Theory of Value.

Former Morecambe, Stockport County and Grimsby Town striker Phil Jevons may not appear to be much of a deep thinker but the Jevons family are famous for defining one of the more interesting economic theories – that of utility and satisfaction.  His distance ancestor, William Jevons was a bit of a brain box, creating a piano that played itself based on logic and an early computer that could analyse the truthfulness of an argument.  Forward thinking indeed for the late 19th century.

Jevon’s theory was simple.  Too much football makes you bored.  Remember when live football on TV was restricted to the odd Home International and the FA Cup Final.  Match of the Day and The Big Match gave us a couple of highlights every weekend and that was it.  And we lapped it up.  Cup Final day was an eight hour footballing extravaganza that the whole family watched.

8710863386_841af277e1_bWhen England played Norway in a pointless early season friendly in September the official attendance was 40,181.  Official means that the FA included all those lucky people who bought Club Wembley seats some time ago…bought yes, attended the game? Maybe not, so the attendance was probably significantly lower than this.  Yes, but what about those watching on ITV I hear you say?  4.5 million people switched on at some point during the game – nearly half of that who enjoyed the delights of The Great British Bake Off on BBC at the same time.  Why?  Well, perhaps because of the theory that Jevons articulated.

Jevons said that the more that we consume of a product, the smaller the increase in satisfaction we receive from it.  With that statement he created the law of diminishing marginal utility.  Whilst we all want our team to be winning week after week, we would actually gain less and less enjoyment from each win.  Interestingly enough, according to Jevons, demand for the product should actually decrease and that will in turn reduce the price.  Think of going out after the game and having a few beers.  At some point they stop being enjoyable and actually start doing you harm as the hangover kicks in.

In footballing terms we can see both sides of the coin.  Teams who win week after week are actually more in demand.  Crowds go up, fan satisfaction increases and in the true economic sense, a club could actually charge more for the product and the fans would continue to a point where the price for “satisfaction” becomes unsustainable.  But if we start to lose, then we get less and less enjoyment out of each game and eventually even the most ardent fan gives up.  The moral here according to Jevons, spurned another famous saying – “You win some, you lose some” – that’s what keeps us football fans interested.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is The Theory of Value in a nutshell.

Economic Theory explained by Football – Part 7 – The Veblen Effect


In the seventh of his deep-thinking articles, our in house Economist Stuart Fuller demonstrates why lowering ticket prices is a bad thing.

Hands up who wants a Rolls-Royce?  Ok, apart from Cynical Dave and Deaks who can’t drive.  We would all love to own one, right?  But it is just a dream for when we win the lottery, or England enjoys Sahara-like conditions and the solar panels on the roof of the Main Stand pay us a fortune.  But what if they reduced the price by 90%?  Would you still want one then if every Tom, Dick and Deaks could afford one?  Second thoughts eh?  That is the Veblen effect for you.

15791879632_0be24a2e8b_kThorstein Veblen* came up with this theory back in 1899.  Sheffield United had just won the FA Cup and paraded the trophy at Bramall Lane.  Veblen was unhappy that only a few thousand fans were in the ground, singing a version of Annie’s Song that was so cruelly credited to John Denver nearly eighty years later.  He hated the fact that it was an “Exclusive” club, with ticket prices kept high to keep out the riff-raff.  “Let them eat Eccles Cake” he famously said, referring them to becoming Sheffield Wednesday fans.

Veblen’s theory was relatively simple.  He noted that some types of luxury goods, such as high-end wines, designer handbags, luxury cars and tickets to see United were prestige items, or as he liked to call them, Veblen goods.  He noted that in decreasing their prices, people’s preference for buying them also diminished because they are no longer perceived as exclusive or high-status products. Similarly, a price increase may increase that high status and perception of exclusivity, thereby making the goods even more preferable.  So he argued that Sheffield United should actually increase their ticket prices to drive up attendances.

Even a Veblen good is subject to the dictum that demand moves conversely to price, although the response of demand to price is not consistent at all points on the demand curve meaning that it is not simply good enough for a football club to slash its prices as people will not see any value at all in what is now on offer (See our previous article on Pay What You Want Theory).

It seems someone in the Premier League found Veblen’s original work in a drawer when moving desks at Premier League HQ a few years ago and passed the idea across to the Premier league clubs who immediate put their ticket prices up thinking the fans will flock through the gates.  They were wrong, Veblen was wrong and yes, we all want a Rolls-Royce for the price of a Lada.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Veblen Theory in a nutshell.

*Whilst Veblen came up with the theory, it is unclear whether he really was a Sheffield United fan.

Economic Theory explained by Football – Part 6 – The Bandwagon effect


In the sixth of my deep-thinking articles motivated by wasted years in Economics lectures, I try to explain why football fans are the most fickle people in the world.

“I was there when we were relegated against Middlesborough at The Bridge.”  It’s amazing how many Chelsea fans I meet who, when I claim were “Johhny-cum-lately’s” wheel out the fact they were there when The Blues were relegated for the last time back in 1988.  Of course, back then stadiums could hold hundreds of thousands of fans.  These fans will have you believe they have been die-hard blues forever and a day.  However, we all know that they simply jumped on the bandwagon about 3 minutes after Roman Abramovich arrived in SW6.

8113550145_fca2b7e62e_zBut there is actually an economic theory that explains this action.  The bandwagon effect is a phenomenon whereby the rate of uptake of beliefs, ideas, fads and trends increases the more that they have already been adopted by others. In other words, the bandwagon effect is characterized by the probability of individual adoption increasing with respect to the proportion who have already done so.  As more people come to believe in something, others also “hop on the bandwagon” regardless of the underlying evidence.  The tendency to follow the actions or beliefs of others can occur because individuals directly prefer to conform, or because individuals derive information from others.  Big words indeed from Mr Solomon Asch there who derived the theory from his conformity experiments back in the 1950’s after watching his beloved Portsmouth win a second consecutive Football League Division One title.

Whilst the Pompey Chimes rang out around Fratton Park, Sol wondered where all these fans had come from.  A few seasons earlier they had been giving away free tickets to the Royal Navy to fill up the ground and now that they were the best team in England it was standing room only, quite literally.  He concluded that when individuals, or fans in this case, make rational choices based on the information they receive from others, in this case fellow fans down the Dog and Duck or in the “pink ‘un”, information cascades can quickly form in which people decide to ignore their personal information signals and follow the behaviour of others – i.e whilst yesterday they were a Southampton fan, today they support Portsmouth because people like the winning feeling.

A year later when Tottenham Hotspur won the league all of those die-hard Pompey fans disappeared from where they had come from.  Why?  Well Asch had the answer in his original theory.  He said that the fact information “cascades” explains why their behaviour is fragile—these “fans” understand that they are swayed on very limited information. As a result, fads form easily but are also easily dislodged.  That explains why you never see a Blackburn Rovers fan anymore and probably why you wont find many Whitehawk ones…apart from Terry Boyle that is.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is The Brandwagon Effect in a nutshell.