sShortly after midday on November 22, 1963, Aldous Huxley, the novelist-turned-consciousness extender, was lying in bed dying. And not only death, but acid death. When his wife was preparing for his last dose of LSD, she heard on the radio that something else had happened. John F Kennedy was shot. This presented a dilemma.
Did Huxley really need to be told, by the way, Aldous, I know you’re dying of acid now, but one of the most mind-blowing events of the 20th century just happened? At the event, Huxley was allowed to drift off, immersed in his own ecstasy, undisturbed by half-intelligible visions of a lush spring or the Dallas police. The reason I mention it here is because this image has gone through a lot of mind in recent weeks while she was enjoying and distracted by professional sports; Meanwhile, we describe the endless scroll of news and counter-news from what we should, out of habit, call “the real world.”
There you decode Cruyff-based icons of Erling Haaland’s flying shot, and someone keeps screwing up your sleeve saying, “You really need to focus on the impending hostile collapse of the established world order.” They are opening ‘warm centers’ in northern England when they run out of gas this winter. But hey, Todd Boehly’s all-star game has divided football. Can you keep it a little? We’re trying to die happily on acid here.
In the middle of this there is one theme that continues to penetrate these two worlds; Which is only now allowed to sit there, unresolved, inescapable, and uncomfortably bleak. The thing is, we should probably think about it now.
This week Gareth Southgate announced his squad for England’s final matches ahead of Qatar 2022. Last week Liz Truss announced that you’ll have to pay just £2,500 on your energy bills, while he has also (follow the ball under the cup) funded this with his £100bn. in taxes. This week, the French government also limited payments for energy and, by extension, payments to Qatar’s gas industry, at a cost of billions in its public portfolio.
Also this week, Qatar opened their amazing $767 million Lusail Stadium, which is really a lot of money, but not a huge one because they, and you really, have it covered. Did we mention that Kylian Mbappe scored again? These points are very interconnected and it seems very obvious to draw a line between them. Everyone knows football is in trouble for fossil fuels and ambitious nation states. But the war in Ukraine, the loss of Russian energy, and the profit of OPEC+ have put this in a brutal focus. So much so that it was worth taking a moment to think about how the flow of power and money affected, with a football sitting like Lord Hao Hao in the middle of it.
There is a kind of FIFA black comedy here. The war started from the last world Cup Hosts are now filling the coffers of hosts for the next World Cup, while generating mind-boggling profits for the newest 2030 bidders and current Newcastle United owners (a war that included, needless to say, an invasion of the hosts of Euro 2012. Take that UEFA!). In the midst of it there is the real possibility that two months from now you could be watching the World Cup under cover, while the nation that benefits you under cover, its fantastic stages, is paid for by being under cover. blanket.
Here’s a scene being paid for, eventually, by excess energy bills, even when the UK comes in handy for Qatar’s gas reserves. Let me entertain you. But let me also poor you. Watch David Beckham shaking hands with the sheikh. Then go to the food bank. When will this not be okay? Closer to home, as the British people seek relief from fuel poverty this winter, they will at least have a chance to celebrate the footballing glory paid for by those who directly benefit from this struggle. Do they threaten global energy prices? Announce Dembele! Billion pounds in the window! Just keep looking at the lights. Give me enough bread and enough circus.
Football is of course just a PR thread here, hype around politics driving this dynamic. But should we not at least question this process? Shouldn’t we mention it? Or factor how we plan to consume it or celebrate responsible people? This is, in fact, a real shift in power. Recently, Saudi Aramco announced the largest quarterly dividend in the history of profitable companies, all of which bode well, of course, for Eddie Howe’s complex team-building needs. These high prices are the result of the war in Ukraine. In addition, the UK buys most of its gas from Norway.
But don’t be fooled by business relationships that are out of sight. In a market where price and supply are agreed upon and linked to each other, there are only dealers and customers, led by a group at the center that has complete control over the world’s carbon addiction. Meanwhile, you basically pay for this power game every time you turn on the heating to get a treat, and you pay for Shell earnings too, EDF earnings, and Chris Wood wages.
This of course is ubiquitous in football. Chelsea’s new owners have huge Saudi investments, not linked to buying the club. Abu Dhabi’s National Energy Company, which is owned by the same people who own the league champions, saw profits as high as 63% during the energy crisis. Meanwhile, around 15% of Greater Manchester households live in fuel poverty, a horrific condition that will only get worse as the glorious oil-ball winter approaches. But Haaland looks good. And all the time it’s getting a little cooler out there.
Some supporters of these clubs will feel attacked by referring to these relationships, and will call for silence on such issues, as they are complex, uncomfortable and fundamentally unsolvable. Every club is affected by this in some way. Nobody is clean. All owners are chained to us, no matter how deep their pockets are. Life is hard enough. Sometimes you just need some rest.
But it’s also important to note that this isn’t just about things like supply or reputation management, but about control, resources, and hard power. The visual end, investing in PR through sports, should at least be consumed with full knowledge. Just as when Alan Shearer, for example, declared that all this is unconditionally good and useful, lending his famous luster to the project, when there is no real analysis of the cause, only scores and points, then something is missing from the picture.