Connecting with Culture
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We find out what we hold sacred when it’s threatened. And the world of football, a religion to its most devoted fans, has certainly felt threatened this week.
On Monday, news broke of a proposed European Super League, which would see six of the UK’s biggest teams join a mid-week competition with other heavy hitters from the continent. The idea quickly drew widespread condemnation. Everyone from players to pundits to politicians poured out their wrath.
It’s not new to see passions run high in football, but rarely have sporting boards come in for such unanimous demonisation. In this version of events, the narrative’s villains are the ruling elite – billionaire owners who, mostly fuelled by greed, want to maximise the value of their asset without any apparent care for fans, the local community, or pretty much anything else. They’ve made common what should be a holy thing, trespassing against an unspoken code. ‘Unforgivable’, chant the supporters.
But what really led to these accusations of betrayal and heresy against the national sport? It wasn’t an in-built suspicion of powerful people, as foreign conglomerates have long enjoyed investing in big clubs. It wasn’t even a simple rejection of the amount of money in football – this, too, isn’t new.
Instead, it seems that perceived injustice was at the root of the outcry. Granted, wealthy owners had some valid reasons to act, but there’s much in the surge of public feeling that aligns with the values of the Christian faith – particularly if we compare it to Matthew 23, where Jesus dresses down the Pharisees.
The clubs involved in the planned Super League would have automatically qualified, whereas other teams would have to earn their place. In other words, the rules were hypocritical and exclusive (v13). The money generated would disproportionately benefit the strong, leaving behind smaller clubs. It unfairly benefited the rich at the expense of the poor (v23).
And the concept of the Super League was concocted by wealthy individuals with little attention to the fans and communities it would impact. In other words, they ignored the powerless (v4).
In the end, the weight of public pressure has proved too heavy. Justice and fairness arguably prevailed in this story. The same justice that’s embodied perfectly in Jesus, who chose to identify with the poor – bringing in an upside-down kingdom where the powerless are elevated and outsiders are included.
What injustices might God overturn through us if we lived like that on our frontlines this week?
Culture & Discipleship – Research & Development, LICC