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From The Socialist newspaper, 11 November 2009


Reclaim the game by John Reid

John Reid's eighth edition of Reclaim the Game updates and develops his critique of the "greed is good" culture of British football. The various editions have been widely read and provide a unique socialist perspective on the social phenomenon that is football

Jared Wood

The original edition of Reclaim the Game was published in response to the development of the premier league in August 1992. The premier league allowed the top clubs to split away from the 92-club football league in order to keep TV revenues for themselves.

Within the premier league, the richest clubs have excluded others from the on-field battle for major honours. But where Reclaim the Game really excels is in highlighting the exclusion from the stands (and the terraces, which have disappeared altogether) of working class supporters.

John Reid quotes Stanley Matthews to make the point: "How many ordinary working people can afford to take their family to a football match these days? Too many clubs having worked hard to rid their stadiums of racism and bigotry are now simply practicing economic bigotry".

A small elite has become fabulously rich out of the beautiful game. The ludicrous wages earned by the top players have been well documented elsewhere. Reclaim the Game prefers to highlight the massive fortunes that the owners of British clubs have squeezed from football, including the £16 million that Sir John Hall received for 10% of Newcastle United and the £17 million Ken Bates got for a £1 investment in Chelsea.

As well as the growing exclusion of the working class from premiership football grounds, Reclaim the Game also argues that racial exclusion continues to afflict football, even in the premiership. "Only about one per cent of those attending matches are Black, Asian or Turkish". This is because, John argues, football support is perceived as mainly white, male and aggressive. Blacks and Asians are often lower-paid workers and the massive hike in ticket prices has affected them disproportionately. Many of them can't afford to go.

Reclaim the Game is a well-researched and readable antidote to the supine celebrity treatment of the premiership in much of the media. It also raises a programme for the future administration of football.

It effectively integrates demands relating to football into a broader programme for socialist change and points out that a truly democratic structure for fans' control, free from the influence of big business, could only be achieved as part of a socialist programme.

Perhaps the demands in Reclaim the Game would benefit from more clarity in terms of immediate transitional demands. The call to "open the books" is a good starting point as is the call for £15 admission to games. But there is a real discussion to be had around the development of the AFC movement, such as at Wimbledon, and this pamphlet is a starting point rather than a full programme.

However, overall John Reid has done socialist football fans a service and the continuing sales of Reclaim the Game outside grounds across Britain and even in Europe is testament to the relevance and analysis in the book.

  • Reclaim the Game, eighth edition. £3, plus 50p postage from Socialist Books. PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD. 020 8988 8789.
  • Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

    In The Socialist 11 November 2009:

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    Young People

    Big business fights for fees: Students must fight back

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    Socialist Party review

    Reclaim the game by John Reid

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