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Leicester City as an example of globalisation forces

Andy Day

28th September 2016

Leicester City – you know, that small-ish, never-done-anything-much, didn’t-Gary-Lineker-support-them-or-something…. - well they made history yet again last night. They played their first European Champions League match in their history (earned by virtue of winning their first ever Premiership title in the summer) against F.C. Porto of Portugal, garnered themselves huge headlines, not only in the UK, but across Europe and, indeed, the world. Football has gone global. (p.s. They won, 1: 0).

Sport, and especially football, is becoming a huge global industry as multi-million pound ownership of clubs is taken on by wealthy investors with a business, rather than – necessarily – a sporting interest. Leicester City is owned by Thai businessmen, Aston Villa was bought by a Chinese billionaire in the summer, Liverpool is owned by US millionaires – the list goes on. As satellite broadcasters, such as Sky and BT broadcast Premiership matches globally every week, there is a growing global market for club merchandise. If the market for Manchester United replica shirts is large in the US, it is potentially huge in China.

Globalisation can mean huge assets can be invested in English football clubs to purchase expensive world-class players, a new stadium, improved training facilities, corporate hospitality – and so on. This article on The Economist blog outlines how it can operate.

But there are downsides. Supporters can feel (and be) far removed from their owners. The divide between Manchester United fans and the Glazer brother, and Aston Villa and Randy Lerner – their respective American owners – went deep as results flat-lined. Passionate mass-supporter protests inside and beyond the grounds and on social media didn’t even know if the owners were aware of their grief. This can lead to a sense of powerlessness, autocratic control and lead to growing tension within a club; damaging to players, supporters and investors – as well as local businesses reliant on the success of the spotlight neighbourhood football club. Not unlike employees in a branch plant run by a globalised firm with headquarters halfway around the world, the sense of disconnect and, ultimately, resentment can cause long-term damage for the operation of the business and with similar consequences for morale and the wider impact on dependent companies.

But there is an up-side. Globalisation can also work the other way. Individual citizens, families, communities – choosing to live and work in a particular way and making specific choices can build and expand into a global movement, instigating global change. Choosing to cycle, instead of taking the car; buying an electric rather than diesel car; eating less red meat and taking more exercise – these are ways groundfloor change based on decisions of individuals can begin to change the way the global systems operate. This article by the online arm of ArcGIS, the global mapping group pioneering new geographical information system tools, discusses the positive benefits globalisation may have in the 2016 International Year of Global Understanding. Better information, more effective education and sharing of knowledge and ideas, and an awareness of different options (and the implications of each of those for the planet) will, goes the philosophy, equip the growing human population of the planet to make the right individual choices and decisions that will lead to a sustainable future for the planet.

Leicester City will go on to the next match with inflated confidence. Hopefully, planet Earth can be helped to do the same through better understanding of natural and human global systems.

This article was possible due to suggestions and resource links supplied by Stephen Schwab, Consultant to the Geographical Association, Co-chair Geographical Association Secondary Phase Committee. Thanks go to him.

Andy Day

Andy recently finished being a classroom geographer after 35 years at two schools in East Yorkshire as head of geography, head of the humanities faculty and director of the humanities specialism. He has written extensively about teaching and geography - with articles in the TES, Geography GCSE Wideworld and Teaching Geography.

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