I can hardly call myself the greatest football fan alive. However, I used to be football crazy when I was little and I still remember the excitement of the 1982 World Cup in Madrid; my first “conscious” world football event.
By Tanja Niemeier, CWI.
I knew all the players of the German team by the numbers on their shirts and I remember jumping up and down in front of the telly in despair when Uli Stieleke missed the penalty in the semi-finals against France. So obviously, I can understand every football fan’s excitement for the World Cup and I also understand their desire to go and see one of the games in the stadium.
But this is where the trouble starts for many ordinary and international football supporters. What is meant to be an event for the mass of the population turns out to be one of the most pro-big business orientated and commercialised events I can possibly imagine.
Ordinary working-class people stand very little chance of getting one of the desirable tickets for any of the games at the Cup. They have to pay money and undergo some “thorough questioning”- allegedly for security reasons – for the ‘privilege’ of having their names entered in a sort of ticket raffle.
Ironically, some fan organisations estimate that there could be as many as 70,000 vacant seats as 70,000 “hospitality tickets”, worth ?170 million – ?2,400 per ticket – are not likely to be sold.
The International Football Association, FIFA, which better fits the description of a giant corporation, is estimated to receive ?1.7 billion in income compared to ?580 million in expenditure. Selling TV licenses/ broadcasting rights and settling exclusive commercial deals are paying off for this gigantic corporation. It even went to court to try and make sure that bakeries could not use the name World Cup 2006 in, for example, “Word Cup” rolls. This gigantic profit bonanza contrasts with the ?40 million in public money which will be spent every day of the Cup on top of the ?1.2 billion in public money already spent.
Not surprisingly, big business sees the World Cup and everything around it as an opportunity to make big money. Wherever such a “possibility” exists, the sex industry is not far away. According to a devastating and revealing article in the Guardian (30 May) the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) estimates that an extra 40,000 women will be “imported” into Germany [where prostitution has officially been legalised since 2001]. In Berlin, a 3,000 square metre mega-brothel has been built next to the main World Cup venue which is designed to take as many as 650 “customers” at any one time.
As a woman and a socialist, opposed to prostitution, I must say that this is a disgusting and infuriating scenario. There cannot be a more graphic illustration of how people and women in particular are treated as commodities in a capitalist society.
Also, it is possible, if not most likely, that many of the so-called ‘imported’ women will be trafficked, illegal and under age and therefore in no position to defend themselves against violence from pimps or ‘customers’.
Adrian Cooper, a Football Association (FA) spokesperson is quoted as saying “It is not the concern of the FA if fans go to brothels … we need to remember we are a football, not a social, body”.
Given FIFA’s attitude about making profits, this approach does not come as a surprise. Why should we rely on big business to check another big industry? Some critical fan organisations have taken up the issue and so have some women’s organisations.
However, I believe if we are to reclaim the game – on all levels – then the trade union movement internationally needs to take up the issue. They are still the strongest organisation of the working class and have the responsibility to make sure that the World Cup turns out to be what most fans want it to be: a truly exciting and enjoyable international event where the 2006 motto “The world: at home with friends” is not an empty phrase which leaves a bitter taste.