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The Revolution

Chris Dillow has a great article (link here – would recommend reading all of it) that considers the revolution taking place in Tunisia at the moment, and how the events over there may serve as an inspiration for others and create a “domino effect” around the world with regards to the cause of the disposal of dictators and autocrats in favour or democracy and freedom.

I wouldn’t normally comment on such matters because in no way am I qualified to blog on international politics (even on football is debatable!), I try to keep my opinion on such areas to a minimum and leave the debate to the more informed Oliver Kamm’s and Noam Chomsky’s of this world, but I think that the ideas that Chris puts forward can be linked to the MUST inspired anti-Glazer movement in a way.

Chris says, “This paper (link) sheds some light. Consider someone pondering whether to protest. The gain from doing so is the probability of achieving your objective. The cost is the risk of being arrested or beaten up. How you weigh up these costs and benefits depends upon your belief about the strength of the government. If you think it’s strong enough to resist the protests, you might not bother. But if you think it’s weak enough to either give in or not punish protestors, you will protest.

And here’s the thing. The reaction of neighbouring governments to similar protests affects your judgment of your own government’s strength or weakness. If it is weak, you figure: “Maybe protests will work here as well.” At the margin, this gets more people onto the streets. One government’s reaction to protests has “reputation externalities” for other governments.

As it stands, there are a couple of holes here. One is the problem of collective action (link). To the individual, the potential costs of protesting are high – possibly death – whilst the benefits are spread over millions. So why doesn’t he just free-ride (link) on others’ protests? If everyone does this, there’ll be no protests.

The very fact that there are protests shows that there’s something wrong with this. The answer, I suspect, is that some people – “extremists”! – gain symbolic utility (link) from protesting. If they are not beaten up and arrested, other, less fanatical, people join them. This is why the size of protests sometimes snowballs. (A further mechanism here is Timur Kuran's theory of availability cascades (link): seeing others protest makes us think that protesting is a reasonable thing to do).

The second hole is: what exactly is going on the mind of the marginal protestor who sees a successful revolution in a neighbouring country? The paper seems to suggest that he has been always conducting a rational cost-benefit analysis of whether to protest or not. But I suspect what might instead be happening is a form of attention effect (link). The thought of protesting simply doesn’t occur to him, until he sees others – people like him doing so. And when he sees this, he figures: “I can do that.”

 Now obviously protesting against the owners of a football club doesn’t quite carry the same importance or significance as protesting against a dictatorial Government, but parallels between the two can be drawn. The “free rider” problem, whereby people receive a benefit from something despite not having had to bear any of the cost in obtaining it (think of street lighting, a “public good” in economics jargon) is clearly evident in the anti-Glazer movement. Why go to the effort of protesting in order to get rid of the Glazer’s (which will offer the benefits that all can enjoy, such as more cash available and therefore more investment in the squad and success, and more morally considerate ticket prices) when others will do it for you?

Whilst the risks of protesting against the owners of a football club probably don’t include the possibility of being killed, there is still a risk of being arrested or banned from football grounds. As Alan Smithy has pointed out at Football Hobo (link cheap viagra online”>here), football fans are often treated as sub-human scum, with the authorities disdain towards us resulting in a complete abandonment of basic human rights and civil liberties and freedom. Wouldn’t be much point in protesting for your football club if you can’t watch them again as a result, would there?  A kind of selfish but entirely understandable viewpoint.

Another reason I feel for people not choosing to protest with regards to the Glazer situation, apart from the obvious which is that they don’t agree with the movement (which I touched on once, link here), is that they feel that there’s nothing that we fans can do to get rid of them. The consensus amongst many fans seems to be that we simply don’t have enough power to get rid of them, that the only thing that holds any sway in such an event is money, and we don’t have enough. To take such a view though, I feel, is self-defeating and a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t think something like this is going to work, well, it’s not going to work then is it? Well done you. The protests have ultimately had an effect, just look at the fact that the Glazer’s didn’t use any of the clubs cash (despite having the means to do so) to pay off the PIK debts (see Anders Red blog for more details).

And of course though, despite 1 million people protesting in London against the Iraq war a few years back, the war still went ahead.  Yet people still protest about things, despite it seeming to be the case that their collective voice carries very little weight (just ask the students). I think many of us feel that a lot of the time a protest is kind of futile, yet we still do it. Why? Well I for one go on anti-Glazer protests because I feel it’s the right thing to do. I feel very strongly about a social institution that is a football club being used to line a rich man’s pockets at the cost of ordinary people who just want to follow and support their team, but are now unable to do so. I understand that football clubs are businesses, they need cash to survive and should therefore be run as competent businesses aiming to make a profit, but the means do not always justify the ends. Football is no ordinary business, it is more than “brand loyalty”, and unfettered free markets have a tendency to leave the poor behind.

But of course I go on the anti-Glazer protests for selfish reasons as well; it gives me that “warm feeling” inside, the satisfaction and camaraderie of standing side-by-side with someone, of belonging to a certain group identity in uniting against a common cause. It also makes me feel like I’m a “better fan” than those that don’t go on the protests, just like someone who gives to charity so they can feel smug about it afterwards and tell everyone about their great deed. But this doesn’t invalidate the justification for the protests.

With talk of an Arab takeover on the horizon, a lot of people seem to be taking a back seat on the issue again, waiting to see what happens and if the Glazer’s can be gotten rid of without the need for any input from ourselves. The moral debate regarding such a sale I’ll leave for another time, although with the Glazer’s I don’t think it’s a case of “better the devil you know”. We know this devil very well, and there are a plethora of better alternatives out there. But we can easily make things harder for the Glazer’s and make a sale more attractive for them and the prospective buyer if we can up the ante a bit and get right on the Glazer’s backs. If the Glazer’s are replaced with desirable owners, I for one will be straight down to the megastore to buy the new shirt and some Cantona memorabilia. You can never have enough Cantona memorabilia.

But more importantly, we can serve as an inspiration to the rest of the footballing world. The fans of one of the largest and most famous football clubs in the world ousting their owners? It would send shockwaves (and no Liverpool fans, you didn’t do it, RBS did. Kind of wish you did do it though). The brilliant In Bed With Maradona have recently proposed a revolution (links here and here) with regards to the coverage of football in this country, because many of us (myself included) have had enough with the mundane, poorly-informed, English heavy focus of football coverage in this country. Sepp Blatter and his Fifa cronies? We’ll take them on while we’re at it as well. These things have a tendency to snowball, and I think we should start getting that ball rolling again.


No Responses to “The Revolution”

  1. Redscot says:

    Jaysus mate no need for this type of article at this time of night! a quick read through “without” following links so much information to digest on a full belly of cheap Cider and fun.
    You probably dont know if you dont read elsewhere I hate the Glazer with a passion, I have left one Forum because of this, and been kicked of another for my ante Glazer stance.
    It would be a injustice in a hazed filled brain to comment on what is clearly a serious article.
    I will tommorow .With much passion and verve.

  2. Thomas Addison says:

    Lmao, good stuff mate. Can’t drink cider though, gives me heartburn lol. Yeah I started it earlier but ended up watching TV and having a brew with my flatmate, thought I’d get it finished before hitting the hay! Yeah I probably wouldn’t go on all the links, some pretty heavy stuff in there, most of it not football related. And as I say, “If it’s not football, I don’t care”.

  3. Redscot says:

    @Tom Addison.Good Evening .
    I was being perfectly serious last night, your fine article needed a clear head to respond sensibly and with clear thought.
    I think over the net without knowing a person and their agenda, intentions its difficult to measure wether they are taking the P or just mocking.
    That said having read your article I will try to explain my position and view.
    Detail involving figures and financial data are very awkward to debate over the Internet and discuss with everybody in the debate looking at the same Information.Lets be honest this is where this “battle” is going to be won or lost.We are aware the United fan base is World wide and we need to convince the majority of fans World wide of the damage that the Glazer are causing to Manchester United with simple aspects such as the huge amount of Interest to service their debts they have burdened the Club.
    Most people and I can understand this angle fully, would prefer to discuss football and tactics and the players and formations etc.I point to the example this article has at the time of responding to the article 18.15 UK has recieved zero responses.I also noted you put up a link in ROM this morning to the article, yet no responses.Possibly people have read the article but just not responded.I hope you understand my point,discussing this type of subject over the Internet.It tends to also become very heated and divisive as you will know full well.Most people with a serious view on United have taken up a position and generally will now not be persuaded one way or another, they have built a trench round their views and thoughts.
    The link you pasted on here to the Swiss Ramble as an example I have spent hours reading through the various financial situations at a whole range of Clubs and trying to grasp more and a broader depth of understanding of financial mismanagement and how Clubs arrive at this position and the likely outcome.The point being its very mundane and boring and well almost Nerdy and Geekish.Mind you I have 15 different Anoraks. 🙂

    I personally dont see any United fan as better than anybody else although I have a huge amount of respect for people who gave up their STs at the take over by the Glazer and of course those who have subsequently done so also.I personally know two of these people very definitely my Peers and hero’s.
    I notice you mention the protest’s and I think the most recent protest prior to the Tottenham Hotspurs game at Old Trafford.
    Without boring anybody I will simply drag my post immediately after that protest when it was discussed on another forum and where do we go now!
    Bear in mind the post below is historical, but to me it still holds good as to the current situation with Manchester United as of today and the “Revolution” will be on hold or slightly frozen.

    RedScot says:
    November 3, 2010 at 9:56 pm
    Passionate article as ever.
    Great result last night in Bursaspor and United still in touch in the Premiership and through to the last 16 of the Carling cup.There in lays part of the problem.
    The manager and the players “still” achieve for the fans.
    We know it could be so much better and the Glazer “investing in their buisness”.Not a dime have they invested to develop the buisness.At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask.
    Until we get a reality check on the field with a noticeable down turn in on field success,we are basically pissing in the wind.

    I see the problem as great forums like United rant and the Republik of Mancunia continually provide information and updates on this topic. Many supporters refuse to digest the information or accept what they are being told is the truth.I am regularly told bye the like of 10 year olds, you are a negative twat etc etc.
    The complete opposite is true, I want the best for United.
    That does not mean before anyone takes a cheap pop,buying all the top players in the world.
    The point being the message is not getting across clearly of the financial mismanagement that is taking place at United under the eyes of the majority of United fans.
    I am 18, been a United fan for 10 years if I get it and can understand the theft taking place, why cant fans that are say 60 and still slavishly follow united.
    Will not deflect from their “I cant be disloyal” to United, I say to them, you are being disloyal to your history and heritage.
    We have unified the focus, now we have to further spread the message to continue to drive the key points home.

    On the question posed of where now, I seriously think rather than just sitting on our hands, arses we should be looking collectively of ways to fund a 51% fan ownership, similar to the mandatory German model for football clubs.
    That is just one example, of keeping the fight up.
    With a fan base world wide of anywhere between 70 million and 300 million, if we say could only get 100 million to invest and recieve shares, of say £10(Uk) you can
    see the impact.
    You can work this down 50 million fans invest £20(uk) =the same result £1000 million.
    Its not pie in the sky,it can be done and is achieved elsewhere.
    The problem are many I realise to get fans onboard and mobilizing people to “buy “into the scheme.
    Just doing some brainstorming.
    Well am fucking sick and tired of “reading the political economy of football”.
    Get the Glazer out out out!
    Truly Reds.
    Excuse the “colourfull” language but its that type of Forum where its accepted and expected.

  4. Tom Addison says:

    Kudos to you sir, you clearly put a lot of effort into that response, so I’ll try and do the same. As always, you make some well-informed, though provoking points.

    Yeah it certainly does seem to be the case that most football fans aren’t interested in this kind of debate, and I can easily see why. I too want football discussions to be primarily about tactics, formations, player performances and yes, even transfer rumours. Being a bit of a Jonathan Wilson follower my favourite discussions revolve around contemporary and historical tactical trends and issues. Zonal Marking and Guardian Chalkboards and all that, United Rant have a guy that does a great job with that stuff as well. I’d do more on it but sitting there watching a match again on Sky+, pausing it every 10 seconds, taking notes, it takes a while! That and I don’t know how to upload the pictures/diagrams…. for shame.

    I basically wrote the article on a whim, it certainly wasn’t planned. After reading the article that I referenced at the top (by Chris Dillow), I just thought that it could be linked to the Glazer situation so I thought it would be a good idea to write it whilst it’s still fresh in my head.

    But I have a serious problem with (and this is something I often hint at in my articles) people who think they’re entitled to an opinion on everything. Okay, take that back, we’re all entitled to an opinion and we’re all entitled to freely express it, but in no way are we entitled to have that opinion taken seriously. When people disagree with the likes of Swiss Ramble and Anders Red, I want to see well-informed evidence and reasoning behind their disagreements. I’m not saying I’m one of the people who is “worthy” of commenting on such issues, hence why I often reference other articles, but certainly more so than a 16-year old with an agenda. There are always two (or maybe more) sides to an argument, and people should always look at all of them before, as you said, reaching their opinion and building a trench around it. I used to be an ardent anti-MUST man myself, and am open to going back to the view should sufficient evidence come to light.

    To be honest I don’t see why it’s difficult to discuss financial issues on the internet, it’s certainly less subjective than discussions regarding Rooney’s loyalty or, as many people seem to enjoy doing, trying to guess what a player is thinking/feeling. But it would probably kick-off more debate on a site like Swiss Ramble or Football Economy where people expect this type of article. And I know this stuff is nerdy and geeky, but the rise of the blog in the football world shows that there are many, many football nerds out there. Not necessarily nerds in the generic sense, but most definitely nerdy when it comes to football.

  5. Redscot says:

    @Tom ffs, dont call me I never get called anything as sensible or mannerable as that, most of things I get called are four lettered words! lol
    Anyhow it makes me sound like I am in a Nursing home! 😉
    I also prefer to look at tactics and stats on performances it puts more meat on to the view and it means more than just an opnion.I am of the belief everyone is allowed an opinion as long as it does not infringe on someone elses liberty.
    The United Rant co editor I think you refer to is Jay Shon, yes he spends a lot of time on this and it is well thought out and analysed carefully if sometimes in my opinion over anaylsed.
    Agree totally I can be bothered with people who just post something like “Thats a load of Bollox” and dont explain why! It may be a load of Bollox, but explain how you see it as a load of Bollox.
    Agreed mate there are Two sides to the arguement regards the Glazer its not Black or White, there are shades of grey.It can be argued and I concur they have through their direction Improved greatly the commercial aspects of United regards Income through these streams.
    The point I was trying to raise anytime I have witnessed a debate over the Finances of United or been involved in one it invariably has got Childish and nasty with name calling and point scoring and not really getting to an amicable agreement.I believe as I alluded to you cant actually sit down face to face with the person and show them the points you are discussing if its figures.
    Yeah i know exactly what you are meaning on those two great sites its expected but its interesting on Forums like this fine one as well.
    Anyways I think I am wasting your time now.
    You can call me Nerd, if I communicate with you again you to me will be Geek. lmao.
    Cheers Tom.
    Must go and watch the second half of the Trotters v Chelsea game.Its difficult communicating with you and half an eye on the match.LobNob 0 Chelsea 1, drats.

  6. Tom Addison says:

    Okay love. Yeah Jay Shon, that’s the guy, the man does good stuff.

    “I am of the belief everyone is allowed an opinion as long as it does not infringe on someone elses liberty.”

    Afraid I’m going to have to rob that one off ya, couldn’t have put it better myself.

    Looks like Chelsea have this one in the bag. Bugger.

  7. Redscot says:

    @Tom “Okay Love” what the fuck! lol. Aye Chelsea mugged the Trotters big time and Dogbreathe was back to his best and the powerhouse he is.
    “I am of the belief everyone is allowed an opinion as long as it does not infringe on someone elses liberty.” You are nicking one of my little digs.?
    Its like most lads if I think freely and with out “Fear or Favour” I can.
    I called it on another United forum during real game time, not Dalglish, Dogleash, its now widely used.
    Another one I penned and used frequently everywhere “How the mighty have fallen of their Perch”.
    The point is a lad posted to me once , you “Will always have the final say”.
    I replied no Andy Gray will do that on Sunday evening on sky. lol Oppsie that’s maybe over. 🙂

    Cheers. xxx



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