The “beautiful game” is the world’s most popular sport, with over 3.5 billion fans globally, an estimated 250 million players across 200 countries, and televised events can dwarf even the viewership of the Super Bowl—by up to 4x and 5x.
But football has become a microcosm of issues throughout society, from rampant corporatization and club ownership takeovers by authoritative regimes, racism and misogyny among some fan circles and footballing institutions, and allegations of significant human rights abuses in the build-up to the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
To make sense of what’s happening in the world’s most popular game, Dave Ursillo is joined by Luke Aaron Moore, cohost and producer of the United Kingdom’s biggest independent football show, The Football Ramble.
They discuss how the Russian invasion of Ukraine rippled across Europe to disrupt the Premier League’s Chelsea F.C., the lack of regulation that allowed the Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle F.C., and how the women’s game may be one particular bright spot in the global game.
Luke is also an author, a radio presenter, a broadcaster, and the cohost and producer of a number of shows with Stak, a London-based, award-winning independent podcast company that brings authentic conversation to life. He co-authored the 2016 book, The Football Ramble: By Four Friends Who Love the Game They Hate.
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Dave Ursillo 00:00
The most popular game in the modern world is football. But no, not that football, not American football with quarterbacks and huddles, and pig skins. What we hear in the US and Canada, among a few other places in the world called soccer, everyone else calls football. So from here forth in this episode, we’ll be calling soccer by its real name, its global name football.
Dave Ursillo 00:23
The sport has an estimated 3.5 billion fans worldwide in 250 million players spread across about 200 countries. While the Super Bowl averages 100 million viewers every year. Events like the World Cup final can draw about 500 million viewers or five times that of the Super Bowl, called the beautiful game for its simplicity and grace and the passion and joy it can evoke. Football is like an international language. Wherever you go in the world, you’re likely to find people kicking the ball, and it probably wouldn’t take much for you to want to join in.
Dave Ursillo 00:58
But there’s also a dark side to the beautiful game. From the corporatization of 100 year old local institutions to allegations of international bribery, corruption, and even cases of human rights abuses. Football has become a sort of microcosm of some of the most pressing issues in our world today.
Dave Ursillo 01:17
From The New Story Company, this is The New Story Is a podcast that explores the stories, perceptions and ideas that have come to shape the world today, as we know it. Along the way we speak to talented guests who are championing the new stories that may shape our collective future for the good five Dave Ursillo.
Dave Ursillo 01:37
To make sense of what’s happening with the world’s most popular sport and to discuss the future of the beautiful game. We’re joined today by Luke Aaron Moore, co host and producer of The United Kingdom’s biggest independent football show The Football Ramble. Luke is a radio presenter, a broadcaster and the co host and producer of a number of shows with Stak, an award winning independent podcast company that brings authentic conversations to life, The Football Ramble began as for fans sharing their love of football around a kitchen table.
Dave Ursillo 02:06
And while the Ramble still makes plenty of time for its characteristic humor, witty banter, and running gags about philandering football personalities and folly prone former players, the show and its hosts, who now include the likes of journalists and media personalities, increasingly find the need to discuss various social, political, economic, and human rights issues that come up around the game on an almost weekly basis. So what exactly is happening in modern football? Is the beautiful game really at risk of feeling a little less beautiful? And what can fans like us do about it? Luke, welcome to The New Story Is and thank you so much for being here.
Luke Aaron Moore 02:43
Thank you very much for having me. Well, fantastic intro, you made me sound very, very successful and good.
Dave Ursillo 02:49
Well, we’ll try to maintain that for as long as we can. But, you know,
Luke Aaron Moore 02:53
I feel let down from here on.
Dave Ursillo 02:56
So look, for those of us who grew up outside of a football centric culture, how much of a role does the game really play in a place like England? And is football everywhere all the time? Or does it depend on who you are, what you do, and maybe how you grew up?
Luke Aaron Moore 03:13
I think that is a hugely important part of British culture. And I think it’s probably an it sounds like a bit of a perhaps a strange thing to say, because if your listeners are predominantly American, and they think of Britain, they perhaps think of football. But I actually think it’s probably underplayed in society in the UK, generally, just how important it is, culturally, to so many people. Now, football is everywhere here. So that sounds a little bit of a counterintuitive thing to say. But what I mean by that is, I think that is regularly underestimated how important football is, to so many people in this country is by far and away the most popular sport is by far and away the most participated pastime, as far as I know.
Luke Aaron Moore 03:57
And it is also hugely available to people to play because of its simplicity, as you’ve already mentioned in that intro, but it would be even more impactful if it wasn’t gate kit gate kept by subscription television and price is more or less the thing so it’s really really important to to grow up in in the UK, is really to grow up around football. Now there are always going to be people who reject it, who are interested in it, who don’t want to be a part of it. But generally speaking, I mean, it really is super, super important.
Dave Ursillo 04:33
It really does seem from watching from afar, like like British people take up personal pride and personal stake, like a sense of ownership of the game. I know the history of the game is at least the history of the modern game is rooted in England and the game really becoming formalized and popularized in England. I think there’s also like some controversy about like if the game started in In Asia, or if a game like it started in Asia, there’s even like other games in Central and South America that involve like kicking a ball and using different parts of your body. It’s, you know, people, human beings using balls and sport. Not the most original idea, but in England specifically, it seems like the English have a real sense of personal pride and ownership in the game. Is that what you mean when you’re saying like, it seems almost to be understated based on how deeply embedded it is in the culture?
Luke Aaron Moore 05:27
Yeah I think in a way, I think. I mean, it’s basically the fact that England English people and Scottish people would code basic codified the game as we now know it right. So the gentleman that I mean, I’m not a sports historian, but general consensus that it did exist in other places. It’s been going back in various forms 1000s of years but the codification of the game and the kind of setting the stall out of, of what it means to play the game officially was established here, because we’re a nation of officious vide got busybodies as Napolean called the and the English nation of shopkeepers. So that’s essentially why it has its roots here. And then as a result of that, partly because we’ve been less than successful, certainly on the men’s side, on the pitch at international level, we kind of convince ourselves that we’ve made our contribution by writing down the rules. And so room above a pub in the mid 19th century,
Dave Ursillo 06:25
football seems to have a pretty outsized role in your life, if not in your whole life, then certainly in your working life these days. I’m curious, though, if the game played a big role had a big influence on you, when you were young and growing up on the south coast of England and Portsmouth. If it had a particular impact on you as a kid?
Luke Aaron Moore 06:46
Yeah, I had a big impact. I like to play with my friends, I play for lots of different teams, played all the way through to my early 30s. University here and played overseas as well. But ultimately, I fell in love with football when I was a kid, as many kids here do. And it’s quite an interesting question, because because of the nature of you know, what I do, I get asked this question quite a lot. And I think people expect me to say, I’ve been totally football obsessed my whole life. But it’s not actually as simple as that.
Luke Aaron Moore 07:21
For me, I’ve always been interested in football. And I certainly know enough about it to suggest that I probably had quite a misspent use relating to the game, because I can’t remember much about school. But I can remember much about a lot about football. But at the same time, and this kind of speaks to the wider Stak story, I suppose. I’ve always had lots of interests. So on football has been one of those, it’s been an important one. And it’s been the something that’s stood me in pretty good stead. And I’ve been able to basically at the platform of my career on it. But I wasn’t as into it as any other kid of my age and my generation was, and it’s a huge part of of growing up and I took that interest into into adulthood.
Dave Ursillo 08:05
Over the last 15 years, you’ve been recording The Football Ramble with primarily three other co host, Jim Campbell, Marcus speller and Pete Donaldson, the four of you constituted the V ramble for a number of yours. In the last couple of years, the show has expanded and added at least four different co hosts and had some spin off shows. And The Football Ramble has birthed Stak, the independent podcast production company that you’re a part of, and also co host and produce other shows for from the podcast production standpoint, as a creative and as a creator of many different conversation based podcasts. I’m wondering what you think distinguishes Stax productions that made it an award winning company? What is it that you try to cultivate create with the shows? Besides the obvious, which is like entertainment, and maybe a bit of a distraction? Is there something in particular that you all are trying to deliver with your productions?
Luke Aaron Moore 09:07
I think that I can’t speak on behalf of the entire team and react realistically, you know, as I sit here, now, the team do the majority of the work right? So they you asked, we have 10 full time members of staff at Stak. And if you ask them, you probably get a different answer from each of them. But my answer is that I’m particularly interested in people and human beings and the way they interact with each other and the stories they tell. And so as a result, we’re always looking for people who on air can carry out and perform like organic organically obtained chemistry on for listeners, right because ultimately the most important thing in this is listeners entertained we make shows for people who, you know, get up in the morning and it’s raining outside and perhaps like when I go to work, but they know you’ve got to get on the train or they’re not excited I go into the gym, but they know they’ve got to do it. So our responsibility is to entertain them for the short period that we have them. And they’re always going to be the priority. So what we try and avoid is kind of one upmanship forced, quote, banter between people who don’t know each other that well, and try and really foster and a team atmosphere where the producers and the presenters are entirely collaborative. And the producers feel as important as the presenters and vice versa. And then we make sure that the stuff that you hear on the on the shows themselves, is natural or as natural as possible. So that to me is really important. And that’s what I’m probably predominantly for our studio based at roundtable entertainment shows, for some of the other shows we make it perhaps it’s slightly different. But for the most part, that’s what we’re going for. Now, I don’t I’m not saying that it is better or it is different or than other rival shows. You’ve said that, and I appreciate you saying it. But for us, we’re kind of focused on what we’re doing. And that’s what we’re looking for. And a good example, I think, would probably be the modern iteration around. But right, so we added four new people to the original lineup of four. So we added CAE tools, and the and Vish and we didn’t just go out and try and find the most knowledgeable people about football or the technically best presenter, you know, it was, we’d like them to have some knowledge and we’d like them to be technically good, and you know, they are technically good. But we need to know that they could blend in as part of the team. And so it would still feel authentic, and it would still feel natural. And ultimately and most importantly, our listenership which we spent a lot a long time cultivating, would accept it, because we didn’t want the majority of the listenership to feel that like the show was being taken away from them or was becoming something completely different. And of course, you’re never going to please everyone all the time. But we thought about it carefully. And we we had some people in mind, and they will accept it. And that’s why we’re able to maintain it and continue to, I believe, improve the shows that that that we’re making.
Dave Ursillo 12:08
So as a broadcaster, you’re essentially paid to have opinions. Part of the work that you do as a storyteller, I mean, you’re commenting on what you’re watching in the game, but you’re also making sense for people. And I imagine also making sense for yourself of what you’re experiencing in the world around you. And I wonder about the process, the practice, or the skill or the process that may be involved in understanding even what it is that you feel and believe about these issues, different news stories that come up, or just just your hot takes on the latest match that you’re discussing with the Ramboll? What is your process like I know for me, I go very internal, I need to kind of like isolate and go, kind of like take a deep dive to understand and unpack how I’m thinking or what I’m feeling. And I imagine that it’s quite a pressure filled situation when you’re live on air on the radio, or you’re speaking to potentially millions of listeners every month as you do with the ramble. Is there a secret sauce? Is there a skill or a practice or something that you’ve developed? To help you formulate and understand and speak confidently to how you feel about different issues? Or is it more instinctive about letting go?
Luke Aaron Moore 13:28
It’s a really good question. I think first and foremost, if you’re not a passionate, opinionated person who’s inspired to learn and are interested in lots of different things than you, you shouldn’t be a broadcaster, right? So if you’re, if you’re having a conversation with yourself, or you’re framing it as in, I’d quite like to be a broadcaster. But I don’t know how I’m going to be able to develop or manufacture these kinds of opinions. There are plenty of people out there who do do that, you know, and it wouldn’t be fair to name them. But there are plenty of people out there who do do that, in my opinion. And that’s no good, right? listeners will sniffer see through it, they won’t understand they won’t want to hear it very often. And you will. What’s more, you’ll be saying one thing different in three weeks time, and you were saying three weeks before. So I think first and foremost, really important that it’s natural in this kind of organic process. And I want people who are on the show with me to be opinionated. And I think it’s fine to have a spirited debate about things as long as we’re not going down the avenue of this one upmanship or proving each other wrong. We’re all the rest of it. I think everything should be considered to be valid. Obviously, they’re in that in that studio with us, they’ve earned the right to be in terms of how I specifically planned for it. And really, I just, I just call it as I see it, to be honest. I mean, there’s no real secret sauce here. I don’t believe that, that I have a formula that that means that I’ve kind of worked out how to game the system and can therefore just deliver these takes that people think are good. I mean, half the time. I promise you this half the time people don’t think it’s actually good. They disagree. And so and that’s obviously up to them So for me, in terms of we’re talking about specific ramble episode, so on a Monday or whatever reaction to the game’s IG stories. Tonight, to be honest, I just tried to immerse myself in the sport trying to immerse myself in the issues. And I go in there and just do it, I don’t really write much down, don’t really do anything. In terms of notes, I just, I just go for it, that there may be a couple of things here and there where I need to be reminded that a stat or I need to work out exactly the specific details of a particular performance or a school back in the day or whatever. Or if we’re talking about a social issue, you know, it’s important to have the facts in front of you. So that’ll be what the running order document is for, where there’s stuff on there that you can rely upon, that’s been kind of fact checked, and is there for you to support your, your arguments and things. But to be honest, around was always been a pretty natural show. And we started out just for mates just doing stuff and experimenting, really. And I’ve tried to remain true to the spirit of that, to be honest, I found that for a period of time, I was over preparing a bit. And then what happens is you get in that cycle, you think, Well, I’ve done all this preparation, so I’ll make sure I use it. And then it becomes about you it doesn’t become about the listening experience. And so you kind of have to dial back from that. But I also do think you know, with the you look at the eight people are on there regularly, and you’ve got the European guys as well and some other bits that we do. They probably almost why in fact, they’d almost certainly give you a different answer to me because I think it’s a very personal experience and process.
Dave Ursillo 16:27
One of the big reasons why I wanted to invite you onto the show Luke is because The Football Ramble doesn’t shy away from discussing issues that arise in and around the game. And I’m for humor based podcasts, I think that podcasts probably be categorized as comedy. In a comedy comedic podcast talking about sports. When something happens in the game, I’m always so heartened as a listener of six plus years for how you all discuss issues with a lot of poignancy and grace and not a lot of knee jerk reactions. But has it been tempting over the years to sidestep or avoid talking about, quote unquote, controversial issues that aren’t directly related to the game on the pitch? Or do you consider to be part of like a moral or ethical responsibility to speak to these issues when they arise as they do?
Luke Aaron Moore 17:26
It’s a good question. And I think I have to be careful how I answer this. So I don’t come across as too high minded and, and self referential. But I do think Well, first of all, I don’t believe that you really can divide politics, from sports or anything really, by its nature, it’s kind of going to touch everything that we say and do. And, and if you attempt to do that, because football is so pervading in society, in general, you’re going to, you’re going to look a bit silly. So we do. So we kind of feel like probably that if we’re being totally honest, if we want to be credible, and taken seriously. And of course, we don’t really take ourselves seriously, as you as you’ve alluded to, we take our job and our role seriously. If we do want to continue to be able to do that, we can’t sidestep big issues, I mean, and the threshold for us is actually quite simple. The threshold is what it sounds odd to our listenership if we weren’t addressed it if we weren’t to address this. So if the answer to that is yes, it would sound odd, then we have to cover it. And then really, you’re just talking about rely on the fact that you are a, hopefully a decent tolerant person who cares a lot about your fellow human beings and all the rest of it, and you want justice, justice to prevail, and you want to, you know, all that other kind of modern progressive kind of Western European liberal values you want them to be to be to be heard. And so there’s no kind of trick to it. Again, it’s not again, to use that phrase, again, there’s no kind of secret sauce to it. we surrounded ourselves with decent people who are thoughtful and who want, you know, believe in social justice, for example.
Luke Aaron Moore 19:07
And so you have to kind of take your role and that seriously, and you don’t want to be preaching, you don’t want to tell people, you’re right, and they’re wrong. But you didn’t want to give your opinion. And you didn’t want to show some support. And normally as well, we’ve been given a platform, right? It’s a platform that we’ve earned completely from scratch organically. No one handed it to us, we’ve earned it, you have a responsibility, I believe to use that platform for good so I don’t feel like and this is kind of, really, particularly in the US, which I do have a little bit of knowledge about. This is kind of the bastion of the right wing where you kind of all of a sudden, because you’re a sportscaster or broadcaster or something or an actor or sports person you no longer have yet to have an opinion on political issues you like like you sound like it’s almost like as if so you no longer exist as a human being because you’ve been successful in what you do.
Luke Aaron Moore 19:54
And I actually think the opposite is true. I actually think that cruel to stay in your lane kind of garbage that comes about The other way, perhaps people should say, you know, the way this person is successful is because they’ve worked really hard. And they’re quite clever. And they thought about it, and they deserve to have their platform heard, because they’ve earned it themselves. That’s, that’s all really important to me. And so, when it comes to addressing these types of issues, it never really feels that difficult, because you’re only ever really speaking with honesty, and I’m not trying to kind of perform a role or say something I don’t believe it then just becomes an extension of an opinion that would have on the sport or music or whatever, you know, it’s just becomes another one of the opinions that I have. And so it’s not, I don’t necessarily find that difficult, I think you have to tread maybe perhaps a little bit more carefully to make sure you’re being respectful to everyone. Because you know, it’s easy. It’s the easiest thing in the world when you’re in a fast paced, broadcasting environment to be able to not necessarily think of all the detail, but other than nice, it’s just something we feel is really important for us to do.
Dave Ursillo 20:52
That idea that you can’t really divided politics or like social issues from sports, a lot of ways that’s the premise of this conversation I wanted to have with you. And so maybe we can transition into talking about a couple of those issues while we have have you here to discuss them with us. And again, like you said, you’re not a football historian, you’re not necessarily an expert on these big social and political issues. But being so embedded in the world of football in, you know, one of the epicenters of the game and England, I think it’ll make for an interesting conversation.
Dave Ursillo 21:23
One thing that I want to talk with you about is ownership of these clubs, because there’s been some recent controversy around them. And I don’t see that issue going away anytime soon. Before we talk about people like Roman Abramovich in the recent takeover of Newcastle United. Could you give our listeners a sense for how many clubs in the UK are historically owned and operated in some still are in smaller towns, because these weren’t always like huge global corporate entity entities were they
Luke Aaron Moore 21:55
historically, football clubs have been focal points of communities and they’ve existed, where there has been a sizable conurbation of people who would, you know, start a football team either as an extension of a factory or a working environment or a social club or whatever. And then over time, they’ve grown and grown and grown through things like success or whatever. And then now we are in a situation where we are in the majority of, of top flight clubs in England, will be owned by their wealthy individuals, and they will be used as a vehicle for pleasure or for social ex social improvement, or even the worst end of the scale, political sports washing and all that type of stuff.
Luke Aaron Moore 22:42
So if I’m to understand the question correctly, I mean, the idea is that we now have a problem with ownership in English football, and we have had for some time, and the reason for that is a lack of regulation in place of a reason. And then a lack of due diligence and monitoring of the types of people that are being allowed to buy these clubs that have historically always had at least one eye on the local community, depending on how far you go by.
Dave Ursillo 23:17
Yeah, and Roman Abramovich specifically was a really interesting case. He is a Russian oligarch, with reported ties very close to Vladimir Putin. He purchased Chelsea Football Club, which is one of the more reputable brands one of the biggest clubs, nearly annual Trophy winners, the London based side, Chelsea, and Abramovich poured something like $2 billion of personal money into Chelsea, over the last 20 years.
Dave Ursillo 23:49
And everything was going pretty well until Vladimir Putin orders the Russian military to invade Ukraine in February of 2022. Then Chelsea becomes seen as an asset by the UK Government. And so as global governments start applying economic and social and political pressure on to Russian oligarchs associated to Vladimir Putin, Chelsea Football Club finds the unwanted focus of the UK Government what happened next?
Luke Aaron Moore 24:20
So I think that probably depends on who you ask. And if you’re talking about yes, certain sections of fans of different clubs, rival clubs and of Chelsea themselves, I mean, the response was going to be as predictable as I’m sure you you can work out. But ultimately, among the adults in the room, I suppose the situation was handled in a way that said you know, it’s an asset of a sanctioned individual. So it’s it’s subject to UK law the same as all of his other assets are under those sanctions and then they kind of issued a special dispensation for them to continue perform your trading effectively as a as a club But with restrictions and limits on certain things like the selling of tickets and the selling of merchandise and everything like that, and then the government were able to oversee the selling of the club to another individual, in this case, an American, high net worth individual, that’s, that’s taking it over.
Luke Aaron Moore 25:15
And I think the broader response to your question, I suppose, is twofold. One is, what what kind of society do we want to be here in the UK, and I will talk about English football here. But you know, a lot of this is governed by, you know, more broadly as the United Kingdom. And then what kind of sport what kind of national sport that we want to have. And I think that there is a huge issue around the British economy being propped up by Soviet Russia money and corrupt money and all the rest. And that’s a kind of wider issue that I’m not that qualified to speak on, although I do know it was existence. And the second thing is the sport side of what kind of national sports we want to have in this country. We want it to be a sport for all we want it to be as accessible.
Luke Aaron Moore 25:58
As you said, in your intro, the basic the underpinning of the success of it is, is accessibility and its simplicity. Or do we want to make it free for these people to own these clubs, and to not only wash their own reputation for geopolitical reasons, but also essentially financially dope, our national sport and make the playing field so uneven? That, at worst is essentially a bit of a procession, really, I mean, you know, you got, you’ve obviously gonna have clubs that compete for trophies, and there’s going to be a smaller and smaller pool of those clubs that can realistically win things. But at the same time, you know, you’ve got countless clubs in the 92 clubs in English football, professional football, and the league system, of whom, you know, 95% of them, we’ve got no chance of winning a single thing. So I mean, that was never the case before. So there’s a social aspect to it, which is far bigger. It’s usually probably far bigger brains than mine, but the sports side of it is this kind of creeping death of it doesn’t happen overnight, but every so often is chipped away and chipped away and chipped away at.
Luke Aaron Moore 27:08
And so we have this kind of bastardization of fanatically dope because zombie foot at the very top level, which becomes really more like theater than, then sport, as we understood it is when we’re perhaps a bit younger. So I still love football, and I still really enjoy watching it. And I still get sucked in by all the drama. But it kind of annoys me sometimes that as football broadcasters, we are just given the parameters that we’re given. And we can only operate within them because I can’t read this the make an entertaining show that people want to hear by starting every single episode by complaining about the salaries on a new cast law, Man City financially dope in the league, because it just becomes tedious. You can’t, you can’t be like that. So almost you are through the nature of the job that you’re being asked to do or being expected to do. You have to accept these parameters that almost you don’t really want to accept, but you’ve got no choice. And so, of course, it’s not all about me. But when it comes to making a show, which is what we’re talking about here, it is frustrating, because we can fight against these things, and we can bring them up.
Luke Aaron Moore 28:04
But ultimately, as we all know, as listeners to or watches or TV and listeners to podcast or whatever, we don’t want to hear negative stuff over and over again, because that’s not that’s not what we’re coming here for. So it’s a tricky one, really, I think on that level.
Dave Ursillo 28:19
So that’s one case of a Russian oligarch, purchasing a Premier League club about 20 years ago in 2003. And clearly, there were not enough safeguards methods, procedures or eyes on the situation of fans or government officials to care to maybe think that this was not a good idea. But even more recently, in 2021, another big club in the north of England Newcastle United Football Club, was purchased by a consortium. And this consortium was consisting of something called the public investment fund of Saudi Arabia, which is essentially the Saudi regime itself, using its national funds to invest in and purchase an English football team to do something that has been called dubbed sports washing.
Dave Ursillo 29:15
And sports washing is essentially when a even authoritative or dictatorship regime internationally purchases a sports club, invests tons of money into the sports club to basically Garner good favor from sports fans. And in so doing whitewashes or sports washes its unsavory reputation. And the Saudi regime has a less than stellar record with human rights issues. And this all just happened in 2021. So is sports washing here to stay?
Luke Aaron Moore 29:56
Well, I don’t I can’t put the future so and the regular listeners to our show will know that, you know, I pretty pretty regularly Come on stop trying to predict what’s gonna happen. But I would answer the question in this way, I would say, if Manchester United, or Liverpool who are currently owned by American businessmen and are the biggest clubs in England, if they came up for sale, if either of those owners wanted to sell them, what are who are the likely candidates to buy them, and the pool is so small, that, you know, it’s highly likely that some of the candidates would be of this of this nature of the nature that you’ve you’ve already mentioned, I’m not suggesting that would happen, or that maybe there’ll be some fun unrest, and it will stop it happening. But they’re open to it just chiefly, because the checks and balances, and the rules laid down by the English FA aren’t robust enough.
Luke Aaron Moore 30:55
And so even when they try and stop it, they can’t really, and then a lot of the, the checks, they do do remain retrospective. And I think there’s a really uneasy kind of relationship between the privately owned nature of these entities, and a wider regulatory system, which the sport subscribes to, don’t know, they’re conducive to any kind of consistency. So it’s tough because football clubs aren’t, as they should be, in my view, completely protected. There’s like community related assets. And there should be, I believe there should be some kind of regulation in place the same way you would regulate an area, an area of outstanding natural beauty, or a national park or a listed building or whatever. Because they have that history, and because they’re important to so many people. But ultimately, that’s just, you know, that’s cloud cuckoo land stuff. Now, that’s not, that’s never gonna happen now. And there’s no realistic way to wrestle this stuff back. And you know, you can’t unring a bell, right. So there’s nothing you could do about it.
Luke Aaron Moore 32:00
But if it was done, again, properly, I think that’s what you’d have to go down the road of doing. And there’s all sorts of kind of sporting based things you could do as well to, to compete, make it competitive and keep it as pure as possible for the fans of the club, who ultimately the only permanent thing about a football club along with the way Yeah, I mean, it really are the only permanent thing of relating to a football club. But that’s just all fantasy stuff. Now really, that’s just me saying that, you know, if it were, if it were an ideal situation, this is where how I think it would look, but it’s never going to look like that now. So the short answer, I suppose is, I presume, yeah, there would be potential for more oligarchs more, essentially, state sponsored investment funds to be involved in football more often. It’s happening in Europe as well. And yeah, I think that’s it. It’s just part of the sport these days. And it’s not an awful lot we can do about it.
Dave Ursillo 32:55
So essentially, it sounds like because of how much money these clubs make, and how much how much they’re worth in, you know, Chelsea got sold for, I think four and a half 5 billion US dollars. That it’s almost impossible for there not to be like a consortium of a lot of very, very ultra wealthy individuals, or even in the case of state sponsored investment funds and groups and, but a really interesting idea crossed my mind, Luke, I know you said that was not feasible, and I’m going to suggest that it is.
Dave Ursillo 33:33
But thinking of football, leagues and clubs as a cultural asset, as something of historical significance, cultural significance, made me think of UNESCO world heritage sites. And I have no idea how those work. But there’s essentially a process in place by which locations and assets in a variety of countries become protected and receive various legal standings and financial investment for their maintenance. I mean, we can dream that something like that could could eventually happen. It may be a pipe dream, but it’s an interesting thought. I want to ask you about what power fans do have to affect some change in the game. Something happened also in 2021, the announcement of something called the European Super League. And what happened was that fans in Europe woke up one day to hear that 12 of the biggest and wealthiest clubs in Europe had declared that they were going to be creating their own league, essentially a non competitive glamor League, where all the best teams were playing each other for essentially no real competitive purpose, except to make as much money as possible.
Dave Ursillo 34:48
These 12 teams which were based in England, Spain and Italy, basically put the entire footballing system at risk and would have destroyed how the league’s operated. Fans mobilized the media mobilized to criticize this. And within 48 hours the whole initiative fell apart. So is the European Super League’s failure in indication of what power fans and media possess? Or was it an aberration, do you think?
Luke Aaron Moore 35:16
I think it’s that particular isolated incident incident. And the outcome is a limited victory for fans. And I’ll explain why. And so it really depends on how you look at this. And I don’t want to be tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist about it. But ultimately, what you need to do is, when you look at this issue, it’s a couple of steps back and look at the wider landscape because this whole thing of a European Super League, which takes these certain teams into it, that can’t be relegated from it, and hoover up all the, you know, as much kind of revenue TV revenue as possible, and essentially become a closed shop for elite football in Europe, and everyone else is left to just the whistle with the crumbs that are left on the table.
Luke Aaron Moore 36:09
Or you don’t need me to meet him. I mean, people who are listening here will just know about sport, generally, you don’t even need to explain to them why that’s kind of, under undercutting the the very core principle of what competitive sport is and what it traditionally has been in Europe. But ultimately, this needs to be set in a wider context. And the wider context is a battle between the power brokers in football, and what they actually want. Now, for example, the reason the clubs you’ve mentioned or that you refer to even entertain this idea in the first place, is because they want a better cut of the revenue and the deal for the Champions League. So TV rights or image wise, whatever it may be, they want more money, basically. And they’ve often threatened this kind of kind of club that contains these clubs, if you know what I mean, this kind of organization that represents the clubs have always threatened this kind of thing. And they’ve used it as almost a negotiating tool to get more of what they want.
Luke Aaron Moore 37:06
And what this was, in my opinion, was a really kind of a really a huge example like a very, very taken to its furthest extent the example of a really strong armed negotiating tactic. Now, so ultimately, ostensibly, they look like they’ve been defeated. But what are we seeing and what have we been seeing in the decade and a half or so previously, to where we are with European football. Now we’ve seen European football in the form of the Champions League taking more and more prominent more and more priority than they did before. We’ve seen increase, increasing free increase in the number increasing the number of different European tournaments that are available for teams to play in. We’re seeing season long European competition already really I mean, so in the Champions League starts in whatever it is September, November, whatever it goes all the way through till, till May, I can’t remember the specific days, but it’s essentially a season long competition is runs alongside teams, domestic leagues, and we’re seeing regularly now we’re seeing top teams, particularly in the case of young man city who are desperate to win a Champions League, and teams like PSG, and maybe one or two others, prioritizing European competition over their domestic competition anyway, so already, what are we celebrating here?
Luke Aaron Moore 38:23
Are we celebrating the fact that yeah, on paper, and official iteration of a European Super League has been defeated for now. But the reality is, a lot of these top clubs are prioritizing European competition anyway, and Champions League football, Europa League football and conference, the football is more and more prominent. Well, the victory is kind of there in a different flavor, if you look at it that way. So this is best understood as a massive power struggle between decision makers and power brokers at the top of the game, with football clubs, and more often than not players and fans, being the pawns in the in the game of chess, if you like.
Dave Ursillo 39:03
Well, we’ve spoken about some fairly disheartening issues in modern football, Luke, but I want to ask you, you know, as we look around the modern game today, if there’s anything that you find heartening, and I want to make a suggestion about some of the positive stories that I’ve been seeing in the game, women’s football has been on what could only be described as an astronomical rise in recent years. Listeners in the states here will know that the US Women’s National Team has been a powerhouse globally for decades just recently achieved pay equity with the Men’s National Team. Besides the fact that the women’s national team has been so much more successful than the men’s team for so long.
Dave Ursillo 39:42
In Europe and England, especially there’s been much more investment in the game, albeit after decades of neglect and the women’s game actually being banned for a number of decades in England by the English Football Association or FA. But women’s matches recently have been setting attendance records. This past summer, the England women’s national team brought home the European Cup. And your production company Stak has just given its own exclusive online, home to upfront a show dedicated to the women’s game.
Dave Ursillo 40:11
How are you seeing this growth? And what maybe do you attribute the growth to?
Luke Aaron Moore 40:17
I don’t know if I’m that well qualified to answer that comprehensively. But I think I can answer it from a kind of Stak a Stak kind of point of view, with a little bit of more kind of broad generalization in there. I think people love football generally. And they love sport, and they love competitive sport. And maybe this dovetails a little bit with some of the earlier answers I’ve given you around like kind of social responsibility and, and, you know, our attitude towards society, generally, here at Stak. And we want football to be for everyone, right? So underpinning all the answers I gave you earlier about why we kind of tackle these social issues. Because we passionately believe that football is for everyone, right?
Luke Aaron Moore 40:57
So if you want to watch football, and you’re interested in football, about who you are, where you come from, you should be able to do that. Now, that obviously should extend it to play in the game as well. And if you’re good enough to play at a high level, and you can compete, and you can earn a living from the game, and you can play to a level that people are interested in watching you play for for their own entertainment. And you should but to do that, it shouldn’t be a matter of you if you’re a woman or not. So that’s, I think, really important to kind of establish as a kind of preface to the answer. And I think that there’s a refreshing element to women’s football, people don’t see it as such a cynical thing. I see it as overly media, train people and kind of mollycoddled super rich, wealthy celebrities who play football, they see it as more accessible, this is more relatable, I believe. And I also think that, you know, we’re now seeing a situation where women are being supported to play, and they’re, they’re being supported to play, you know, they’re gonna get better at it, and the products gonna get better, and people are gonna see more of it. And we’ve been ahead of it. And we’ve tried to set an example, for a few reasons.
Luke Aaron Moore 42:08
One is because we believe what I’ve just said. And that’s something that the team shares as a belief. And so we’ve tried to put our best foot forward. And the second thing to do is to say, let’s be honest with ourselves, right? I didn’t grow up watching women’s football, there’s no one did in my generation, because it wasn’t on TV. And there were no women’s teams really, that we knew that we could watch. So what does that mean? What it means is, if we want to add a women’s football show to our to our roster, we’re gonna have to get someone else to do it, because I can’t talk about it. And I’m not going to patronize a sport that should that deserves to have the respect of being treated as its own sport, by you know, whack it out 20 minutes of stuff that I’ve just read on Wikipedia and cover the highlights, because I haven’t got the basis noise in the game. So we said to the team go out and find the best people we can that subscribe to the rambles kind of values, because it needs to be assessed to show the ramble and are about making it attainment and they’re about, you know, having that chemistry that we talked about at the top of this show we’re making now. And we’ll give it the respect it deserves, we’ll fund it will pay the presenters to be on it, we’ll give it a producer, we’ll give it the equal billing and we’ll and we’ll promote it. And the final stage of that plan has been this summer, we’ve pushed it onto its own feed entirely.
Luke Aaron Moore 43:22
And we’ve given it a load of existing subscribers that we think will will enjoy it. And we’ve given them the platform the support to go and do it. Now. In the case of up front it’s flow Chloe and Rachel have done all the all the hard work, you know, and along with the producers, Charlie and Finn, they’ve done the kind of hard work and they deserve all the credit. And, you know, over and above that, I think particularly here in this country, we love a winner, right? So the fact that Inga won the euros is a is a massive thing. Is it really inspirational story, you know, I was, I spoke to my niece who’s six, they after the European Championship Finals, England won, and she loves football, right. But she didn’t really ever talk about it that much to me. And the first thing he said to me was, I want to share it with Leslie Russell on the back, right, because it’s just so relatable to her. Like she can now see women playing and she can try and emulate that. And that’s really what it’s all about. And, and to be honest, I mean, I had a few kind of bits of pushback here and there from people saying, you know, I’m not sure the audience is there for women’s football, you might not make that much money, not many people will listen to it. I felt like we could kind of worry about that later, I think we’ve got responsibility to invest in it. And if we invest in it, and we really work hard at it, the audience will grow and it’ll be there and we’ll find it and it’ll start to start to be a popular show.
Luke Aaron Moore 44:39
I feel like I don’t want to be the kind of business owner that knows the price reversing but the value and that’s it right? Of course, you can’t go too far that way because you’ll end up with no money and no way to have a job and you know, you’ll be the biggest legend in the dole queue. And no one wants that. Obviously we’ve got a responsibility to our to our colleagues and to our presenters, and we need to pay them and we need to have the money to do so. So We have to make can make commercially sensible decisions.
Luke Aaron Moore 45:03
But at the same time, we can afford to look at the value of something rather than the price of it. And I think we try to do that and and to be honest,perhaps in this answer with one of my trademark barbs that I haven’t really had an opportunity to give out today. I don’t think the mainstream media and our rivals in the space and our kind of, you know, kind of colleagues in the industry are doing enough. And I don’t think I’ve done enough for ages. And I think what we’ve seen over the last month or two is them all kind of scratching around and struggling really hard and going 100 mile an hour to try and catch up. Whereas we’ve been doing a women’s football show for well over a year now. And because we believe in it, we think it’s the right thing to do.
Luke Aaron Moore 45:40
So I’m pleased they’ve come to the party as well, it’s the right thing to do hope we see a lot more women’s football on TV and an accessible place that people can experience and enjoy and see. And because if you can see it, you can, you can achieve it. And that is really, really important. There’s no reason at all that based on your sexual agenda, you can’t find something to play as a sport. And the legacy of this euros needs to be that women and young girls can play football if they want to. Because we’re in 2022. And it seems absolutely just alien to me. That That wouldn’t be the case. I was actually I mean, it’s, it kind of shames me a bit because I did spend an awful lot of my time thinking about this on that level.
Luke Aaron Moore 46:24
But I was really surprised when I saw the stuff that came out in the English press about the barriers that are still there for young girls who wanted to play football. I was just so naive about it and it angered me so I’m hoping that the legacy the true legacy of this win, is that young girls and women everywhere get to get to where we get to play
Dave Ursillo 46:43
Luke Moore, he’s the co host and producer of award winning independent podcast with Stak including my favorite show The Football Ramble. Luke, thank you so much for joining us on The New Story Is
Luke Aaron Moore 46:54
Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you very much. I’m sorry. If my cats were meowing in the background. They’re hungry for their lunch, so I should have fed them beforehand, so I can only apologize. But thank you for having me.
Dave Ursillo 47:02
And thank you for listening to this episode of The New Story Is We hope you enjoyed what you heard today. We’ll be back soon with a new episode. In the meantime, share this episode with a friend or leave us a rating and review which goes a long way to helping other listeners find and enjoy our show. Until next time, I’m Dave Ursillo. This has been the news story is bye for now.