27/05/2014 11:34 BST | Updated 27/07/2014 06:59 BST

Is Football Experiencing a Crisis of Moral Responsibility?


I'm not a bastion of morality, and neither is football. Things, though, are getting out of hand. I'm not talking about racism, sexism or homophobia (although they're clearly all issues); it's the adverts that vex me. They appear representative of the culture of greed and consumption that has infested almost every crevice of the sport. It doesn't feel like voluntary consumption either - more the sort of experience geese go through before you get foie gras.

Watching football live or at home, the experience is unavoidable. When we're not being extorted in stadiums, sold superfluous goods and encouraged to gamble we're being patronised by companies that care little for our welfare.

In Barclays' sycophantic football advert they follow various fans on a match day. Dripping with sentiment and set to soporific music, the narrator proclaims: "To follow is to love." Barclays know how you feel, yeah? We're all in it together.

But this is the bank that brought you the Libor and PPI scandals, Project Brontos, the Protium deal and numerous other less than savoury affairs. It's an organisation that has continually demonstrated its contempt for the average person, not one that has given us anything we treasure about football.

The advert stars 87-year-old Evertonian Billy Ingham. Billy's got a glint in his eye and a smile on his face that suggests he's basking in some kind of sporting benevolence. The reality of the situation is that he's probably crying inside from some £9 pie he splashed out at half time or the overpriced beer he had to down because he couldn't take it back to his seat. Maybe the implied sense of nostalgia is related to when Billy could remember a time when banks couldn't barge in on football and pretend that they play some great role in it all.

But my favourite TV advert has to be Gazprom's. Ah, Gazprom. Remember when they err...that time when...err - no me neither. Show me how Gazprom have enhanced football and I'll treat their attempts to make that claim with less disdain. Their advert's combination of Disney-style animation, excessive flag waving and Tchaikovsky lulls the viewer into thinking the advert demonstrates how much Gazprom love football - as opposed to simply being the PR mask of a company voted the 'world's most evil' in the 2014 Public Eye awards.

These companies aren't harmless, and neither is there involvement in football. Gambling is another example of this.

According to Ofcom, gambling adverts have risen 600% since the deregulation of the industry in 2007, with close to 100,000 sports betting adverts now being shown on UK television every year.

Is this really what football has been reduced to? A means of peddling crap we don't need, laundering the reputations of morally questionable companies and encouraging us to gamble away what little money we have left at the end of it all?

Of all the organisations masquerading as people's champions, though, FIFA is the worst. As democratic and transparent as 1980s Liberia and presided over by a man with more than a touch of the Berlusconi about him, FIFA seem to have re-branded themselves as a suppressor of workers rights, purveyor of suspect electoral systems, and corporate cum-sponge.

As demonstrable of football's ills as Bernard Matthews is of turkeys', the organisation tasked with governing and representing the sport is predominantly representative of its flaws. Is it any wonder there is disillusionment with a sport when those in charge set such a terrible example. Eight people have died making next month's World Cup a reality, and Qatar, host in 2022, was recently revealed to be among the worst countries in the world for workers.

Compartmentalising problems in football is not a long term solution. It's easy to suggest that swallowing adverts from companies like Gazprom and Barclays is unrelated to the sport's larger problems like corruption and the exploitation of workers but that's missing the point. Football is experiencing a crisis of moral culpability. From boycotting matches and tournaments to actively demonstrating, if we want football to truly be accessible and representative of the fans that make it possible we all need to play our part in holding these organisations to account.