Archive for March, 2014

05th Mar 2014

Death of the Local Hero?

The recent death of football legend Sir Tom Finney, who played for the same club – Preston North End - throughout his playing career, has reignited the debate about whether local sporting heroes are a bygone oddity; a phenomenon of the past; a nostalgic but long-lost chapter in the ever-raging commercialisation of the sports-entertainment nexus.

Ironically, history is repeating itself in the football context when we think of how English Premier League greats like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, to name a few, have stayed loyal to their local, childhood teams. Things were more of a contrast in the 1970s and 1980s, when the lure of foreign wages attracted the British-born star players – Best, Gascoigne, Rush, Lineker, Waddle, Hoddle and so on – to club teams in Italy, Spain, France and elsewhere.

This said, the days when Finney played football are very different from today – since the maximum wage was abolished in English football in 1960, there has been a gradual shift away from club power to player power. The 1995 Bosman ruling, upholding the right of free labour movement for footballers in the European Union and allowing them to be free agents once their club contracts expired, further tipped the balance in favour of player power – and gave more rope for players’ agents to negotiate lucrative deals with the wealthier clubs, most of which are now owned by capital-rich foreign businessmen.

Outside the realm of sport, other types of local heroes can continue to retain ties with their home towns, even after they leave for the big smoke or foreign climes, and there is usually little resentment when this happens. So the best actors and directors head to Hollywood; the best musicians, models and designers to London, Paris or New York, but that steadfast connection to their ‘roots’ lives on in magazine interviews, documentaries, biographies and autobiographies.

So the local hero is not a thing of past, but on a much grander scale than in previous times, today’s local hero is a product of economics. What keeps the twenty-first-century local sports star loyal to his or her origins is not some enduring love of a place and its people – as with Finney’s Preston – but the financial rewards on the table.

Which means, sadly, that sporting clubs, teams and even nations that cannot afford to out-smart competitors for the right to hold onto their beloved heroes end up losing them… to the highest bidder… to the bidder who can promise state-of-the-art training facilities, a luxury lifestyle, a sun that always shines.

Posted by Posted by admin under Filed under media theory Comments Comments Off