Tuesday, 2 January 2018

What's wrong with Sheffield Wednesday?

Football is a ritualised form of tribal combat. Desmond Morris pointed that out long ago. When political units outgrew regions and became countries, it was no longer considered acceptable for the warriors of one region to attack and pillage the homes of neighbouring tribes. But that doesn’t mean the tribal mentality has been eradicated; it is merely sublimated.

English football has become big business, earning huge sums in television revenue and sponsorship, paying to its star players the sort of wages that ordinary people can’t even dream of.

Nevertheless it is a fundamental error to regard football clubs as simply companies like other commercial operations and their supporters as customers. The typical football fan is not able to switch to another supplier of this product if he doesn’t like some aspect of the way his current team is run. His football club is more than his family, it is his tribe; it is part of his identity; its successes and failures are essentially his own successes and failures.

Like all tribes, football clubs have totems. In the minds of supporters these totems are invested with mystical, magical properties. Listen to disgruntled fans singing that their current crop of players are “not fit to wear the shirt” and you get some sense of this. The shirt is the greatest of all totems. It has a hallowed tradition and new owners of clubs interfere with that totem at their peril.

For example, just because Cardiff City was acquired by an owner who considered red a lucky colour didn’t mean the ‘Bluebirds’ team shirts could be changed from blue; this move was insulting to the tribal gods. Not only would disaster and discontent follow hard on the heels of this unwise change, such evils would continue until tradition was restored and the tribal gods appeased.

To me therefore the reason for Sheffield Wednesday’s travails this season after two consecutive appearances in the promotion play-offs is painfully obvious. They stopped playing in blue and white stripes. Worse, they did this in the club’s one hundred and fiftieth anniversary season.

Vulcan is displeased. All the gods of steel-making are displeased. Their wrath is terrible. The tribal totem has been disrespected and good times will not return until proper tradition has been re-established.

Don’t wait until next season, club-owner Mr Chansiri. Blue and white stripes should be restored at once. The tribal gods won’t wait.