We often hear how technology and globalization have brought the world closer together. The Premier League is a perfect example of this. Soccer fans can watch matches live and debate it with other fans around the world on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, instant messenger or various forms of other media. The bond that keeps globalization together and makes it relevant is a common interest. In this case, soccer. And to be exact, the English variety.
However, globalization threatens to change a pastime that is near and dear to their heart of Englishmen. It’s happening already. Since the launch of the Premier League in 1992, England’s top flight has rapidly changed into the world’s league. I argue that it’s no longer an English league. It is by sheer geography. However, at the same time, it’s a league that has been transformed by foreign owners, foreign players, foreign TV rights pumping money into the club and, most importantly of all — a rabid fanbase of millions of soccer fans around the world who support Premier League teams with a passion that exceeds those of their local club teams and, in some cases, even their own national sides.
With globalization, we have blogs like this one and hundreds others which discuss the game of English football in infinite detail. But, for the most part, the Brits who visit this site are mere passengers as they peek inside and see the thousands of soccer fans debating their league.
For some Englishmen, it must be a strange phenomenon to see their league, the league from their own country, being “taken away” and hijacked by other countries. Think about it. In England’s past, the concept of a pre-season tour by most English clubs often involved a tour of several lower division grounds in England before the season started. Nowadays, most Premier League clubs play the vast majority of their friendlies overseas in front of capacity crowds in Asia, Africa and North America. And where this summer will most of the top teams in the world be playing in pre-season tournaments? The United States — where the World Football Challenge will feature Barcelona, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Juventus, among others. Soccer fans in England can only dream of seeing clubs like that in the summertime.
All of this brings me to my main point. Whether we love music, books, food, politics, sport or other interests, soccer is one of those few things where we can all congregate online and discuss the same topic in the comments sections of websites with our strangers and friends from the United Kingdom. We may love a British rock band or something else English, but soccer (and specifically the Premier League) is going to be the topic that we share in common with the most number of people Stateside and in Britain. There’s nothing else bigger.
It’s no wonder then that we do see some clashes in the comments sections of this site and others. Many Brits who post in the comments section seem to be on the defensive when they try to defend the England national team or under-21 performances. Some interject their own ideas, stories and thoughts about the league or a specific club, but it’s still a relative new phenomenon that Americans and Brits mingle together in cyberspace and discuss their game. I’m sure some Brits feel protective of their league. And they may not like the idea of seeing how it’s becoming less English and more American in terms of how the clubs are conducting business, improving how their club commercial departments are run and being owned by more Americans. I sense the hostility and frustration that they feel. After all, the English game has been in existence for 123 years (since the Football League was founded).
It’ll be interesting to see how the discourse among Americans and Brits changes over time in the next few years. Will many Brits finally be ready to respect the knowledge of English football that many Americans have learned in recent years that often parallels or exceeds what the average British football supporter knows? With the sheer amount of football matches on television and the Internet available to soccer fans in the United States compared to the relatively tiny number in England, will more Brits begin to turn to American sources – such as blogs and podcasts – for news on their league? After all, who better to comment on the Premier League than pundits who get a chance to see more complete games instead of a inadequate highlights package each week.
Whether Brits and Americans will congregate more on online sites in the future will be interesting to see. Or, they may end up going into silos where Brits visit British-based football sites, while Americans – for the most part – will visit sites that feel more American. We all share the same common language but there are distinctive differences. Where it will lead us we will have to wait and see.