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Values, Football and Super Leagues...

Larry's picture
Hi Everyone,
Disclaimer 1: This is another post about values.
Disclaimer 2: It uses football as a reference point.

If disclaimer 1 doesn't result in people switching off disclaimer 2 probably will but let me ask people to stick with it - it’s important and I’ve tried to keep it brief.

The European Super League was a massive news story over the past few days. For anyone who missed it this was the story that a number of the bigger European football clubs from England, Italy and Spain were intending to form a new league of super teams. What ensued was a contest which pit the values of the fans against those of the clubs owners and concluded with the triumph of supporters' values over those of investors. This is not a common story and is worth celebrating as a victory for participation. 

What’s interesting is that no German club was involved in the proposed super league despite the prominence in European football of teams like Bayern Munich. This is because of the 50 plus one ruling which governs German clubs. In Germany clubs are owned by the fans who by law retain a minimum of 50 + 1 shares in the club. Foreign investors cannot buy clubs in the same way they can in this country. Germany fans have a voice built into the structure of the game. The six English clubs which signed up to the European Super League are all owned by investors whose primary focus is making a return on their investment. Their actions were driven by values which prioritise making money over other considerations. 

Another layer of values are the values brought in by the management team. A new Manager will bring a new set of values to a club and these can have significant impact. A commitment to playing open and attractive football, nurturing talent, supporting the community, fairness and an ethical approach to the game can invigorate a club, provide it with a moral grounding, garner widespread praise, create a feel good factor in the community, an enhanced togetherness and trust among players, an enhanced sense of identity and can ultimately improve results. The problem is that these are not deep values and often depart the club with the manager who brought them in.

We can ask what are the deeper values of The Rising Sun? The values of the people who are involved in the centre, which lead to people to putting time and energy into making the centre work and which have led us to fight for the centre’s survival in times of adversity (of which there have been some) and which inform the way we act and impact on the centres success. 

This is relevant to where we go from here. The Year Zero project will not only reassess operational practices but look at some bigger questions facing the organisation. At the beginning of the pandemic I asked us to think about whether we should go for core funding (portfolio status) from the Arts Council. I said that this would more than double our turnover but would come with some hefty hoops to jump through and the loss of some independence.

Do we want more funding and a sense of being on the ‘inside’ of the arts establishment but at the risk of losing some of our independence and identity? Or do we want to be more ‘activist’ and decide our own direction and priorities? These are questions which require us to think about our values and require us to be clear about what they are. I think our values are reasonably solid and clear but we may need to spend a little time consolidating them before they become useful in helping us answer questions such as the ones above. This is something to think about and something to return to. 



Manager, Rising Sun Arts Centre

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