To quote Alf Garnett, “Football is working-class ballet”.
The People’s Game is indeed entrenched in our working-class communities. However, the truth is that football lost its working-class soul a long time ago.
The disconnection from the heart of its fans to the business of the sport has, until now, never been greater.
Matches are watched by thousands in the stadium, and millions on the TV, who couldn’t imagine what it’s like to earn the money the players on the field do.
The players seem unreachable humans and clubs are owned by people with mind-blowing wealth.
To see a local lad in your team, or an owner who grew up in the area, is now seen as a fortunate luxury rather than to be expected as it once was.
Then come the associated costs. Season-ticket prices, merchandise, home and away kits, TV subscription costs, travel costs – it goes on and on for the average football fan to feed the bloated game.
The coronavirus has put a spotlight on so much of our lives and it hasn’t spared football, glaring down on the wealthy players and owners.
With millions of people scared for their health and livelihoods, what would football do to lead the way and help those less fortunate? It took some time, mainly due to complex contractual issues, but the players began to step up.
It has been reported that the whole Manchester United squad will donate 30 per cent of its wages to the NHS and local hospitals. This is incredible and will be a huge sum of money. I expect many other squads will follow suit.
I believe the vast majority of Premier League footballers are acutely aware of their working-class roots and how incredibly fortunate they are. We should not confuse the disconnection of the business of football from working-class communities, with a similar feeling by players.
The same cannot be said about the clubs themselves, though.
Never has the distance between owners and fans felt more apparent than when news broke that Newcastle, Tottenham, and my beloved Liverpool had furloughed non-playing staff.
My social media was awash with angry fans feeling their clubs had let them down. These huge organisations are not small businesses in need of governmental support to secure the future employment of their staff.
It feels as though they are abusing the system. It feels like the most needless and opportunistic penny-pinching.
While billionaire owners save hundreds of thousands of pounds they can survive without, the communities built around the clubs they own will foot the bill, at a time they can least afford.
Let’s be in no doubt – spare the players, but the business of football no longer has a working-class soul.