The Action Replay column from the February 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
Last month, The English Premier League winter transfer window opened from 1 January to 31 January. Joey Barton transferred to Burnley; Gabriel Jesus to Manchester City, and Oscar's £60 million departure from Chelsea to a Chinese football club grabbed the most attention in sports news.
According to the EPL, the present system was introduced in 2002/3, as a compromise agreement with the European Commission about how the transfer system worked and how to preserve contractual stability for the player and the club, while allowing movement at prescribed times during the year (transfer windows). The alternative was to bring football in line with most other industries where contracts were not enforceable or liable for compensation, i.e. notice periods being served and players moving at will (Bosman ruling).The football authorities across Europe felt this would undermine the ‘footballing economy’ by reducing incentives for clubs' investment in younger players.
Some managers including Arsène Wenger feel the transfer window should close when the Premier League season begins. In an ideal world the EPL might support this initiative; however football operates within a European and global market, so if transfer windows closed in England, witnessing Spanish, German or Italian rivals continue to trade and pursue their transfer targets with impunity would put English football at a disadvantage.
Effectively English football clubs operate within a market economy that buys and sells commodities (in this case individual footballers). A striker’s worth is mainly influenced by goals scored, defenders are rated by defensive qualities and goalkeepers by ‘clean sheets’. Despite the high wages some players earn, economically they are ‘for sale’ in the same way as pork belly, rice yields and the futures markets within a capitalist world.
To make the point, compare football's economic activity with the recent January sales. In the UK many shoppers descended on high streets the night before the sales took place, tucked into sleeping bags in order to be the first crossing the shop floor in the hope of securing bargains. Among those offering big reductions were familiar names like Harrods, Selfridges, Liberty, House of Fraser, Next, and Marks & Spencer.
Myf Ryan of Westfield shopping centres said the January sales remained a 'huge attraction'. Westfield operates two large shopping centres in west and east London and she anticipated exceptionally busy days yet again, due to the excellent retail offers and special deals with over 50 percent off by many of our retailers.
The Next fashion chain opened at 6:00 am and at one of its stores on Oxford Street in London's West End, 600 people queued. In Birmingham, some shoppers had been queuing since 02:30 am outside the Bullring branch of Selfridges, with store deputy manager Sam Watts estimating some 2,000 were queuing by opening time. Crowds of up to 150,000 descended on Sheffield's Meadowhall Centre.
Let’s not forget the sales bonanza from shopping online: according to the data firm Experian and online retailing trade association IMRG, internet shoppers were expected to spend £748m on Boxing Day, (£519k) a minute. They also predicted some 167 million visits to online retail sites, up 29 percent on 2013.
So we see, that whether it's footballers, fur coats, washing machines or flat screen televisions, the people and products bought and sold in our present society are mediated by the market. Under capitalism, we learn the price of everything but not its intrinsic value.
Hasten the day that socialism (a world system) arrives so that as a society we produce for social use and not for profit and the supply of goods and services are determined by the needs and wants of the people and not the realisation of profit at our expense by the capitalist class.