The dwindling interest in football should be no surprise

Ben Mountain

BREAKING: Demi Lovato is one of the world’s most influential people, ladies and gents. So is Neymar Jnr. The rest of the footballing world, however, succumb to a status below the American singer. What a tragic state of affairs.

Football is the world’s most popular sport. Get this, there’s an estimated 3.5 billion soccer fans across the globe. To put that into context, that’s one out of every two people. Every other person on this planet is a football fan. That is truly staggering. Some estimates suggest that this figure is actually higher.

So, football has quite the global audience. Subsequently, it has quite the reach and, surely, quite the influence.

Demi Lovato, for the purposes of comparison, has about 1.2 million YouTube subscribers. Nothing to be sniffed at, admittedly.

But it’s not a patch on 3.5 billion. That’s a point for us football fans to claim. Well done, lads. Anyway, with the vast extent that football has on people’s lives across the globe; you’d think that the majority of its figureheads and players would be deemed ‘influential’.

But this is not the case. Time magazine recently released their famous ‘100 Most Influential’ list for 2017. And, yes, you’ve guessed it: Neymar Jnr was the only footballer to appear. For the slow ones; Demi Lovato was on it, too. She hasn’t just been referenced for a laugh.

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That’s quite a shock, though. Of all the household names that the footballing industry possesses, only one is apparently considered one of the most influential people around. And, no, he wasn’t one of those two.

What’s even more surprising is that no female footballer had been selected; despite their influence over women’s lives in developing one of the world’s most rapidly growing sports.

So, what’s happened? Is the current situation for football so bad that 3.5 billion people aren’t quite enough to make it significant anymore, or have we just become tired of its unwavering supremacy?

We can’t be sure. But it’s a surprising issue nonetheless.

Whilst some may argue that a game peppered with over-preened prima donnas is far from the world’s most influential creation, its impact certainly cannot be overlooked.

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From the millions of children who aspire to make it among the likes of Neymar & Co., to the millions of adults who base their entire week around the football; millions of us are notably and explicitly influenced. Think about it, for us football fans, the sport enters every aspect of daily life. From office chat, to how your weekend is spent and whether it’s actually enjoyed or not.

And how individual footballers act has a magnitude of unprecedented effect on this. Think about Pearce and Waddle and their Italia ’90 heartbreak, or Luis Suarez as he unashamedly punched Ghana’s winning goal to-be off the line. The effects of these actions were massive.

The sanity of a nation can rest, concerningly, on which way the football swings. Children across the world were somehow questioning whether Suarez’s hand of God impersonation was morally justifiable. It wasn’t, by the way. And it’s amazingly been overlooked. But never mind.

Football is a sport that is taken so seriously for so many that lives can actually depend upon it. Whether they are lost, like Andrés Escobar’s was, or saved; like the thousands of children who enter football as a way off the street, football’s reach extends far beyond whether you head down the pub or not post-match.

And, clearly, football has an influence in other areas of life. The top five European leagues command a combined revenue of €12 billion. The football market is expected to exceed €25 billion this year. That is an eye watering amount of money and a colossal financial influence.

Football influences all manner of industries, too. From the pubs to the bookies, clothing lines and transport; football supports them all.

It’s surely far from doubt, therefore, that the actions undertaken by footballers have a global influence.

So why is this seemingly not the case? Well, the simple answer could be that Time royally ballsed it up. But, actually, they seem a pretty reliable source in that field. Maybe not, then.

So, perhaps footballers really are losing their grasp. Maybe, despite all the influence they have over industries and the like, the distance that is slowly furthering between players and fans has made them disconnected to the point that they no longer effect us.

Maybe with the hiking ticket prices, increased status of celebrity and expanding wage packets; football is just slipping out of touch with the people it exists for.

Because, if one in every two of us are watching it; it certainly has the capacity to influence the world. But, individually, those who produce it do not. So, there must have been a fundamental break down in the relationship between fan and player.

If there hadn’t been, we surely would have seen a few more footballing stars comprise that list.

Although, having said that, how many of us feel connected to Demi Lovato? Few, we’re sure. Maybe we’re stretching it.

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