Friday, June 30, 2017

World Cup - West Germany 1974

Before the violence and negativity of the 1986 and 1990 tournaments plunged the game to new depths of despair, the 1974 World Cup with its miserly 2.55 goals per game was considered the nadir of football history. However, at a distance of over 40 years it can now be seen as the apotheosis of European football.

Holland destroyed Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. West Germany became champions and the pace and tempo demonstrated by each became the new standard in world football

Matches were played at 9 different venues but for the first time the on-field architecture was standardised - and box-nets were the standard chosen.

Cue the music to The Terminator. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

World Cup - Mexico 1970

The 1970 finals were the first to be broadcast live in colour and they're rightfully remembered for the champions Brazil's kaleidoscope of 19 goals from 6 games - including the four in the final against Italy, into the L supports at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City...

.. and 15 goals in their five games at the Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara - 16 if this one had gone in!

17 if this one had gone in!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

World Cup - England 1966

Awarded the 1966 finals for forming the FA a hundred years prior,  England became champions with no-wingers, a formation that firmly turned its back on Hungary and the lessons of '53 and - with goalnets hung mostly on stanchions as English as World Cup Willie - the 1966 finals could be seen as the empire's last hurrah.

But with journalists from a greater diversity of countries than ever before attending the tournament, the matches broadcast live to the world for the first time and these Continental D's supporting the nets at Hillsborough, Sheffield, the 1966 World Cup finals could as easily be seen as the first of the modern era.

Games for the 1966 finals were held at (among others) Wembley, Old Trafford and Hillsborough. White City Stadium and their temporary A-frames was used only because - get this - Wembley refused to cancel the scheduled greyhound racing for the same night as Uruguay v France.  Like I said, the empire's last hurrah.

My favourite hardware at the finals was the marvellous A-frames at Ayresome Park, Middlesborough, where North Korea famously knocked out Italy; what's yours?

Friday, June 9, 2017

World Cups - Chile 1962

Revisiting The History of Goal Nets series on World Cups - starting with Chile 1962

The Chilean FA told FIFA they had to give Chile the World Cup "because we have nothing else." So Chile won the rights to host the 1962 tournament and they got plenty in return: Garrincha in his prime, the Italy v Chile Battle of Santiago and these stanchions of almost perfect quarter circumference on which to hang the tournament's nets.

Though football on TV was in its infancy and the matches at the '62 finals were not broadcast live, the influence of the tournament could be seen in the stanchions installed at stadia as diverse as Estadio Bernabeu, Madrid -

and Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Lovin' it: UEFA Champions League Final 2017

The European Cup final used to be an annual highlight for football fans watching on TV. Though the games themselves were sometimes boring, fans were treated to an unpredictable viewing experience featuring a crackly commentary and exotic goal nets.

But, sadly, no more. Better communications fixed the crackly commentary and the exotic goal nets were eliminated by the process of standardisation - or McDonaldisation - undergone by the game the last thirty years or so.

UEFA has used McDonalds standardised model to attract TV fans from all over the world. The same way McDonalds products and services are standardised to render the McDonalds experience placeless - it's always the same, anywhere in the world - so UEFA, through the Champions League, has done its best to eliminate any visual differentiators that signal actual places or particular stadia to those watching the games on TV. McDonalds theory dictates this standardisation makes the games accessible to the widest possible TV audience.

One visual differentiator that has been eliminated is the stadium goal nets or, rather, the method employed to suspend the nets. From Madrid to Turin, homogenous box nets are now everywhere. Real Madrid and Juventus play the 2017 Champions League final in Cardiff this saturday, 3 June. Spectators at the game will not suffer from the McDonaldisation sense of placelessness as they know they are at the National Stadium. However, fans watching on TV will have no visual on-field signifier to differentiate this Champions League final from any in the recent past.

Indeed, you could view the 2016 all-Madrid Champions League final in Milan side-by-side with the 2014 all-Madrid Champions League final in Lisbon and not be able to tell the difference. Sure, the games were exciting, with the penalties and late goals, however with nothing on-field to visually differentiate the 2016 final from the one two years earlier - or indeed, any final in the last 20 years - the TV viewing experience was utterly predictable.



This unsatisfactory experience can be contrasted with watching the European Cup finals of 1971-73. In each, the peerless Ajax side of Johan Cruyff could be safely predicted to win, however the experience of watching the games on TV - or at a distance of over 40 years on YouTube - is enhanced and made unpredictable by the different methods each of the three stadia employs to suspend the nets.

Not only are the majestic curved stanchions of old Wembley, the intense A-frames at Rotterdam's de Kuip and the outsized, Subbuteo-style Continental D's at Red Star Stadium instant identifiers of each respective stadium for fans watching on TV, the differing hardware suffuses each game with a distinct signifier. As importantly, each stadium's nets reacts differently when hit with the ball and a goal is scored, so injecting a dose of unpredictability into the viewing experience.




Football has long been recognised as an important source of collective identification and expression of local identity. Place is one of the main ties that bind fans to the game. It is this same place that UEFA has stripped away in its McDonaldisation of the Champions League.

If you're watching Saturday night's match on TV and find yourself feeling bored or restless despite watching the best club football on the planet, you'll know who to blame.  With their homogenous goal nets, UEFA has rendered you placeless, effectively sat you in McDonalds for two hours. Lovin' it?