Manchester is quickly becoming one of the country’s most important economic centres. Despite competition from Liverpool and Birmingham, Manchester has risen to a level that places it amongst the forerunners of the British financial industry. Obviously, it is still trailing far behind the City and there is little chance of London losing its much coveted crown, but the race for second place has been hotly contested for years. The financial sector will be celebrating their victory with all the usual trappings: fine wine, expensive dinners, big nights out and Manchester Victoria station escorts, picked up on their way into the city centre.
Of course, one of the big financial powers in Manchester in the moment is Manchester City FC. With their billionaire owner, they are causing quite a stir by splashing some serious cash. Last year, that investment finally paid off and they became the champions of England. They have since pumped large sums of money into local infrastructure as well: building a multi-million pound training complex that has employed a large number of people and helped Manchester to rival London as the country’s greatest centre for footballing excellence. The likes of Chelsea and Arsenal can only look on in jealousy at the facilities being provided by this new surge of economic clout.
The fans may not be quite so happy with the way things are going though. In a bid to increase profitability, both clubs are putting up ticket prices, which many are finding a bitter pill to swallow. There used to be a time where a fan could come in by train, spend a little time with the escorts in Manchester Victoria station and go to see the big game. Now they can barely afford the ticket, let alone some company, food or travel. Football used to be the entertainment of the masses, but now it’s just a middle class hobby. Stadiums full of fairweather fans, silent and passionless, robbing the ground of its atmosphere and life. The gentrification of the game has been much maligned but there is some legitimacy in it, as many of the lifelong fans now find themselves trapped outside the gates, staring in. They’ve been priced out, unable to afford the staggering high prices that come with success. It’s a sad day when the fans can’t even attend their own games, but that is the growing trend as more clubs veer towards “financial independence” Perhaps, rather than isolating their core fanbase, they could try giving players and agents less money and taking the game back to its roots.