The former director of the National Football Museum Kevin Moore has produced a challenging and revelatory new book which debunks many of the myths and assumptions about football.
In 50 short chapters Moore shatters many of the strongly held beliefs of football fans. His entertaining commentary is generally supported with hard facts and statistics although occasionally he does stray onto more subjective ground.
Usually he gets it right. It is surprising to know that the ball did cross the line in the 1966 World Cup final but that England did not win the World Cup fairly. Cambridge and not Sheffield is home to the world’s oldest football club. The Germans do not always win on penalties and it’s not a game of two halves.
He zips through the long list of revelations and we have to reassess many of our own assumptions. Occasionally his assertions are more contestable, for example, when he states that Premier League players are not overpaid.
“So what’s behind the view that footballers are overpaid? It is simply prejudice against the kinds of people who become Premier League players, who tend to be working class and not well educated.”
I would argue that this is not necessarily so, and the bigger issue for many people is their disproportionate salary compared to average people in society.
It is not that footballers shouldn’t be able to earn a good salary but that the sums earned are now at ridiculous levels. Premier League players’ astronomical earnings cannot be morally justified when some people are earning so little and we have such high levels of poverty.
When Moore sticks to the less subjective we learn plenty of new facts, such as: FIFA does not make the rules and never has; there is overwhelming evidence that referee’s decisions are biased towards the home team; and it is not artistry that made the Brazilians the best but science.
Concerning the forthcoming World Cup in Qatar in 2022, Moore debunks the myth that it will be too hot to play football. The stadiums will be air-conditioned and temperatures should not exceed 28 degrees C or 82 degrees F.
Previous World Cups have been held in much higher temperatures. So although there may be may be many other good reasons for not holding the World Cup in Qatar (human rights, slavery of migrants, illegality of homosexuality etc.) temperature is not one of them.
Probably the most telling statistic in the book is that most football managers make no difference at all and the simple fact is that modern football is all about money.
“The richer the club, the more it has to spend on buying the best players and paying top wages to attract these players. Statistically, the more the club spends on wages, the more successful it will be. The correlation between wages and league position in the Premier League and Championship is as high as 87% in one study, 92% in another, leading to the conclusion that it’s around 90%. It’s a simple as that. That leaves the manager’s role as able to explain only up to a 10% difference – better or worse – to this.”
Food for thought and that’s what’s so good about this book as it challenges many of those long held and preconceived beliefs about football. It would be a worthwhile addition to any football fan’s library.
What You Think You Know About Football is Wrong – The Game’s Greatest Myths and Untruths by Kevin Moore, published by Bloomsbury, Price £12.99.
This review first appeared in the February/March edition of Late Tackle magazine.