ALLEN LANE £14.99 (397pp) £13.99 (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897
HARPERSPORT £18.99 (386pp) £17.99 (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897
YELLOW JERSEY £10 (131pp) (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897

Pitch Invasion, by Barbara Smit
Foul! The secret world of Fifa, by Andrew Jennings
On the Corinthian Spirit, by D J Taylor

Kickbacks but no penalties

As if you didn't know, the 18th World Cup starts today. When it reaches its conclusion on 9 July, around three billion people are expected to watch the final. What else do three billion people do together? At a historical moment in which humanity's economic, ecological and cultural interconnectedness is of unprecedented scale and intensity, the World Cup brings the world face to face with itself. These three books speak to different facets of what is unlikely to be an entirely edifying experience.

Barbara Smit's Pitch Invasion is an immensely readable romp through the history of Adidas, and thus also the story of international sport's politics and the commercial colonisation of events. DJ Taylor's delightful musings in On the Corinthian Spirit attempt to locate the values and residues of English sporting amateurism, which continue to resist that process. And Andrew Jennings's Foul! tells us about how the circus is run between performances.

Pitch Invasion is a three-act tragedy. In the first, Smit charts the rise of the Dassler Brothers - Adi and Rudi - whose shoemaking business in the German town of Herzogenaurach prospered under both Weimar and the Nazis, serving the growing market for sports shoes. Even in the later years of the war, the army was still commissioning thousands of running pumps. In the aftermath, the brothers survived American denazification efforts, returned to their business and after a tumultuous family row split the company into Adidas and Puma, located on either side of the River Aurach.

The second act describes the rise of Adidas to become the world's premier sporting brand and a corporate success emblematic of the German economic miracle. That success sprang from both the traditional virtues of the German social economy and the brilliance of Horst Dassler, Adi's son and the real power in the 1960s and 1970s. Horst and the sports politics unit he created within Adidas were the pioneers of the commercialisation of football and the Olympics, the inventors of contemporary forms of sponsorship, brand-building and sports marketing.

The final act charts Adidas' decline, as Nike and Reebok proved more nimble and streetwise competitors. After buyouts and restructurings, the company has become an outsourced corporation whose German qualities have been eroded in a more homogeneous world market.

One of the most compelling aspects of Taylor's book is his account of the importance of nonchalance in Edwardian amateurism: of not being seen to try too hard, of taking the most interesting rather than most obvious path. Taylor's own path is not dissimilar, opening with a seemingly eclectic tour of his own history as a schoolboy footballer, social-mobility statistic and avid reader of footballing epics. However, beyond the whiff of whimsy there is a more serious narrative and intent - a pungent and sharply observed social and literary history of the origins and decline of amateurism. This narrative provides a subtle barometer of the state of class relations and identities.

Taylor is at his best looking at language, wondering when exactly the shift occurred from the "amateur" as the player for pleasure and glory to the hopeless novice. When did "professional" cease to mean a cynical money-taker and become the adjective of choice for seriousness and rigour? He is rightly appalled by the denigration of amateurism under the rule of a soulless meritocracy.

Although amateurism was an ideology and way of life only sustainable through privilege, it has left a legacy of values that are a powerful antidote to the corrosive intrusion of money and power into modern sport. The insistence of British football crowds on playing to the final whistle, and their widespread distaste for diving, are indices of this.

This historical quirk has had its costs, greatly underestimated by Taylor. English football and society remains plagued by the same structures of elite closure and administrative incompetence that characterised the FA in the first half of the 20th century.

Matters of administrative malpractice bring us inexorably to the subject of FIFA. In his book The New Lords of the Rings, Andrew Jennings exposed systematic corruption within the International Olympic Committee. In Foul!, he has turned his unerring attention to the bun fight that masquerades as the global governance of football.

The early part of the book covers well-known ground: the reign of Joaõ Havelange, the Brazilian patriarch who with his friends at Adidas transformed Fifa from a penurious cottage industry into the owner of the world's greatest commercial and sporting spectacular. Where Foul! really takes off is in Jennings's account of the election and rule of his successor, the incumbent president Sepp Blatter. Jennings strongly suggests that the election was supported by vote rigging, vote buying, finance from the Gulf and undue use of Fifa resources. Since then, Blatter has attempted to create new circuits of bureaucratic power among his hand-picked staff; he has undermined and eventually purged his opponents.

Official Fifa business, always an opulent inter-continental affair, has spiralled to grotesque levels. The massively enlarged carbuncle of football bureaucrats, created by Blatter as a phalanx of kept support, have lived the high life. In addition to the five-star, business-class, black-Mercedes arrangements, all have been allowed a daily expenses rate of 500 euros, for which no receipts or accounts are required. Members of the executive committee were handed $50,000 honorariums. President Blatter's salary and accounts remain, despite repeated requests, a matter of complete secrecy.

The global pandemic of corruption and match-fixing in football has forced Blatter to adopt the language of his opponents: promising probity and transparency, decrying the commercialisation of football. Blatter did what he does best and formed a committee of investigation. To this committee he appointed, among others, Jack Warner, president of the Trinidad and Tobago FA.

Jennings's account of Warner's football and business careers is one of innumerable tales of flagrant and disgraceful gravy-training. In Warner's case, this peaked in spring 2006 when it was revealed that his family travel agency was selling World Cup ticket packages out of the football association's allocation. Asked to explain, Warner announced that he had resigned from the board of the travel agency, as had his wife. Thus a conflict of interest, if there had every been one, no longer pertained.

This is conduct so laughable that it would not survive a moment's scrutiny in the most modestly democratic public sphere. That it can continue is testament to the brazen indifference of an elite that faces no opposition and little scrutiny. The sooner they do, the sooner they can be swept away.

David Goldblatt's global history of football, 'The Ball is Round', is published by Viking in September

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans has been confirmed as the new host of Top Gear
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Top of the class: Iggy Azalea and the catchy ‘Fancy’
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map