There was a time football fans could pay their pennies on the turnstile, buy a pie at half-time and go home moaning about the centre-forward. Now they feel obliged to hand over thousands in advance, wear a scarf that bears no resemblance to the colours of their club and go home moaning about the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The football match on a Saturday used to be a 90-minute escape from the unequal struggles of life. Now it's a 90-minute crash course in the unequal struggles of life. Fans are actually relieved to go to work nowadays to forget about the grim realities of their pastime. Football's no longer an opiate for the masses but an amphetamine. It is turning the bloke with his rattle into a charged-up militant with a placard, intent on overthrowing the system.
If the footballing authorities are truly interested in seeing just how far they have failed in their supposed governance of their sport they only need to check out the grievances of the support. Once it was possible to measure how riled the fans happened to be by the League position of their club. No more. Manchester United were 4-0 up against one of Europe's most prestigious sides on Wednesday and what you could hear from the stands was not "Glory, glory..." but "We want the Glazers out". As far as sporting protests go, it must have been unique in its timing. So much for fans being notoriously fickle.
Of course, it shouldn't be like this and Wayne Rooney should indeed have been granted the headlines for a staggering display rather than David Beckham for donning a green and gold scarf as he left the pitch. But the only people to blame for that are the governing bodies for allowing a situation where owners with no connection to England's biggest clubs can buy them with little more than a fistful of loan notes. Hence the Liverpool fans conducting an email assault on the RBS inbox, warning the Government-owned bank not to refinance the £237 million loan of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
Where will this all end? With Scousers closing down their accounts, ripping up their mortgage books or risking prosecution by refusing to pay back their own loans? Probably. A fan would far rather go down that route than embark on the only course of action which would genuinely make the Gilletts and the Glazers run for the nearest exit.
On Friday, the Red Knights, that consortium of would-be saviours, pleaded with supporters not to renew their season tickets. It was another way of saying boycott the matches. As hard-bitten millionaires themselves, the Red Knights realise the Americans will not be swayed by damning chants or the symbolic waving of wool. If the Theatre of Dreams turned into an echo chamber, the Glazers would soon be on their way. The protest on the balance sheet is something they would most definitely understand.
It won't come to this, because it is contrary to the very nature of the supporter which is, of course, to support the team. But the sad fact is it would have to come to this before the fans could wield any meaningful influence by their widespread dissent. Otherwise they can carry on singing when they're winning and the owners can remain impervious to the words and their message. What a mess.
Tiger’s get-out clause
Which matters more to Tiger Woods at the moment: his image or his golf game? This week we shall surely find out. The world No 1 has until Friday to commit to next week's ArnoldPalmer Invitational. If he decides to skip Bay Hill he will almost certainly head to next month's Masters without having played competitively for more than four months. Is that wise?
Sure, Woods will have ducked the media onslaught at the PGA Tour event and he will have escaped the hecklers, too. The galleries of Songs of Praise are more likely to shout abuse than those of Augusta. With the Masters' controlled press attendance, it would be as near to an armchair ride as Woods could ever hope for. But at what expense to the sharpness of his form?
Is the sportsman who is still referred to in some quarters as "the greatest on the planet" really prepared to prioritise what happens off the fairway over what happens on it? If Woods is, it would afford the most telling insight yet of the state he is in.
In this scenario, Team Tiger would no doubt claim next Monday's Tavistock Cup to be his warm-up. Pass me the bunker rake, there's some garbage to skewer. That is nothing more than a glorified fourball with the lads, which happens to take place inside the gates of his private club, which happens to be situated inside his gated community. It would be akin to limbering up for Le Mans with a screech to the end of his drive. It would be so inappropriate that it could even be deemed offensive to the Masters.
Of course, such is Woods' genius he would be capable of defying the rust and wow, what a story that would be. Except real champions do everything in their means to assist their God-given talent and not use it as some sort of get-out clause. Woods should play a proper Augusta prep event or not play Augusta at all. If his dream is to be seen purely as a professional golfer again then he should act like a professional golfer again.
Stay-away Murray at fault
Andy Murray has gotten off ever so lightly this last week. If you want to know why the British Davis Cup team is so bad at the moment, look no further than the stay-away Scot.
If Murray had made himself available for the trip to Lithuania, Britain would have won. There is no doubt about that. So why the glut of "what's wrong with British tennis" articles? How about: "What's wrong with Andy Murray?"
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