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Culture Shock - Why this northerner has no sympathy for Football

One thing I have discovered this year is that some politicians are completely inept when it comes to explaining a point.

In order to understand what they actually mean, you have to treat their statements as if they are Shakespearean quotes and try to figure out the hidden meaning.

Many times I have found myself reading a statement from an MP and finding myself having to do the same kind of analysis I did for my English Literature A Level.

Is it so hard to say what you mean?


Misquoted or misspoke?

This week, it was Jake Berry (MP for Rossendale and Darwen) who had difficulty explaining himself and received quite a bit of backlash after stating:

'For many people who live in London and in the South of England, things like the opera house and the ballet will be [at] the heart of their culture, but in the North of England, for many of us it is our local football club.'

Now, I understand the point that Mr Berry is trying to make, local football clubs have the same impact on the community as local theatre, brass bands and pubs and it would be a great loss if they folded, but using such stark comparisons is not helpful to the cause.

He has since argued that he was misquoted and he wasn't trying to compare the north to the south or opera to football.

Again, a point I could sympathise with ( we know what the media can be like) until I actually watched the video of him making this statement (which is directly quoted above).

Unfortunately, if his intention wasn't to compare the north and south or the arts to sport, the problem lies with how the point was expressed, not how it was quoted.

I think the term misquoted has been confused with misspoke in this scenario.

He has since posted an essay on Twitter, explaining what he actually meant to say:

This just shows how important it is to explain yourself properly when you are in politics.

People might show more empathy and less hostility if you stick to the point and try not to be creative with fluffy comparisons including outdated stereotypes that suggest the north is less cultured and sophisticated than the south.


Northern Exports

There are people in my life from both the North and South who love the arts, as well as football and I don't think there is a need for comparisons in this way.

However, just to show how stupid this comparison is, I have put together a small list of just some of the North's artistic institutions and imports:

Venues and Institutions

  • The Halle Orchestra - Manchester

  • BBC Philharmonic - Manchester

  • Palace Theatre - Manchester

  • Manchester Opera House

  • Bridgewater Hall - Manchester

  • Lowry Theatre - Salford

  • Manchester Arena

  • Royal Northern College of Music - Manchester

  • Northern Ballet School - Manchester

  • Chethams School of Music / Stoller Hall - Manchester

  • Liverpool Empire

  • Everyman Theatre - Liverpool

  • Liverpool Playhouse Theatre

  • Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts

  • Blackpool Opera House

  • Blackpool Grand Theatre


  • The Beatles - Liverpool

  • Oasis - Manchester

  • Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Liverpool

  • Cilla Black - Liverpool

  • Mel C (Spice Girls) - Liverpool

  • Mel B (Spice Girls) - Leeds

  • Sting - North Tyneside

  • Robson Green - Northumberland

  • Ridley Scott - South Shields

  • Jodie Comer - Liverpool

  • Stephen Graham - Liverpool

  • Take That - Manchester

  • The Smiths - Manchester

I could go on and on, but I hope this illustrates the point that saying the heart of the North is just football is a mistake.


Welcome to our world

Mr Berry complained that the arts had received a £1.5 billion package from the government during the pandemic, yet football had been told to just 'sort themselves out'.

How often does the arts receive funding?!

How many cuts have been made to the arts over the years which have caused ensembles, tuition and programmes to be cancelled?

Brass bands are just one of the many overlooked areas of the arts due to our amateur status, so forgive me for being pleased when we had an opportunity to take a cut of this long-overdue financial aid.

I'm not going to say that I'm glad football is feeling the pinch that the arts have felt for so many years.

All I'm going to say is, welcome to our world!

As an MP who says he loves brass bands and even had one play at his wedding, I would have liked to have seen the same support for the local arts including brass bands and disappointed that he has used this funding for the arts as the crook of his argument.

If we're talking money, how much money is in football?

A ridiculous amount.

So, why are local football clubs, junior academies, women's football clubs and social outreach programmes are lacking funding?

The Arts Sector contributes around £10.8 billion a year to the UK economy, yet over 70% of the sector has received cuts over the last few years.

Whereas the Premier League (which is where you will find the lads with the big pay packets) contributes between £7-8 billion.

The answer is, despite there being so much money in the sport, it is in the hands of the few.

How many oboe players earn a 6 figure salary per week?

How many ballet dancers bring home millions of pounds each year?

How many conductors own a house that is the size of a small palace?

This is where your problem lies, Mr Berry.

It's a problem that has been around for a long time and is never addressed.

Maybe if the footballers in the upper echelons earned a little less or placed some of that extortionate salary back into their local football clubs, we may have less of an issue.

However, that is never going to happen is it?

Furthermore, how many people put money in the bigger clubs compared to their local team?

For example, I live in Wigan, but most people would prefer to support Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool or Everton or at least support one of the big clubs, as well as keeping tabs on their local team.

For so long, the arts have been expected to fund themselves with little to no government help.

They are expected to pay their way and put up with any setbacks or cuts. What was their response to artists out of work during the pandemic?

Retrain! I'm presuming you're not expecting footballers to retrain, are you Mr Berry?

I thought not.

Am I saying that football is less important than the arts?

Absolutely not.

Like brass bands, theatre, music venues, pubs, it brings a lot of joy to people, but I'm afraid I have no sympathy for this argument.

Speaking from experience, I have been in bands who have struggled to keep themselves going, because there was no financial help and I have watched bands fold due a lack of funds.

Where was the surge of local MP support then?

I can understand the frustration and fears, Mr Berry has for local clubs as the banding world is constantly worried about banding dying out due to a lack of funding.

I understand your point, Jake, I can even empathise with it, but do not ask me to sympathise when we do not have the same support, despite your alleged love for us.


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