Football in the year 2000 is now a thing of the past. In 1925 it was still a vision of the future and therefore the article „What to expect in the year 2000“, which appeared in the Mansfield Reporter on 1 May 1925, sounds exciting.
So what was the vision of the future? How did one imagine the game of football to be played at the following turn of the millennium?
But at first glance one is disappointed. This is already revealed by the beginning of the title: „Football Special. Exclusive Interview with a Martian„. But between the lines, much can be read about the ideas and desires of the author, sports journalist L. V. Manning.
What is it about?
The article is written in prose and is rather reminiscent of Kafka in its beginning:
„How he got into the room I cannot explain. I only know that he was there, helping himself to my tobacco and enjoying my whisky and soda like a mere mortal. ‚It’ll make a great story,‘ he said, ‚but I don’t think they’ll believe me when I get back.‘“
It turns out that L. V. Manning is looking at a sports journalist from Mars who is taking advantage of the football-free period before the interplanetary cup competition to have a look after the football game on Earth.
The manners – whisky, soda, tobacco – suggest that the attributes do not distinguish football fans from Mars and Earth in 1925.
But rule and structure do: 850 years should separate the development of football between the „cultivated planets“ and Earth, estimates the Martian, who is neither introduced by name nor described in appearance, language or anything else.
Big Boom on Mars: Labour Party Comes to Power and Nationalises Football
A lot has happened on Mars in the past 850 years: one item in particular has had a very successful impact on the development of football:
The Labour Party on Mars first came to power and realised that football was ideal for becoming the „strongest power„. It harnessed football for the benefit of the people, the Martian tells us.
Football was controlled by the state, clubs became community property – this meant a good consolidation of the state budget through the numerous revenues from football matches.
Great increase in the value of football
At the same time, players began to be paid according to their value. Lump sums became a thing of the past. And football received an upgrade, becoming a university discipline on a par with law, medicine and art.
„Chairs were established at all major universities and learned professors lectured on the science of the game, management and refereeing. A qualified referee (Grade A) was paid an annual salary of £2,000 and retired at the age of 45.“
A League of Nations called the „Football League
But that was not all: there were no more wars because of the game of football. Disputes were settled on the pitch: „A League of Nations was formed, which so skilfully exploited the competitive spirit of football that it eventually became a football league of nations. Disarmament followed and all disputes, industrial and otherwise, were settled on the pitch.“
But it was not only politics that changed the game of football, but also a change in the offside rule. For this „antiquated law“ was abolished „483 years ago“ on Mars. He predicts to Manning: „Someday someone will come up with the idea of playing the game without offside rules, and you will find that it will not have very tragic consequences for the game.“
What is it really about?
When the Martian journalist wants to mention how players will be punished for the most serious crime, deliberately hitting the ball down the field, it turns out Manning was dreaming it all.
In the report, the Martian only served the prosaic narrative. For he very much reflected Manning’s opinion and his dreams. And so the title makes sense again: the author hoped that football in the year 2000 looked like the Martian described it.
What became reality? What didn’t?
Let us therefore go through the points again.
Consumer behaviour has not changed since 1925: The Martian enjoys a spirit and a cigar.
=> No, our consumer behaviour has very much changed. Certainly there are national differences. In Central Europe, bread rolls and beer are considered attributes of the football fan.
Meanwhile, we can travel to other planets and play against other planets rather than on a national level.
=> No, there is no interplanetary competition and we know by now that it won’t happen.
The Labour Party gets into government and that changes the game of football a lot.
=> Well, in fact the (English) Labour Party did come to government. Briefly as early as 1924, before this article was written. It was in government again from 1929 to 1931. But it did not influence the game of football during this period of government. Nor did any other political party.
Football is nationalised, the revenue helps consolidate the budget.
=> No, not like that at all. But it does say a lot about L. V. Manning, who was obviously politically close to the Labour Party and not entirely averse to the socialist idea of nationalisation.
Players are valued more and receive the salary commensurate with their value.
=> Yes, players do indeed receive more money, but probably more than Manning dreamed of.
Playing, refereeing and officiating football matches will become a university subject that ranks high in importance.
=> Yep: Sports science has emerged as a university subject, but it is not on a par with medicine or law.
Refereeing will also become a (main) profession that is adequately paid. In addition, the age limit will be limited to 45 years.
=> Depends on the national and continental guidelines. This can be seen just by comparing Germany and England: in Germany it is only a part-time profession that is somewhat remunerated, but there is an age limit at 47. In England it is a main profession, but there is no age limit.
There is the Football League of Nations, which is a political league of nations. Therefore, there are no more destructive wars, but a confrontation on the football field.
=> No, not really. Although one does notice political ill-feeling at some international matches (as elsewhere in sport -> Ukraine/Russia link recently).
The offside rule will be abolished
=> No, the offside rule still exists. Although the offside rule was changed shortly after the article appeared – see article „Penalty! How the penalty kick came into the rules“ – and the abolition of the offside rule has been discussed repeatedly since then, but there has never been an abolition so far. It won’t be an issue for the time being either, as a lot of money has been spent on semi-automated offside technology.
For those who would like to read the full report, here it is in its entirety.
How he came to be in the room I don’t pretend to be able to explain. All I know is that he was there, helping himself to tobacco and enjoying my whisky and soda like an ordinary mortal.
„It will be a great story,“ he said, „but I don’t suppose they will believe me when I get back.“
„Are you from abroad?“ I gasped, when I had pulled myself together a little.
„In a sense,“ he admitted, „I am a journalist and have come a long while to see your football. We have heard some weird tales about your game in Mars, so the Editor asked me to pop down and get a story, and – well, here we are.“
He ignored my gasps of horror. Obviously I was in the presence of a lunatic, or worse. My instinct was to dash for the door, but I. realised he was nearer to the exit than I, and I decided to humour him until help arrived.
„Tell me about it,“ I murmured coaxingly, „I’m awfully interested in Mars, really.“
„Well, you see, our big season starts next month, and as we are all out for the inter-Planet Cup, this time, we thought there might be a wrinkle or two to pick up down here.
We mee Saturn in the first round,“ he added, „and if we can’t slip some new stunt over, we don’t stand much chance. They are pretty good. You will remember what they did to Jupiter last – but perhaps you wouldn’t,“ he broke off – to smile pityingly. I let him go on. There wasn’t much else to be done.
„It’s extraordinarily quaint, your football. You are, I estimate, just about 850 years behind the civilized planets. There has been some talk of a challenge to your Football Association. We did in fact try to get in touch with you some years ago.“ (Those „signals“ we read about in 1913! I thought)
„Perhaps it is just a well we didn’t succeed. It would have been very difficult to fix things up. You see, your game is so very different to ours. Many hundreds of years ago our football, according to documents found, was exactly like yours.
The improvements began when the first Labour Government went into o-ce- The premier of those days – the celebrated Sir Ramsay McTillett – realised that, properly handled, football might be the most potent force on the planet. But perhaps you find this tedious.“ my mad Martian exclaimed.
„Go on,“ I begged. He was getting interesting.
State Controlled Football.
„Once the Government got seriously to work,“ he proceeded, „things moved quickly. From a Ministry of Football to State Controlled Football was an easy and natural development. It was realised that there was a vast revenue in football which was being lost to the State. Clubs ceased to be privately owned concerns. The Municipalities took them over, and very soon the ratepayers began to feel the benefit.
The Players Union welcomed the change. Playing conditions improved and so did wages. The barbarous flatrate of pay and the stupid old transfer laws were all swept aside. A man was paid what he earned. If he was a great artist, he was paid like one.
I believe back in those days there were great footballers who only earned [Pounds] 8 or [Pounds] 9 a week, while a music hall comedians were getting [Pounds] 200.
Then it is on record in one Martian Museum that sometimes players were transferred in mid-season for vast sums to save a club from relegation to a lower division. The wise men of those days realized the evils which must spring from such a sy[s]tem.
They saw the folly of allowing a manager who didn’t know his job to cover up his close season blunders by extravagant purchases when things were going wrong for his club. The remedy was simple. They passed a law forbidding any transfers during the playing season.“
„Did it work?“ I ventured.
„Of course,“ he said. „Why not? Managers then had to rely upon their judgment rather than their cheque book, and there was a great revival in the almost lost art of team management.
In due course, football with its new wage earning possibilities rose to be a profession equal in standing to the Law, Medicine or the Arts. There was a Chair established at all the great Universities and learned professors lectured on the science of playing, managing and referee-ing. A qualified referee (Grade A) was paid [Pounds] 2,000 a year and was retired at the age of 45.
Some sensation was caused the other days by the discovery of an ancient newspaper which proved beyond all doubt that once upon a time men refereed football matches without any payment at all. You may well look incredulous; I tell you these things are true.“
I hadtened to reassure him that he proceeded.
„Far more important from the national point of view was the effect of these changes on the whole life of the planet. A League of Nations came into existence and utilized the football competitive spirit so cleverly that this body ultimately grew into a Football League of Nations. Disarmament followed, and all disputes, industrial and otherwise were settled on the playing field.“
No Offside Law
I thought it best to bring him back to the game. I asked him what has happened to the play itself ‚mid all these developments.
„What about offside?“ I inquired. He smiled. „The last offside whistle was heard in Mars 483 years ago. I have been reading your newspapers. It’s astonishing. I wonder how much longer your spectators will go on suffering this antiquated law. Some day someone will think of playing the game with no offside rules applying, and you will realize that this will involve no very tragic consequences to the game.“
It seemed to me that such an enlightened sphere of players should never behave anything but perfectly, and it was with some surprise I heard my strange visitor say that all offences on the field were reported to the Courts of Justice and dealt with under the criminal law. „The most serious crime is deliberately kicking the ball out of play and for this offence a man can be sentenced to –„.
It was at this point the pup must have sneezed. Anyhow that was the end of my dream.
Manning, L. V.: Football Special. Exclusive Interview with a Martian. What to expect in the year 2000. In: Mansfield Reporter (01.05.1925). S. 6.