I went to a conference last month on football – not a policy conference with wonks and stuff, y’understand, but a proper academic conference.

There were some good papers given, so for the benefit of TMFD readers; a synopsis of where we’re at, academically:

– I light a candle to our love see no colour
Did the famous football match in 1914 in no-man’s land happen? It seems the idea for it having taken place was a German soldier’s recollection, featured in BBC documentary in the 1960s. Extensive research of official regimental archives could find no evidence, but the researchers have conclued that such archives lie like cheap watches. After all, these were the killjoys who hated fun (and the poor bloody infantry) so much they stopped the chaps playing with each other.

Current thinking is that a) it probably happened b) but we don’t know where and with whom for sure and c) it may have been at several points across the frontline.

Anyway, the answer will be found in someon’e attic, in an old trooper’s diary. Get up those stairs, and get searching that old pile of papers handed down the generations. Together, we can make sure future generations don’t see Macca and the Farm as LIARS. The truth is though, regardless of whether it’s true, it conforms to a deeper truth, that all men want to play nicely with other except the toffs get in the way with their evil and nasty wars of capitalist endeavour comrades(or something like that).

– Wit’s oop wi’ Scottish Fitba?
The lecturer giving this very entertaining paper said his daughter summed it up when watching one game last season featuring one of the Old Firm and that week’s hapless saps. ‘Daddy’, she said ‘why do they only use one of the goals?’

– Football Democracy
Some wonk prattled on in an entertaining fashion, and relayed tales of dubious veracity about whether players were gay or not*.

– What’s cocking up US Soccer?
Intriguingly, the audience for football is big enough – the problem isn’t other US sports killing soccer, but European football, which gets great figures, and makes yer yank think ‘sod this for a game of soldiers’ when contemplating whether to tune their TV into the MLS. Well how ’bout that!

– What makes a good manager
Luck it seems. And judging by Brian Hamilton, former Norwich City and N. Ireland Manager who was the guest of honour for the conference, the ability to shoehorn a tale about Bill Shankly into any set of circumstances.

– Where did I come from Daddy?
Was football a product of rivalry between Eton and Rugby schools? Or was it a product of the pubs of Sheffield. Sadly, the more important question of ‘who gives a fuck’ was tantalisingly left up in the air.

– Do football computer games change the nature of fandom?
The answer is yes, and the presentation was done in the style of a Sensible Soccer game. Top work, though could have done more on FIFA vs ISS (more=agree with me).

All in all, much fun (apart from the location. The industry types go to Soccerex Corporate whore fest in that ship sail stylee hotel in Dubai. We wonky types go to Preston). If you add the number of players, support staff and other hangers on that make up ‘Football’ then there was a ratio of about 200:1 between objects of study and wonks, which seems ridiculously high, and also why concentrrating on the economics and such like missed the point; it’s a tiny sector, contributing little in those terms. It’s the cultural value that’s important. But what’s that cultural value? Er. People like football dead lots, and it’s a form of sociality important to many people. A simple conclusion for a simple game. Just don’t tell the people organising the next knees upConference.

* – This is not actually the case. It was a rigorous analysis delivered as a breathless tour de force(ie, great ideas relayed without a script in a kinda messed up the preparation and speech writing‘look at me don’t I know my material so well I don’t need notes’ kind of way.)