1. If you are really interested in the song it will be necessary to read the comments below, where there is a glut of information, much of which I do not understand.
The indispensable Reformation has recorded a couple of quotes from MES about the song:
MES: "I noticed the early signs [of the middle class takeover of football] when I wrote 'Kicker' but I never imagined it'd become so cunical [sic] and anti-communual [sic]. They hike the price of tickets in order to have it for themselves." (Renegade, page 220)
The Fall did a song about football, Kicker Conspiracy, back in the early 1980s. What sort of reaction did it get at the time?
You couldn’t mention football in the rock world then. We were on Rough Trade and I told them “This is about football violence” and it was all “You don’t go to football, do you?” I remember Melody Maker saying, “Mark Smith’s obviously got writer’s block having to write about football.” About five years later, the same guy reviewed something else saying it was a load of rubbish and “nowhere near the heights of Kicker Conspiracy”. And now, of course, all the old music hacks are sat in the directors’ box with Oasis.
"It's about English soccer violence being triggered off by rubbish management and frustration that the game's been taken away from its support, that the English game is so boring there's nothing else to do. I remember thinking at the time that if Maradonna had been born in Manchester he'd've been lucky to get a game with a local pub team, being cheeky, overweight, small and sweaty. It coincided with me not going any more due to muscle-bound teams, expensive tickets and that, so there's an element of sadness too.
In a 2017 interview (Uncut, September 2017, p. 57) MES was asked about a comment by Jah Wobble:
Wobble mentioned The Fall, actually. He said "Kicker Conspiracy" reminded him of the Kickers that studio engineers used to wear in the '70s. Is that right?
It can be read like that, yeah. But it's also a big Dusseldorf/Cologne hooligans' magazine, Kicker.
According to Martin,
May I just point out that on the front cover of Hex Enduction Hour the following words appear:
"Cushy E.E.C. Euro-state goals"
prefiguring a couple of the lyrics on this song, which received its live debut a year after the release of HEH.
Bzfgt: I don't understand any of this. I told Martin as much and he replied as below, which, God willing, will be the last thing I ever add to the notes to this song:
I'm not sure what you don't understand. Cushy means comfortable, not going out of your comfort zone (don't know if the word is used this way in American English); E.E.C. means European Economic Community (if I'm not mistaken it tended to be the default way until some years ago to describe what we all now call the European Union); Euro-State is I suppose an early MES example of how he felt about European integration (or at least a reference to it); goals is perhaps a pre-cog pun (Kicker Conspiracy is about various aspects of football). Returning to the cushy bit, there's a contrast being made between the fans:
"Remember, you are abroad!
Remember the police are rough!
Remember the unemployed!"
and the hangers-on, the bigwigs:
"Remember my expense account"
The lyrics in the song ring truer than ever these days, though the fan experience, at least as far as England is concerned, has changed somewhat (all-seated stadiums, prawn sandwiches - maybe you need to google this reference! - etc.). But the sponsors, the governing bodies...these are still as pernicious and greedy as ever, as MES rightly saw and foresaw.
Martin subsequently added, in reference to the Google search alluded to above, "Roy Keene is the man you need to include in your search."
So the empowered reader can Google "prawn sandwiches Roy Keene"; Lord knows, I shall not.
2. Jimmy Hill (1928-2015) was an ex-footballer who was chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association; in 1961 he was instrumental in the abolition of the maximum wage (20 pounds at the time). In 1961 Hill also became manager of Coventry City, and introduced a lot of changes which were grouped under the rubric "The Sky Blue Revolution." According to Joseph Mullaney:
"Jimmy Hill is most famous in the UK as a former pundit on Match of the Day, the flagship football programme on BBC television. Hill is well-known for his strong and informed views on football tactics and the game in general."
3. The main entrance Highbury, Arsenal's stadium until 2006, had lots of marble and was called the "marble halls." The stadium is now an apartment complex, but the halls were preserved and incorporated in the new building. Sir Bert Millichip was chairman of the National Football Association ("F.A.") from 1981-1996, and "Marble Millichip" may be a reference to the marble halls, although I haven't confirmed that he was ever called this by anyone save MES. The nickname may be meant to imply that Millichip was partial in his dealings; as a Manchester City fan, MES presumably has little love for Arsenal. The reference to Highbury as "charm school" is doubtless sarcastic, but it is otherwise beyond my football expertise to decipher it...see the comments below for speculation.
The sleevenotes for Perverted by Language render this word as: "CORPORATE-ULENT", with an asterisked footnote to this: "'Corporateulent' is a copy-right Fall Music Publishers"
The Lyrics Parade
has "Blues Club," with the following explanation: "The Blues Club was the Manchester City supporters club bar at Maine Road. George Best - 60's soccer icon - played for Manchester United, City's arch rivals, but he was still revered for his style and brilliance. Mark E Smith has said on UK TV that even though he's a City fan he often went with mates to watch United just so he could see Best play." However, both the ears of my readers (better attuned than mine, usually) and the blue lyrics book have "booze club," and it seems to make more sense than the club of a rival. Indeed, Best had problems with alcohol, and admitted to stealing money from a woman's handbag at a bar, among other sordid episodes. Again from When Saturday Comes:
Funnily enough, I met George Best a few times – first was in some drinking club in London in the early 1980s. He heard I was from Manchester and went into this big rant about how he’d used to get all this stick from the crowd at United when they thought he wasn’t doing enough. It was true he did used to stand around doing nothing for 80 minutes but I thought that was all right, given that he’d still win them the game. But he’d still get stick when he was going off from Bobby Charlton and the other players. He was the type who’d just walk into his local boozer and there will always be people wanting to have a go, if you’re like that.
6. Or, as others have pointed out, "McHat," as T.L.B. on the Fall Online Forum
points out that sports reporters in the 70s "typically wore hats." Michael F speculates that Pat McCat is a joke Irish name like "Phil McCavity" (or, one might add, "Paddy O'Furniture"). The lyrics book has "Pat McGatt," but MES sings some version of "mickatt," and on certain live versions the enunciation is particularly clear. It doesn't seem to be the case that there was ever a "very famous sports reporter" with any of these monikers. To make a bad matter somewhat worse, though, the Wester Hailes Sentinel
had a sports correspondent--a Fall fan?--in the 1990s named Pat McHat.
says the blue lyrics book. However, MES seems to sing "living
brochures." Ben G hears "Living brochures for brown units," i.e. walking beer ads.
This line is enunciated fairly clearly as "Destroy the facilities!" and numerous live versions confirm it, but the blue lyrics book has "Let's swell the facilities!"