“Do you support a football team, sir?” asked one of the boys.
”I do. Yeovil Town.”
”Do you not support a Premiership team?”
”No, Yeovil are my local team and they are the only team I ever get to see.”
The boys looked thoughtful.
“Did they get promotion or do they play in the National League?” asked another of them.
”They made the play offs, but lost in the first match.”
The National League, it is a grand title for the fifth tier of English football, but football has become accustomed to inflating its titles.
The top tier, the league that was simply called “Division 1” for generations, became the Premiership. Following on from that development, Division 2 became the Championship. Then Division 3 became League 1 and Division 4 became League 2. Calling the fifth division the National League is consistent with the overall trend.
Nor is it just in English football that such a shift in language has taken place. The European Champions Cup used to be what its name suggests, a cup for the champion teams from the nations of Europe. Then the Champions League emerged. There was no longer any need to be the champion team in England, it was enough to be in the top four in order to qualify for the competition. Had the competition been for champion teams only, Liverpool would not have recorded their European triumphs in 2005 and 2019.
Football is a reflection of wider society in the devaluation of language. The constant pressure to have the right profile, to create the right impression, to possess the right image, leads to ever increasing inflation in the terms being used and the claims being made.
Even in academic life, the boosterism has taken a very firm root. It is estimated that if the current trend continues, then some universities will give only first class degrees in a few years’ time. The universities responsible are the new ones, those striving to gain a market share in the competitive world of student numbers. Students mean money, they mean income for the universities. A little massaging of statistics seems tolerable to ensure the expansion of the faculties.
Is anyone really convinced by the inflated terms? Any football fan would know that League 1 is the third division of football and that the National League is below the Football League. Similarly, other claims, particularly those about academic institutions are open to probing questions.
What is the point in not calling things as they are?