I’ve used that term a lot on twitter, and was asked to define it.
This was my response:
Impossible in 140 chars. But here goes: The "incumbents" are those holding the power, their supporters, and their target demographic.
— Gary Kleiban (@3four3) July 27, 2013
Here I’ll go further …
Traditionally the term is used for the holder of an office or post, but we must expand that to include the entire community that knowingly or unknowingly helps to sustain those in their posts, and consequently the status quo.
So I partition the incumbents in 2 classes:
- The High-level Incumbent
- The Incumbent Community
General profile of the High-level Incumbent
Non-exhaustive, and in no particular order:
- Federation executives
- Pro-league & team executives
- College executives
- Club directors
- Top level coaches from Youth to Pro to National Teams
- High profile media creators
General profile of the Incumbent Community
Non-exhaustive, and understanding there is plenty of overlap:
- Activist parents with disposable income
- The 1st generation soccer fan
- The novice
- The scared
- The high-level incumbents, of course.
Activist parents with disposable income
This is the prototypical ‘white’ or ‘white-washed’ suburban person who achieved their middle to upper-middle class position by following the long held ‘promise’ of industrial America.
Specifically, follow the rules, and you’ll be ok – you’ll achieve disposable income.
So go to school and follow the rules set out by every authority figure you are presented with. So long as you don’t color outside the lines (at least not too much), you will be ‘successful‘.
Then when you get a job, again … follow the rules laid out by every authority figure you are presented with – your boss(es). And so long as you don’t color outside the lines, you will be ‘successful‘.
In other words, rule followers. Or just simply, followers.
And their disposable income gives their kids an advantage within the establishment. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, their culture of obedience is welcomed by the establishment.
(Not to mention the vast majority of club boards are comprised of this class. Talk about a massive conflict of interest.)
1st Generation Soccer Fan
Put simply, this group is intrinsically more novice than those who grew up immersed in the game through experienced family and friends.
Of course in principle they can learn and catch up. But the problem is:
It’s natural for this group to gravitate to others who share the same profile – they have more in common. So they mostly live in this echo-chamber of ideas generated by the less experienced. Probably not the best thing …
Along those same lines, they naturally get most of their info and ideas from the high-level incumbents.
As such, they are brought into the fold. So no matter how experienced (# of years) they eventually become, they have been raised on the messages fed by the incumbents.
Pretty self explanatory (I hope?).
And again, since the high-profile incumbents have the loudest megaphones, the novice receives his ‘education’ from them.
Being a leader is scary, very scary.
That’s why most don’t become one.
And if you’re not leading, you’re following. And if you’re following, you’re supporting.
The high-level incumbent
They support the other incumbents. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. Together we stand, divided we fall.
The cohort of high-level incumbents speaks with one voice. One message.
There is no multi-party system, no real elections because there are no real challengers.
How could there be? For if you oppose the ruling cohort, you will be blackballed.
So even if you hold a high-level post and happen to know better, you tread carefully, you comply, you follow, you support.
Why write a post like this?
Well, beyond the necessity of defining the terms we use, if we are genuinely interested in achieving soccer greatness, we must understand the status-quo.
A huge part of which is identifying and understanding the creators and supporters of the status quo.
This gets us started.