I’ve been a bit surprised by the flaring up of the ‘Racism in Football’ issue this week. Not that it wasn’t horrible, it’s just that it doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Time after time these over grown, over paid schoolboys behave atrociously and there’s a little outcry, a slap on the wrist and then everything goes back to normal. It’s not just racism though. You get stories of them cheating on their wives, hitting their girlfriends, sleeping with hookers, speeding, drink driving and getting in fights. That’s just the stuff we hear about. What about all the rumors of even worse behaviour that the huge fortunes involved seem to make disappear?
Are these the kind of men that should become sporting heroes to our kids? I don’t expect them to be paragons of virtue but you’d think ‘no breaking the law or overt racism/sexism/homophobia’ would be an easy enough minimum standard to maintain.
I think much of the ‘unfamily friendly’ behaviour that we see on the terraces is a consequence of the terrible examples that fans see the professionals setting on and off the pitch and the atmosphere it causes. We live in the middle of Birmingham so have both Aston Villa and Birmingham City on our doorstep but I would never take E to see a match live because, even assuming nothing kicks off, I think the kind of language and aggression on display is completely inappropriate for a young child. I don’t have the same problem with rugby or tennis or swimming or rowing or actually any sport I can think of except maybe boxing/cage fighting. Football is supposed to be our national sport so isn’t that sad? I’m no expert but you don’t seem to get that at other types of events. We lived close to the Millenium Stadium for years and the difference in atmosphere surrounding a rugby game and a football match was striking.
I realise not all footballers are terrible but then why are the rest of them letting their colleagues get away with acting like this? Money, of course. If they help the team win, bring in sponsorship and sell merchandise they can do what they like. So, unfortunately, I think these sorts of things are inevitable as long as they are never held to account and never see any serious consequences for their actions.
On the up side though the fact that there is so much money involved does mean there is something we can do about this. It’s easy. Stop giving them our money! By this I mean not just avoiding buying the ridiculously overpriced t-shirts but considering their sponsors and advertisers as well. From now on I am resolved to hold the people financing the thuggish behaviour to account and I hope other mums will do the same.