Football has a problem and nobody is truly willing to admit it. The beautiful game it may be but the culture that surrounds it is full of the worst of human character, yet nobody is prepared to do anything about it.
The latest unsavoury incident occurred on Tuesday when Chelsea fans were recorded chanting “we’re racist and that’s the way we like it” and refusing to let a black man enter a train in Paris. The club have condemned the actions of their fans, Jose Mourinho is “ashamed” and John ‘captain, leader, legend’ Terry is keeping very quiet given his reputation. The whole thing just stinks of double standards that are all too common in football these days. Oh, and this was all in Paris, a city already trying to deal with increasing racist attacks following the Charlie Hebdo atrocities last month.
If this was an isolated incident then maybe it could be defended as the actions of a small minority of fans. But this isn’t an isolated incident. Football has long had a tradition of hooliganism and institutional racism. There are just three black and ethnic minority football managers in English football whilst ‘monkey’ gestures and fan racism has been common in England and is even worse abroad.
This incident has of course allowed Ched Evans to keep his head down. The former Wales and Sheffield United striker who was convicted of rape in 2012 is struggling to find a team following his release from prison late last year. When any normal member of society with a position of responsibility commits a sexual or violent crime they tend to be struck off. Not Ched though, the PFA are happy for him to join a new club, just wait until thousands of people will be singing his name whilst kids run around with Evans’ name on their back. Not that football has a problem with sexism, in the words of Richard Keys “do me a favour love”. He and his beloved co-presenter Andy Gray are now enjoying working for Al Jazeera in Qatar where they have found a much more welcoming audience for their opinions on women in football.
Even the head of the FA enjoys a bit of sexism. In between these emails Richard Scudamore was busy organising a new £5.1 billion TV deal for the twenty clubs of the Premier League that he represents. Yet at the same time he is ‘uncomfortable’ with clubs being able to pay their staff the living wage. Players will continue to earn over £100,000 a week of course but clubs cannot fathom even trying to pay £7.65 an hour. With the average price of a season ticket at £2,000 it’s clear that football clubs aren’t even interested in the fans or normal working people any more.
But really who can actually be drawn into football these days for the football itself. Instead of the selfless icons of English football, those of the ilk of Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst we get to see the diving of Danny Welbeck, sulking of Mario Balotelli and philosophy of Joey Barton. The Brian Clough’s of this world have been replaced with the touchline brawlers of Nigel Pearson and Alan Pardew. What has even happened to football? It has become a parody of itself, an unapologetic; profit obsessed, racist, sexist, homophobic game that doesn’t care about the fans anymore.
Something needs to change and it needs to come from fans, politicians, FIFA, everyone. Football needs to get off its high horse and do something. It can be the beautiful game but it needs to admit and deal with its problems properly. Ban racists from every ground for life for their behaviour, allow the FA, PFA or FIFA to ban convicted rapists from playing professional football again and don’t televise teams whose fans chant homophobic abuse. Clubs need to set an example and pay the living wage and why can’t the FA start putting in place long term bans for diving, spitting, biting and show boating. If those who run football can start to talk to the fans and actually make a difference then maybe football can begin to deal with its problems. But right now the professional game, and the way people act within it, is disgusting and it’s time to sit up and take notice.
Photo credits to CC BY-SA 3.0 and TheBigJagielka