Thursday, 19 February 2015

Je Suis Chelsea

Like many I was shocked and appalled at the footage of Chelsea fans denying a Parisian entry to a train on the Paris Metro.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the fans then delighted in chanting about being proud to be racist, as the Frenchman was black.

Next morning Chelsea Football Club released a statement saying if any of those involved proved to be season ticket holders then they would be banned for life.

Of course many supporters of other clubs couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stick the boot in and claim they weren’t surprised, or that it confirmed everything they hate about the club.  It seems to be beyond their understanding they’re simply exhibiting prejudice of a similar nature to that of the racists.  You cannot label the whole club & particularly all Chelsea fans as racist purely because there were a few idiots who wanted to throw their weight around in a foreign country.

I have only seen a few comments seeking to justify this in some way, and some of them even suggested ‘what has happened to this country’ as a reason for it.  Again, if you are outraged by foreigners coming over here acting like the own the place, then you can hardly defend those who do the same elsewhere.

There are several things to note about this whole unsavoury event.  Firstly, it’s irrelevant which team they were supporting, in fact you could argue it’s irrelevant the reason they were in Paris.  People are far more ‘brave’ in groups than they are on their own, and that includes men and women these days.  What we had here was a group of English men portraying thuggish behaviour in a foreign capital city, purely because they’re English.  Let’s just imagine one of these fans trying to get on the tube at Leicester Square only to find a group muslims, Poles, Turks or Bulgarians, unable to speak any English, barring their way?  You can imagine the calls for throwing these foreigners out of our country.

We expect, even demand, people from other countries respect our country and traditions and yet time and time again British people go abroad with an arrogance it’s everyone else who is at fault. 

How many people arrive in Tenerife and head straight for Lineker’s Bar?  How often do you see Britons in Spain passing all the local restaurants and cafes looking for one advertising ‘full English breakfast’?

What you will also have heard said many times in Paris the other night was groups of supporters looking for somewhere to eat and drink and turning down options because they were too full of locals (this would’ve been phrased in more Anglo-Saxon language).

Watching the footage of this incident seemed to take us back about 30 years to a time when English fans went abroad in the belief we owned the place.  Of course many will point to there being elements of these incidents within plenty of clubs in the country and hopefully the fact it has now been brought to the attention, it should deter people from repeating it.  But I must admit I thought Chelsea had left that type of ‘supporter’ back in the 1970’s.

These blokes will have family members who have seen the footage.  Some of them will have children, they may possibly work with people who found the whole business abhorrent.  Their employers may be very interested in what they’ve seen.  As this footage is now on the internet it’ll be very difficult to completely remove it. 

This is how I suggest we deal with the perpetrators.  Personally, I still believe in public shaming people.  Just banning them from grounds will not change their views, and this is the key.  There’s little point continuing to punish people unless they understand what they have done is wrong.  They must be educated so they can see how wrong their behaviour was.  Their pictures are already being spread around the net and hopefully their names will be soon too.  There may be the view you are giving them further publicity, but the publicity you are giving them will have repercussions for years.  When employers receive job applications one of the first things they do is ‘google’ the name to see what comes up.  If they see all the coverage about this incident they are likely to think twice about giving them a job.  In this way there is a great opportunity for the suspects to admit their mistakes.  As I said earlier, people are far more brave in a group than on their own and one or two of the group may well have been uncomfortable with the chanting, but weren’t ‘brave’ enough to stand up and say so.  They now have an excellent opportunity to distance themselves from this. 

Get your face on camera apologising to the victim would be a good start.

Many have long pointed out the idiocy of supporters chanting racist abuse one minute then cheering a black player from their own team the next.  It is perfectly plausible to think that just after the ‘we’re racists and that’s the way we like it’ chant, these idiots then went onto sing of their love for Didier Drogba.

Of course an education programme takes time, money and motivation.  It is far easier and cheaper to just ban these people, but you’ve not dealt with the cause, only the effect.  If you have blisters on your feet it is far cheaper to put a plaster on it, yet the problem is your shoes are too tight.  Much the same as it’s fairly pointless continually locking up drug addicts without curing them of their addiction.  Unless these people see the error of their ways they will not change.  They should be made to view the footage again and then have it turned round to show them as the victim and see how they’d feel about it.  The anger of their social circles should also shame them into looking inward to ask themselves whether they really should be treating others in this way.

It also should be pointed out there is racism within all cultures and religions and white people are certainly prejudiced against in a number of situations.  However, it hardly progresses the issue further if we hide behind the rather juvenile “well they’re doing it, so why can’t I”?

Much as it took Italy a long while to truly accept the English back in the country after Heysel, this will make things tougher for supporters of other clubs going to Paris and it could well impact on non-football fans.  If you think that’s unfair then consider Parisians are merely demonstrating an underlying prejudice against the English in exactly the same way many supporters of rival clubs have been waiting for an incident such as this as a reason to spout their hatred of Chelsea.

This has nothing to do with Chelsea, they are powerless to control who does and who doesn’t support them.  These were middle-aged English men who are part of our society and we are all responsible for our society.

Let’s hope society can deal with them.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Just All Wronga

There are times, and they seem to happen more frequently for me these days, when you just watch something happening in football and you just know – it seems all wrong.  You know it, other people must see it, yet we seem to just watch it unfold like some sort of car-crash.

I’ve written about the Loan System before and things haven’t improved in that regard, in fact they seem to have got worse.  I have long complained about Chelsea having virtually two full squads, one of 25 Premier League registered players and another 25 players loaned out to other clubs.  But recently I’ve come across the ridiculous behaviour of Parma in Italy who has an incredible squad of over 200 players!  Readthis article to get more idea of what’s going on

But the item which is causing me most grief at the moment is the one concerning Glasgow Rangers and Newcastle United.  Two clubs with the kind of support many others envy, yet whose owners appear to ride roughshod over that loyalty.  It’s been well documented what has gone on at both clubs yet the recent episode of Newcastle’s owner, Mike Ashley, buying his way into cash-strapped Rangers, just has all the hallmarks of ‘exploitation’ and underhand tactics.

The football authorities allow a system of clubs going into partnership and many of Europe’s big clubs have gained a number of feeder clubs.  But this is where the system begins to fall apart.  UEFA ruled that two linked clubs cannot compete in the same European competition.  This has lead to clubs bypassing the rules and setting up ‘informal’ arrangements which UEFA seem unable, or unwilling to look into and do something about.

Why is it so obvious to everyone there is a link between Chelsea and Vitesse Arnhem, based on the friendship of the owners of each club, yet the authorities just sit back and watch?  How is it Parma can exploit the rules so blatantly yet UEFA seem powerless to intervene?

In my article on the Loan System I advocated a player should only have on loan contract during his time at a club and then the parent club must decide whether they really want to keep him or let him move somewhere else.  The recent antics at Parma and Rangers only go to stiffen my resolve this is the best solution for football and footballers.

Back to Rangcastle or Newgers.  A few months ago Newcastle owner, Mike Ashley, bought a 8.92 stake in Rangers and then installed Newcastle Director, Derek Llambias, onto the board at Ibrox.  This was a controversial move, yet you could see how Rangers were hardly in a strong position to refuse.  You can argue Ashley has been a financial success at Newcastle, although critics point to the whole process being little more than a marketing campaign for his Sports Direct brand.  Rangers are like the proverbial debt-ridden borrower turned down by all standard forms of lending and having to take the option of a loan-shark.  Of course, as anyone who has become trapped in a spiral of debt will testify, once you accept the offer of further money it becomes almost impossible to turn it down in the future.In amongst all this let’s not forget Newcastle are sponsored by Wonga.  

During the recent transfer window, Newcastle loaned five players to Rangers, Haris Vuckic, Gael Bigirimana, Shane Ferguson, Remie Streete and Kevin Mbabu.  It has since emerged that Rangers manager, Kenny McDowall, has been told he must play these players.  In a recent press conference, McDowall was asked whether he had to play the Newcastle players in each game, “Yes. They’re obviously good players. They’ve played for Newcastle. I’ll carry on and do what I’m told to do”.

What a ridiculous state of affairs.

Firstly, Ashley’s tactic of becoming Rangers’ “banker” is cunning as he will avoid the prospect of UEFA getting interested in him as two clubs owned by the same person cannot play in the same European competition.  Ashley has loaned £10m gaining control of the training ground, registered trademarks and other properties.  The loan also entitled him to nominate Llambias and Barry Leach of Sports Direct onto the Ibrox board.  All the Scottish FA have been able to do is warn Ashley against increasing his stake beyond 30%.

The part which I find utterly unacceptable is the unfair competitive advantage Rangers now enjoys.  We don’t know who is paying these players, presumably either way it will be Ashley, and therefore Rangers are able to benefit from these deals in a way other Scottish clubs were not able to.  When clubs arrange loan deals they negotiate who will cover the player’s wages.  If the parent club is willing to continue paying their employee’s wages then the recipient club gets to use that player for nothing.  But if a clubs such as Celtic, Hearts or even Queen of the South approached Newcastle to loan these players for nothing, they are likely to be told ‘no’.  So therefore Rangers are at an advantage purely because they are spending Ashley’s money.

Unbelievable as it may seem for a club so financially stretched, Rangers already has the biggest squad in Scotland, with many players out on loan.  Clearly they’re unlikely to be in a position financially to be able to afford to loan in more players.  Again this is where they’re at an unfair competitive advantage to other clubs who also may not be able to loan in more players, no matter how much they might need them.

Actions such as pushing boundaries in this way only gets worse unless dealt with.  Unless the authorities step in, further actions will only push on from this position.  We’ll never go back. A journalist recently likened this whole practice by clubs as “shops wanting to trade with other people’s stock”. 

You feel sorry for Rangers fans who are now facing more headlines when all they want to do is continue to make their way back to the Scottish Premier League and back into Europe, and forget about the disaster of the past few years.

It just seems wholly wrong to me.  This is where football continually struggles with itself in the question of whether it is a business or a sport.  All the money in the game would point to it being considered a business, yet the practice of how it treats footballers means it remains a sport.