To clean up football will take zero tolerance

I don’t usually write about the same subject twice in a row, but I must go back to the Malky Mackay affair. In an article in the Sunday Telegraph Jason Burt wrote that
“The allegations they face expose a subculture within a sport that is already dripping in arrogance. It is a distasteful subculture of bigotry and insularity. It is macho and arrogant and points to a boorish insistence that they know best and can do what they want”.
He’s hit the nail on the head. Football is like that because it can do what it wants. An example. In every other industry if I were an employer I could employ anyone who I think is qualified for the job. Nationality and gender are irrelevant. Yet in football Chelsea have to offload a player before September 1st – provided he is foreign that is – to satisfy a Premier League rule. That rule is racist. It must go. And very quickly. Also elite women have to play on artificial turf – both at the 2015 World Cup and in the Women’s Super League (WSL) in England (Liverpool and Everton’s women’s teams play on artificial turf).The Liverpool and Everton men play on grass. That is sexist. It must change. And very quickly.
My point is: if the rules of football are racist and sexist (they are) is it any wonder some people in the sport are too? In industries where the Sex Discrimination Act did apply there has been progress in gender equality (not enough but progress). Football has made very little. If the Race Relations Act and the Sex Discrimination Act* had never been passed equality in the UK would be far less advanced today than it is. The law matters.
However there are other problems. The UK media has a lot to answer for. When the Sun has naked women on Page 3 – and offers a date with one as a prize in its Dream Team competition – you know it is not just football that has problems. And Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger – in one of the most depressing remarks of the year – said that an active Premier League player will not come out as gay because of “media interest”. If that is true the press should be ashamed of itself.
So what should be done? Jason Burt wrote that Mackay must never coach a football club again. Quite right. But we must go further. Anyone involved in football – players, coaches, managers, journalists, TV pundits and fans – must be told that any racist, sexist, homophobic or anti semitic behaviour will mean a ban of at least five years and possibly life. It should be a clause in every player’s contract, and be written on every match ticket. Everybody would know where they stood and there would be no arguments. And NO exceptions. And if a footballer is convicted of rape or sexual assault he should be banned for life.
That might seem draconian. But if we want this sport cleaned up there is no other way. Baseball proves this. After World War One baseball had a major gambling problem which reached its nadir in 1919 with the “Black Sox” scandal where eight members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing that year’s World Series. To his credit baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis – that is his real name -took ruthless action. The eight players were banned for life, and baseball rule 21 (d) banning betting on ball games by players – even in games not involving their own team – was introduced. To baseball’s eternal credit when a big name was accused of betting on the sport they did not shirk their duty. Even though the big name was Pete Rose – baseball’s all time hit leader and an American icon. Rose accepted a life ban from baseball on August 24th 1989 (although shamefully he denied betting on ball games until 2004 when he finally came clean in his book). In 1991 he was also banished from baseball’s Hall of Fame**. Some people including Eduardo Perez on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight think the ban should be lifted. NO. He knew the rules. He still bet on ball games. And then lied for 15 years. He deserves no sympathy. New baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred MUST stand firm.
If we want to rid football of the cancer of racism sexism and homophobia the sport must show the same zero tolerance that baseball has on gambling. the sport must be forced to obey the law of the country. It must have a minimum five-year ban for any racist sexist or homophobic behaviour. And it MUST NOT make an exception for big name stars.
I suspect none of this will happen and football will try to sweep it under the carpet yet again. But that carpet is getting rather full of nasty affairs. And it is beginning to stink.
*These Acts were replaced in 2010 by the Equality Act.
**Rose is in a Hall of Fame however. In 2004 he was inducted into the celebrity wing of World Wrestling Entertainment’s Hall of Fame. Obviously WWE owner Vince McMahon was not concerned about betting on baseball games.

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