Tag Archives: Eva Carneiro

Recalling another silly season

To say the 2015-16 Premier League season has been weird is an understatement. Leicester City are top, defending champions Chelsea – who today sacked Jose Mouriniho – are 16th out of 20. It is as if the table has been turned upside down. Manchester United are only consistent in playing out 0-0 draws, Liverpool are thoroughly unpredictable, Tottenham are hard to beat but draw too many games and even Arsenal and Manchester City – the best of the big teams – have had their bad results. While as well as Leicester the likes of Watford, West Ham, Stoke, Crystal Palace and even Premier League first timers Bournemouth have been wrecking havoc. It is all exciting and totally unpredictable and no one knows how it will end. Critics have complained about the lack of quality – using the Premier League’s poor European performances as an argument – but no one can deny the excitement. You could call 2015-16 the “silly season”.

The English football season that most resembles 2015-16 is 1974-75 – another silly season which was totally unpredictable. I just thought I would compare that season with this to see both the similarities and explain how despite the silliness 1974-75 ended predictably – as this season could well do.

One statistic will show how crazy the 1974-75 season was. By the second Saturday of December 1974 six different teams had topped the Division One* table – Carlisle**, Ipswich, Liverpool, Manchester City, Stoke and Everton. Quite remarkably none of those six teams would go on and win the title. Big clubs were struggling. On the 10th of October 1974 – the day of the October 1974 UK General Election – Arsenal were bottom of Division One, Tottenham were second bottom and Chelsea were third bottom*** (Manchester United were not even in Division One having been relegated to Division Two**** the previous April). Small teams were doing well – not just Stoke but Burnley and promoted Middlesbrough challenged for the title for a large part of the season. At the end of 1974 only five points separated the top thirteen teams. Another similarly was that English clubs did badly in Europe (only one – Leeds United – got to the last eight in Europe).

And yet another similarly between 1974-75 and the current season was the implosion of the defending champions. In 1973-74 Leeds United had easily won the League title but in the summer of 1974 manager Don Revie had left to become the England manager. Inexplicably Leeds replaced him with Brian Clough. Inexplicably because in the summer of 1973 Clough had criticised Leeds poor disciplinary record saying that the club should have been relegated as a punishment. So no wonder he was not exactly welcomed with open arms by the Leeds players. The only difference between Clough in 1974 and Mouriniho today was the implosion came quicker. A lot quicker. After 44 days in charge with one League win and the reigning champions 19th out of 22 Clough was sacked. The affair caused a sensation then and still does. A book was written about Clough’s 44 day reign – called the “Dammed United” – which was turned into a film with the same title. It might interest Chelsea fans that Leeds stabilised under new manager Jimmy Armfield but could only finish ninth. They did get to the Final of the European Cup (now the Champions League) but lost it 2-0 to Bayern Munich. An omen for today’s Chelsea?

So how did the 1974-75 season end? Predictably. After all the mayhem the title was won by Derby County one of the best sides of the time (they were third the previous season and had won the title in 1972). Runners up were Liverpool – as they had been in 1974 – who had won the League in 1973.  Two of the three previous title winners in the top two. Hardly a surprise. Everton should have won the title – by March 22 1975 they were three points clear with seven games left. But they won only two of them to blow it. Stoke, Burnley and Middlesbrough – the three small clubs involved in the race – finished fifth, tenth and seventh respectively – a warning for the likes of Leicester, Palace and West Ham today.

So does what happened in 1974-75 give us a clue about the rest of this season? I’d say yes. Based on that season I’d say Chelsea’s new manager will stabilise them but they will rise only to mid table (though they might do well in the Champions League). Leicester won’t win the League but should be top six while Palace Watford and West Ham could be top ten.

And remember I said that the top two of 1974-75 were the two teams that finished immediately below the Champions the previous season. Applied to this season and that means the top two will be Arsenal and Manchester City. Would that really surprise anyone? I suspect after all the mayhem the season will end with either City’s third title in five years or Arsene Wenger’s first title in 12 years. And let’s face it apart from Chelsea those two were the pre season favourites.

I suspect after all the hype, the twists and turns and the shock results the silly season of 2015-16 will come up with a sensible ending. Just like its counterpart in 1974-75 in fact…

*Division One was what the top tier of English football was called before the formation of the Premier League in 1992.

**I mentioned Carlisle’s 1974-75 team – and cricket playing Chris Balderstone – in previous post “A feat you will never see again”.

***Only Chelsea were relegated at the end of the season. Arsenal and especially Tottenham struggled throughout finishing 16th and 19th respectively. In fact if Tottenham had lost their last game of the season they would have been relegated.

****Division Two is the pre 1992 name for what is now the Championship. For the record United easily won Division Two in 1974-75 returning to the top division remaining there ever since.

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Why the Carneiro affair can only be bad for Chelsea and football

Chelsea’s women’s team play the most important game in their history next week when they play host to two time former champions Wolfsburg in the second round first leg of the Women’s Champions League. In many ways Chelsea have a good record – by UK football standards anyway – when it comes to women. They have invested in their women’s team who have won the League and Cup double in England this year. The team has a female manager in Emma Hayes – the only female manager in Women’s Super League (WSL) 1 in 2015. While in Marina Granovskaia – owner Roman Abramovich’s right hand woman – they have one of the most powerful women in UK football.

So in theory Chelsea are a progressive club. But there is a big cloud on the horizon. The Eva Carneiro affair – which I wrote about earlier – rumbles on. Since I wrote about this affair it has been announced that not only is Carneiro taking Chelsea to an industrial tribunal for constructive dismissal she is also taking individual action against manager Jose Mouriniho saying that Mouriniho victimized and discriminated against her by banishing her from the Chelsea bench back in August. This means Mouriniho would be forced to appear at an industrial tribunal in person to explain his behavior.

The only way this could be avoided is that if the two sides settled out of court. If I were Abramovich I would do anything to settle this – even sacking Mouriniho if that is what it takes. Because if this goes to an industrial tribunal this will not be good for Chelsea – or football for that matter. The reason for this is that football – and sport – lives in its own world and under its own rules. But an industrial tribunal follows the rules of society not the rules of football or sport.  And history shows that in a dispite between the rules of sport and the rules of society there is only one winner – and it is not sport. (Why do you think FIFA has a rule that a club can’t take them to court?). Four examples will show what I mean.

In 1977 the Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer signed up 35 of the world’s best cricketers for his rebel World Series Cricket. The International Cricket Conference (ICC) outraged banned the players from official cricket. Packer responded by taking the ICC to court. The judge Justice Slade ruled in favour of Packer saying that the ICC by banning the players were inducing them to break their contracts with Packer which was illegal. The rules of cricket had been trumped by the rules of society.

Something similar happened to football in 1995 when Jean-Marc Bosman a journeyman Belgian player went to the European Court saying that clubs demanding fees for players out of contract plus the restrictions imposed on foreign players at the time were against European Union (EU) law. The court agreed with Bosman and both transfer fees for out of contract and restrictions were declared illegal. FIFA and UEFA still moan to this day about the Bosman ruling but they were only learning what the ICC had learned back in 1977. The rules of football had been trumped by the rules of society.

Again in 2004 the same thing happened to handball. The German Handball League were taken to the European Court by Slovak player Maros Kolpak who said that rules saying that teams were limited to two non EU players (Slovakia was not an EU member state at this time) were discriminatory. The court ruled in his favour.The handball authorities moaned but again the rules of sport had been trumped by the rules of society.

The last case is similar to the Carneiro case but in cricket. In 1998 Theresa Harrild took the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to an industrial tribunal for sex discrimination. Harrild was a receptionist at the ECB. She had an affair with – and got pregnant by – a colleague at the ECB Nick Marriner who then abandoned her. The ECB put pressure on her to have an abortion and she was given £400 to pay for the abortion which she had. When she returned to her job she suffered from depression and was eventually sacked in her own home by ECB deputy chief executive Cliff Barker who offered her more money and made a pass at her. The tribunal found in her favour partly because the ECB had such contempt for the law they did not even bother to turn up at the tribunal. But again despite the ECB’s arrogance the rules of cricket had been trumphed by the rules of society. More to the point cricket had been dragged through the gutter and been exposed as sexist and unfit for civilised society (to be fair to the ECB cricket has cleaned up its act since).

And that is why it is in football’s best interests that this never gets to the tribunal. It is highly likely that football will be dragged through the gutter be exposed as sexist and unfit for civilised society. There will be a lot of muck exposed in this case. In the interests of football there must be a settlement out of court. If that means Mouriniho has to be sacrificed for the greater good of football in my opinion so be it.

Mouriniho is sexist. But that is not the only issue

In how many industries can you be punished for obeying the rules of your job? Not many I suspect. But there is one. And surprise surprise its football as Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro has learned.

The background to this shameful affair is this. On the 8th of August near the end of Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Swansea City their star player Eden Hazard went down. The referee Michael Oliver asked Chelsea’s medical staff onto the pitch to treat Hazard which Carneiro and fellow medic Jon Fearn duly did. Turned out that Hazard wasn’t injured but that is irrelevant. They were told to go on to the pitch and they did so. No problem surely?

To a sane human being no. But to Chelsea manager Jose Mouriniho there was. As Chelsea had had goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois sent off earlier in the game the fact that Hazard had to go off for treatment left Chelsea temporarily down to nine men. Reluctant to blame himself or his players for their failure to win a game they were expected to, Mouriniho instead attacked Carneiro and Fearn for being “naive” and “not knowing about football”. And he promptly demoted them saying they would not be on the bench for Chelsea’s future games. They have not been on the bench since and Carneiro has left Chelsea this week. (The affair is in the hands of her lawyers and she may make a claim for constructive dismissal*).

With football’s appalling record on gender equality it is hardly surprising that Mouriniho’s remarks about Carneiro have caused a stink – especially as that has been used as a stick to beat women in football with since time immormorial. As Sierra Williams wrote recently in the London School of Economics Review of Books: “If I am in the pub with my boyfriend and his friends and express an opinion about football it is disregarded immediately.” (That is despite the fact that the likes of Philipa Booth, Carrie Dunn and Amy Lawrence write about football better than the vast majority of men).

And if that wasn’t bad enough a fan has claimed that Mouriniho called Carneiro a ” filha da puta” – Portuguese for “daughter of a whore”. Mouriniho claims he called her “filho da puta” – “son of a bitch” (not much of an improvement to be honest). The FA are investigating which at the speed that organisation works probably means Christmas will have come and gone by the time we find out their verdict. He faces at least a five game ban if found guilty.

The sexism is bad enough. But Mouriniho’s behaviour is disgraceful for another reason. Carneiro and Fearn have been demoted – and in Carneiro’s case forced out – for obeying the rules of their job. For the fact is that once Oliver asked them on to the field to treat Hazard they would have been breaking their medical oath – called the Hippocratic oath – had they not attended to Hazard. What Mouriniho thought was utterly irrelevant. In effect Mouriniho was wanting them to disobey the rules of their own profession just to help Chelsea.

And here is the rub of this messy affair. Mouriniho is not alone. He is typical of an arrogant industry puffed full of its own importance. An industry that thinks the rules of the medical profession should not apply to it. Or indeed the law of this or any other country. A world governing body – the ghastly FIFA – that actually persuaded Brazil and South Africa to change their laws to accommodate the demands of FIFA’s sponsors. An industry that got a clause in the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act effectively banning mixed football (one MP called the clause – which applied to sport – a “football clause”) and an FA that went to court against a 12 year old girl to enforce it. Football is so arrogant I suspect most managers in the Premier League would have behaved towards their medical staff the way Mouriniho did.

So what should happen? Mouriniho should be banned from football for life – regardless of whether or not he made the sexist remarks to Carneiro. He put his medical staff in an impossible position where they had to disobey either Chelsea or their Hippocratic oath. It is quite possible that had Carneiro and Fearn not treated Hazard that day they would have been in trouble with the General Medical Council (GMC) for disobeying their oath. They were put in a Catch 22 that must never happen again.

To solve the problem football clubs should be banned from employing doctors. Instead the GMC should allocate medical staff to each club and the club would have no say in the matter. There are two advantages to this. The doctors would know who they had to obey and they would be accountable to the GMC and not the club. In the Carneiro/Fearn case Mouriniho and Chelsea could not have demoted them as they would not be their employers. Secondly it might mean more women in football. The vast majority of physiotherapy students in the UK are women but they are so rare in football that Carneiro running on to the pitch was a novelty because there are so few women in football. If a body outside the sexist world of football was choosing the medical staff at football clubs it is at least possible that there would be more women doctors/physios in football. And it would mean the abuse Eva Carneiro has suffered –  from her own club’s manager as well as from opposition fans – would not be for nothing if more women followed in her footsteps.

Finally one thing I don’t understand is the attitude of Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich. Chelsea unsurprisingly have had a lot of bad press over this affair. Why did he not give Mouriniho orders to apologize to Carneiro? Even better why did he not sack Mouriniho and reinstate Carneiro to the Chelsea bench? Mouriniho might think he is god’s gift to football but he is not the only good manager out there. In fact Chelsea and Real Madrid – both of whom Mouriniho managed – won the Champions League under other managers. He is not irreplaceable. And if I was Chelsea’s owner I would not want my club dragged through the sewer and made utterly toxic by the antics of an egomaniac. After all don’t they say that “No man is bigger than the club”?.

*”Constructive dismissal” means “action by an employer which leaves an employee no alternative but to resign”. Carneiro would need to convince a court that by demoting her Mouriniho was forcing her out.