Tag Archives: Racism

Women’s football needs a Kerry Packer. Unfortunately it won’t get one 

With women’s football it sometimes seems like a case of one step forward then one step back. Two months after a fantastic EURO 2017 two of the four Semi Finalists, England and Denmark are in turmoil. Both are involved in dreadful situations and neither countries FA comes out of it with credit. 

First England. Since EURO 2017 the English FA has been involved in a racism scandal. It started with dropped striker Eni Aluko accusing manager Mark Sampson of making racist comments to her. Two independent enquiries cleared Sampson yet Aluko was offered £80000 “hush money” to cover up the allegations.

Then last month the story got worse when another player – Chelsea’s mixed race Drew Spence – accused Sampson of racism – saying he had asked her how many times she had been arrested. Another enquiry was announced but in a bizzare twist Sampson got sacked for an unrelated story – that he behaved inappropriately with young players at his former club Bristol Academy. The ridiculous thing being that the FA had the report into Sampson’s conduct at Bristol Academy two years ago but they did not read it until someone encouraged the FA to do so. Why Sampson wasn’t fully investigated either when he was appointed in 2013 or when the report into his conduct at Bristol appeared two years ago only the FA will know. 

And then last week the affair got even worse when the FA revealed that Sampson had been found guilty of racist remarks to Aluko and Spence. Aluko was totally vindicated and FA Chairman Greg Clarke and Chief Executive Martin Glenn totally humiliated. Both men squirmed through an embarrassingly inept performance in front of the All Party Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee last Wednesday with Clarke claiming allegations of institutional racism at the FA were “fluff”. NOT the FA’s finest hour (to put it mildly). MPs – notably Ian Lucas and Jo Stevens – were not impressed and could you blame them? The FA came across as racist, sexist and determined to protect Sampson at all costs – not a good look. 

But the FA are not the only FA that is not having a good time with its women’s team. EURO 2017 finalists Denmark are also in turmoil. Their World Cup qualifer against Sweden on Friday was cancelled when the players boycotted the game and the second best team in Europe are in danger of being kicked out of the World Cup by FIFA. How did this happen? 

The problem in Denmark is more common in the women’s game than the racism in England – namely pay. The Danish FA and the players have been negotiating since November but with no success. A EURO 2017 Final rematch with Holland last month was cancelled but a temporary agreement allowed their first World Cup qualifer in Hungary to be played (and won 6-1). But negotiations broke down yet again and the game against Sweden was cancelled. Another temporary agreement has allowed tomorrow’s qualifer in Croatia to go ahead but Denmark are at the mercy of UEFA and FIFA. Sweden’s players (to their credit) want the game to be rearranged but shamefully the Swedish FA want to take the forfeit victory.

Denmark is not the first case of a women’s national football team being in dispute with its FA over pay and/or conditions. Australia, the US. Argentina, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland are other countries where this has happened. But none of them reached the stage of the team being in danger of being thrown out of the World Cup. But it is clear that women footballers more and more are getting fed up with low or non existent pay and poor or non existent facilities. The problem for the women players is that there is nowhere for them to go but competitions ran by UEFA and FIFA who have a monopoly on football. There is no alternative for them than to try and pressure sexist, intransigent FAs to change. 

Women’s football in 2017 increasingly reminds me of professional cricket in 1977. Again the players were in dispute with the authorities over pay and conditions. For example Dennis Lillee then the best fast bowler in the world earned more money from his window cleaning business than from playing cricket despite the Australian Cricket Board making hundreds of thousands of dollars in gate receipts from the team’s matches. 

The difference here is that the Australian (and world) cricketers had somewhere else to go. A rich entrapenuer Kerry Packer had fallen out with the Australian Cricket Board for totally different reasons (he wanted exclusive Test rights for his TV station Channel 9 which the board wouldn’t grant). He had the idea to stage his own Test matches and the money to lure discontented cricketers to play in his games. To cut a very long story short (I’ll be writing about the Packer Affair soon) the Australian Cricket Board without the country’s best players ended up drowning in red ink and had to capitulate both to Packer – giving him the TV rights he wanted – and to the Australian players – giving them the higher pay they wanted. Other cricket countries learning the lesson had to increase the pay of their players to protect against another Packer.

Women’s football could really do with its own Kerry Packer to give the players another option and drive pay up. The difference here is that there isn’t a Packer lurking in the background nor will they ever be. Because of ingrained sexism it is highly unlikely that an entrapenuer will be unhappy that his TV station is not covering women’s football and thus be willing to combine with the discontented female players to set up an alternative tournament like Packer did in cricket (nor tolerate the start up losses that Packer did because he knew he would – and did – make money long term). 

The fact is as Jean Williams has pointed out in her books “A Game For Rough Girls” and “A Beautiful Game” is that FIFA, UEFA and most national FAs do not care about women’s football and only run it to maintain their monopoly over the game. They will pay the women as little as they can get away with – just like the Australian Cricket Board in the 1970s. 

The courage of Eni Aluko, Pernille Harder and the rest of the Danish women’s team is admirable and change is happening and will continue to happen. But to speed it up women’s football really needs its own Kerry Packer to break the FIFA monopoly pay women players what they are worth and force the FAs to do likewise to get the players back. But since the media, TV and big business are as sexist towards women’s football as the football establishment women’s football won’t get its Kerry Packer. Which means that the progress towards fair treatment of female footballers will be a lot slower than it should be…

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Political Games

A blog post written by Dennis Freedman in “The Quint” caught my eye. In the post he criticised the governing body of world cricket the International Cricket Council (ICC) for its inconsistent decision making in regard to weak and strong countries. He rightly condemns them for suspending Nepal – a small cricket country –  for government interference with its cricket board but not punishing India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and (especially) South Africa – all big cricket countries –  for exactly the same offence. Freedman is quite right to attack the ICC for its inconsistency on this issue but he misses out on a fundamental point. Not only is  the punishment wrong but so is the ICC’s insistence that governments keep out of the affairs of cricket boards. To be fair cricket is not the only sport that does this – FIFA among others do too – but they are all wrong. And here is why.

Governments govern a county. Like it or not sport is part of a country. It is part of society. It cannot – or should not – be detached from society. If a government interferes in other parts of society – which it does – surely it should interfere in sport too?

Now in an ideal world a government would not have to interfere in sport because governing bodies would be competent and reflect their society. But they are not. In the case of cricket the reason governments in Nepal, Pakistan and India (and in India’s case the Supreme Court) interfere in the affairs of their cricket boards is that they are corrupt. In India for example the Supreme Court ordered Narayanswami Srinivasan to step down as Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) while they investigated a spot fixing scandal. Incredibly that did not stop him becoming ICC chairman. He was eventually forced out of his ICC role too and his Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Chennai Super Kings was suspended for two years after the Supreme Court found out that his son in law was guilty of placing bets on the 2013 IPL. The BCCI was corrupt but if the Supreme Court had not investigated no one would be the wiser.

Same with FIFA. I’ve gone over FIFA’s corruption problems before but the corruption would not have been exposed if the FBI in America and the Swiss authorities had not investigated it. Can corrupt bodies police themselves? No. Someone has to do it for them. That means government agencies and courts.

Now it is true to say that sport in the UK, US, Australia and Europe (well Western Europe anyway) does not have as much of a corruption problem. The problem here is racism, sexism and homophobia (as this week’s sexism scandal in UK cycling and the resignation of head coach Shane Sutton shows). While that it is true that these problems are in society as well as sport at least society outside sport is trying to do something about it. For example last year a report by Lord Mervyn Davies recommended a target of 33% women on boards of UK FTSE 100 companies by 2020. Has anybody suggested that 33% of employees or board members in UK football, cricket or rugby clubs be female? No. What a surprise. They should. Meanwhile in 2014 then head of BBC television Danny Cohen announced a ban on all male panels on BBC television programmes. But surprise surprise that did not include sports programmes like “Match Of The Day” which still has the same old male, stale panel (even ESPN baseball has Jessica Mendoza). Why were all male sports panels not banned?

The other reason governments need to interfere in sport is accountability. Human beings being what we are we cannot control ourselves. If we are allowed to do whatever we like we will do. FIFA became arrogant and corrupt because it was accountable to no one. Football, cricket and cycling are full of sexism and racism because they are accountable to no one. The UK MPs expenses scandal of 2009 showed that politicians can’t behave themselves and that Parliament needed an independent regulator. The gas, electricity and TV industries in the UK are regulated independently to make sure they are fairly run and prices are kept down (In theory. The energy regulator is awful but that is a different issue). Former Lib Dem politician founder of the homeless charity Shelter and former England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) member Des Wilson once wrote “Is sport accountable to no one? Why should it be almost unique in its ability to be so?”

And he is right. Sport is a part of society must play by the rules of society and must be regulated by society. The way the ICC has treated Nepal is a disgrace. It should stop. And sport should submit to government regulation. The party is over.

Why Rousey v Mayweather must never happen

I have not admitted it here before but I am a big fan of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Yes I know it is fake but it is great entertainment and the wrestlers are great performers and athletes.

However there is something that just might happen at the WWE’s premier annual pay-per-view Wrestlemania that if it did happen would mean that I would never watch WWE again. The event would be a mixed fight between the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s bantamweight champion the unbeaten (12-0) Ronda Rousey and the unbeaten (48-0) multiaple time World boxing champion Floyd “Money” Mayweather.

Now you might think why would people be even thinking of a male v female fight? A conjunction of circumstances. First Rousey appears unbeatable. She won her last fight against Bethe Cotreia in just 34 SECONDS. And amazingly it was not her shortest fight! So people start looking for competition for her. Also add to this the fact that Mayweather is similar in height to Rousey (5ft 8 in to 5ft 7in) and there is only a few pounds in weight between them and people start thinking.

But there is a more sinister element to this. Mayweather has a history of domestic violence. He has been charged with the offence six times and served two months in prison for attacking the mother of three of his children. Rousey is a feminist. Some women would like to see Rousey take on Mayweather as some sort of revenge for his victims. Rousey has even brought up Mayweather’s past on a couple of occasions. First when she said that she would “never get in the ring with him unless they were dating” and  when she beat him to the Fighter of the Year award at the recent ESPYs she said (July16 2015) “I wonder how Floyd feels about being beaten by a woman for once”.

And add to this the race element.  Rousey is a white blonde while Mayweather is black. It is  too easy – especially in the US of 2015 – to see this becoming a case of the white hero v the black villain.  Every racist crackpot in the US – and there are a LOT of them – would support Rousey. You could have bizarre alliances forming where racists and feminists would support Rousey and sexists and blacks would support Mayweather.  Not a desirable scenario to put it mildly.

And amazingly people are taking this seriously. In the last week two articles have been published advocating the fight. One by Clay Travis on Fox Sports.com (August 3rd) was entitled “Ronda Rousey and Floyd Mayweather need to fight”. The next day David Whitely in the “Orlando Sentinel” wrote that “Rousey v Mayweather must happen”.

And Twitter has also mentioned the possibility of the fight happening. Two examples:

I would pay a large amount of money to see @RondaRousey kick Floyd Mayweather’s ass in the ring. She’s a beast. (Brittaney Phelps (@brittaneyphelps) July 28 2015).

When Rousey-Mayweather happens at Wrestlemania 5 years from now I want credit. Favourite this tweet. (Robert Littal (@BSO) August 2 2015).

And this is where the WWE comes in. Even taking gender out of the equation if one fighter is a boxer and the other is an ultimate fighter they can’t meet in the ring or in the octagon as that would be to the advantage of one or other of the competitors. They need a neutral venue. Like the WWE. And as luck would have it both Mayweather and Rousey have appeared at Wrestlemania. Mayweather at Wrestlemania 24 when he fought and beat the Big Show and Rousey at Wrestlemania 31 this year in a cameo with Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and the Rock. So a boxing/mixed martial arts hybrid match at a future Wrestlemania would seem ideal.

There is one big drawback in my opinion. The very idea of a man and woman fighting each other is to me morally repugnant. What message would it send out to men who beat their wives/girlfriends if they saw a man hit a woman in a fight on TV? Remember WWE fans know it is fake but those who don’t normally watch WWE who are drawn to WWE because of a Rousey v Mayweather fight would not know it was fake and think it is real. Would a wife beater justify beating his wife by saying “I saw Mayweather do this to Rousey on TV”? Even if only one man used the fight as an excuse it would be one too many. And I think Rousey knows this as she says she would not fight Mayweather.

But in sport money talks and there is a historical precedent. On September 28th 1973 female tennis player Billie Jean King took on male player Bobby Riggs at the Houston Astrodome in the “Battle of the Sexes” – a $100000 winner-take-all match. Amazingly more than 30,000 people turned up to see King win and over 50 million watched on US TV – proving that a market for this kind of event existed during a period of strong feminist activity (another similarity with today).

The big difference of course is that tennis is not a physical contact sport and there was no risk of injury to King and no risk of glorifying male violence towards women. So that event was a harmless little publicity stunt – quite unlike a potential Rousey-Mayweather fight.

Ironically if these two were from the UK this fight would be easily nipped in the bud as the authorities could easily ban it because of the “average woman” law in the UK. This prohibits mixed sport in events where the average woman is at a physical disadvantage to the average man (my emphasis).It is clear that fight sports would fall into this category. The fact that Rousey is not the “average woman” would be totally irrelevant. Now when this law is applied to say football and cricket it is wrong but in the case of a man fighting a woman it is a perfectly justifiable way to stop it.

And that is what the US authorities must do. They must pass an “average woman” law – provided it only applies to fight sports – and for the purpose of this law the WWE – which calls itself “sports entertainment” would count as a sport.

If they don’t do this they are relying on the morals of the competitors and promoters of sport overcoming their desire to make money – a very unlikely scenario. People will say the fight will never happen but no one thought the Conservatives would get a majority in the UK General Election or that the Astros and the Mets would be top of their divisions or women’s football fever would sweep the UK and the US. Funny things happen in sport – and life.

So the US authorities must step in and make sure the sick spectacle of a Rousey-Mayweather fight can never happen. The UK Government can help by banning the WWE and UFC from coming to the UK if it ever happens (both brands see the UK as a key growth market).

One thing is certain. If Rousey v Mayweather happens I won’t be watching. And if it is held at a future Wrestlemania the WWE will have lost themselves at least one fan forever.

Football is stuck in a racist 1960s timewarp

The current UK General Election has similarities with that of 1964 – an unpopular Old Etonian Prime Minister against an opposition people don’t trust (in 1964 the party today the opposition leader) . One difference is that in 1964 the “big two” UK parties – Conservative and Labour – won all but 9 of the 630 seats so although the result was close – Labour won 13 seats more than the Conservatives – we still had single party majority government as Labour had a majority of 4 – if the gap between the two parties is the same on May 8th a hung parliament with no overall majority is a dead cert as other parties will easily win more than 13 seats.

One big difference is that there will be no seat where race will be an issue. In 1964 there was. Although Labour won the election the Conservatives gained four seats against the tide. Two of them – the very marginal Eton and Slough and Perry Bar – might have been because of racism but the Conservatives in those seats did not make an issue of race. But shamefully in one seat they did: Smethwick.

Smethwick is a town in the Midlands which in 1964 had seen an influx of non-white immigrants. Racists stirred up trouble by using the slogan “if you want a nigger neighbour vote Labour*” The Conservative candidate Peter Griffiths denied using the slogan but shamefully did not condemn those who did.  But the campaign had an effect. Griffiths gained the seat from Labour on a swing to the Conservatives of 7.2% (for a comparison the Great Britain swing to Labour was 3.2%). To give an idea of how strongly people felt about this result here are two reactions from the BBC TV coverage of the 1964 results – both given just after the Smethwick result was announced.

Ian Trethowan said :”Well this is the fateful single result of this election. A Conservative gain which in their hearts maybe one they preferred not to get because they must have got it through the white backlash”.

David Butler added : “The Conservative candidate fought a very lone wolf campaign there rather shunned by his own party.. and on a largely racial platform completely defied the national trend”.

Even former Conservative MP Lord Boothby called the result – a gain for his own party remember – “disgraceful”. And new Prime Minister Harold Wilson said of Griffiths:  “He is a parliamentary leper”

After the result Smethwick got nasty. Old women were saying on TV “send them all back on the next banana boat”. Smethwick’s Conservative council suggested renting council houses in Marshall Street only to white people and the US  Black Power leader Malcolm X visited Smethwick in February 1965 claiming that black people in Smethwick were being treated like the Jews under Hitler. Black families had petrol bombs put through their doors.

And then suddenly Smethwick came to its senses. In February 1966 the Conservative council that had proposed bringing apartheid to the streets of the UK was voted out of office. The next month – because Labour only had a majority of 2 – Prime Minister Wilson called a snap general election. On March 31st 1966 Labour regained Smethwick. Griffiths and his racist policies were swept into oblivion. Smethwick is now part of the Warley constituency has had a Labour MP since 1945 (apart from the shameful 1964-66 Griffiths episode) and no one will take notice of it as it is a certain Labour hold at this year’s election.

But there is one part of society that is stuck in a 1960s racist time warp. It won’t surprise any one to know it is football. Last month FA chairman Greg Dyke produced a plan suggesting clubs should field a certain number of “home grown”(ie English players). He is blaming foreigners for English football’s problems. Griffiths blamed foreigners for Smethwick’s problems in 1964.The sad part is that Dyke – a former Director-general of the BBC – was a supporter of Tony Blair and thus one presumes of Labour’s non racist immigration policy. So a decent man has been brainwashed by racists into supporting their point of view (as were Smethwick’s usually Labour supporting voters).

What should be done? Anybody who supports home grown quotas in football should be banned from football for life. Five former England managers came out in support of the plan. All should be banned for life. So should former Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi who came up with this horrid remark – football’s equivalent to “if you want a nigger for a neighbour…” He said:

“While watching the Viareggio (youth) tournament it seemed to me there were too many black players”.

Peter Griffiths would have approved. Shameful. And remember Athletic Bilbao who refuse to sign non Basques  – in effect they won’t sign black players. Peter Griffiths would have approved.

The UK – and European – governments should insist that football clubs should be forced to select players only on merit. Nationality colour (and indeed  gender) should not be an issue. Any club which refuses to do this should be thrown out of football – good bye and good riddance Athletic Bilbao – and any player official and manager who disagreed should be arrested and thrown into prison.

The sad fact is that if Peter Griffiths was still alive – he died in 2013 – he would find much to approve of in the attitude of people in football to foreigners. That is shameful. And must change.

*I’m only mentioning that slogan to show how nasty the Smethwick campaign was. I know it is offensive. I feel the same way.

Serena Williams and the punishment of victims

It is not every day that an elite sports person returns to an annual event after a 14 year absence. So unsurprisingly the return of World Number 1 Serena Williams to Indian Wells for the first time since 2001 is a big story.

The background is this. At the 2001 event Serena’s sister Venus defeated Elena Dementieva of Russia to set up a Semi-Final with Serena. After the match Dementieva  was asked who she thought would win the match between the sisters. She said “I think Richard (the sisters’ father) will decide who’s going to win tomorrow”.  I’ve mentioned Dementieva’s remark as I think it had a big part in what happened next.

As it turned out the semi-final never took place as Venus pulled out with a knee injury. The trouble was that the tournament only announced it to the crowd minutes before the match was due to start – although the family said they had told officials hours before. The crowd understandably did not like this and rumours suggested they did not want to play each other. It has to be remembered that at the time the press were claiming the sisters’ matches were fixed (which is where Dementieva’s remark comes into the story).

But there was no excuse for what happened next. When Serena came out for the Final against Kim Clijsters she and her father were greeted by a chorus of boos. In fact during the match fans cheered Serena’s errors. her father responded by raising a clenched fist – the black power symbol – and saying it was “the worst act of prejudice I’ve seen since they killed Marin Luther King”. That might have been taking it too far but the behaviour was racist. How often does an American get booed when playing a foreigner? To show how it affected Serena a chapter in her autobiography was called “the Fiery Darts of Indian Wells” and in it she wrote:

The ugliness was raining down on me hard. I didn’t know what to do. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before…But I looked up and all I could see was a sea of rich people – mostly older, mostly white – standing and booing lustily like some kind of genteel lynch mob.

Neither Serena or Venus have played Indian Wells since until Serena’s come back this year (Venus is still boycotting the  event ).

But the point I want to make is that no one got punished for this shameful episode. The spectators were not nor was the tournament or Dementieva for her remarks which sparked the whole thing off. The only people that were punished were the victims. In 2009 Indian Wells became a Premier Mandatory event on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tour. That means a player has to take part. If she does not it still counts towards her ranking and she gets zero points. So in effect the Williams’ sisters boycott has hindered their ranking. The WTA should be ashamed of themselves for punishing the victims of racism. Whoever came up with the idea of making Indian Wells a Premier Mandatory event should be sacked if they are still in the WTA’s employ. I suspect whoever that person is it is highly likely it is a male and I would be 99 per cent certain the person was white.

Sadly this is not the only example of the punishment of victims in sport. In Russia the chairman of their FAs disciplinary committee Arthur Grigoyants has banned black players who react to racist abuse by gesturing to the racists. He has even said that if they do that they are “so-called, in inverted commas, victims”. Which only proves that Russia is a so called, in inverted commas, civilised country that shouldn’t be hosting an egg and spoon race never mind the 2018 football World Cup.

Not that we in the UK can gloat. When footballer Anton Ferdinand was a victim of racist abuse by John Terry a lot of people attacked him for refusing to shake Terry’s hand before the next game his team played against Terry’s team. Why should he if he didn’t want to? Surely each victim should be able to respond in the way they want and the rules of arrogant sport be forced to accommodate the victim’s wishes. I suspect most people who wanted him to shake Terry’s hand were white.

The point is that we white men have no right to comment on the actions of victims of racism and sexism because we have no experience of racism and sexism ourselves. We do not know what it is like to be called “nigger” and have bananas thrown at us. We do not know what it is like to be shouted at whistled at or groped in the streets like a lot of women do. So how are we qualified to comment on the reaction of the victims themselves? We aren’t. Some can forgive. Some can forget. Some can forgive but not forget. And some can do neither. It is their right.

So it is not our business to comment on Serena’s decision to return to Indian Wells. We must respect both her decision to return to the event and the fact she has chosen to boycott in the past. We must also respect Venus’ decision to continue her boycott. And we MUST not punish the vicitms of discrimination for their reaction. Only the victims of discrimination know what it feels like. Only the victims of discrimination know what its like to suffer. We must respect their wishes.

Time to send for the Commisioner

In August this year it was revealed that former Cardiff manager Malky Mackay and his sidekick Iain Moody had sent racist, sexist and homophobic texts. The matter was referred to the FA for them to deal with. We are now in December. Mackay and Moody haven’t even been charged by the FA never mind punished. And if anybody else is as astonished as me by this state of affairs, the reason for it is simple. And it is a UK obsession that is holding us back. namely, the committee.
As yesterday’s Daily Telegraph said, an “expert working group” (another name for a committee) has been meeting to discuss the Mackay affair. Ah, so that’s why there has been no progress. Committees are in fact designed to slow down progress. One reason why Liverpool’s transfer dealings during the summer were a disaster (£16 million dud Mario Balotelli for example) must be that they are being decided by a six-man transfer committee. It is very hard to get six human beings to agree on anything – and this must be costing Liverpool dear in a market where speed can be of the essence. And when FA chairman Greg Dyke wanted to deal with English football’s international problems what did he do? He set up a commission (yet another name for a committee). Another way to waste time.
This of course is not unique to football. English cricket is addicted to committees. In the last 64 years it has had two Altham Committees (1950 and 1956), a Palmer Committee (1966), a Murray Committee (1992), two Acfield Committees (1996 and 2002) and a Schofield Committee (2006). All designed to make the public think something was being done whereas the real intention was to fudge the issue in the hope that by the time the committee had reported the press and public had lost interest in the problem. And as for rugby, well former England captain Will Carling once called the men who run that sport “57 old farts”…
At least politicians are more honest than sports administrators. Former UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson loved Royal Commissions. In his two spells as Prime Minister (1964-70 and 1974-76) he set up ten of them. And why did he do that? This is straight from Mr Wilson’s mouth. They “take minutes and waste years”. So all he was doing, by his own admission, was fudging the big decisions. Just like the FA are doing today, just like the cricket establishment did in the past.
But is there an alternative to this committee quagmire? Yes there is. But you have to look across the Atlantic. All the big US sports have commissioners in charge – powerful men who don’t fudge big decisions, they make them. And they have the power to do just that.
Two racism cases sum up the difference between the two systems. The man who has given Mackay employment – Wigan owner Dave Whelan – made racist and anti-Semitic remarks to the Guardian last month. The FA have charged him – but for reasons that must remain a mystery have given him an extra week to respond to the charges (he now has to the 12th of this month). In contrast, in the US the owner of National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise the Los Angeles Clippers Donald Sterling was caught making racist remarks on video. That was on April 25th 2014. On April 29th 2014 NBA Commissioner Adam Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million, and banned him from the NBA for life. He was forced to sell the Clippers franchise. Four days. That is how long the NBA, with a Commissioner with the power to take decisive action, took to banish a racist scumbag from the NBA for ever. Sterling can consider himself unlucky. If he owned a football club, it would take ages for him to get punished – if he ever was.
It is now clear what needs to be done. The rule of football* by committees of fuddy-duddies must end. We have to copy the US system and appoint a Commissioner of Football to take charge of the whole professional game with power to take swift action when needed. That person could then banish the likes of Mackay, Moody and Whelan(and convicted rapist Ched Evans) from football for ever. And very quickly.
And as for who should be the Commissioner? When baseball invented the office in 1920 they insisted it should be someone outside the industry and appointed judge and baseball fan Keneshaw Mountain Landis. That is what I would do. No ex-players or managers need apply. Off the top of my head, I think five people could do this job (though I’m sure many more could). The five I have in mind are Karren Brady, Heather Rabbatts, Jean Williams, Carrie Dunn and Lord Ouseley (founder and chairperson of the anti-racism campaign Kick it Out).
Two of these people are black and four are female. As one of the main problems in football is racism and sexism, a black and/or female Commissioner would send a strong message and be my personal preference for the job.
We in the UK have imported a lot of things from the US. Some brilliant – the Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy for example. And some awful. like Black Friday. It is time to import another idea. it is time to send for the Commissioner.
*Although I’ve concentrated on football cricket, rugby – in fact any sport in the UK – could benefit from having a Commissioner.

If Ched Evans plays again, football should get no government money

Two stories have appeared in the last week, neither of which have been linked. But they should be. The first one was in last week’s Sunday Telegraph, in which Henry Winter claimed that grass-roots football in England was in crisis – a view backed up by English FA chairman Greg Dyke. Winter said football needed to invest more in grass-roots – no arguments there – but he also claimed “Whitehall should do more “(by “Whitehall” he means the UK Government) and by “do more” he means football should get more Government money. But should an industry that has a Premier League that makes £3 BILLION out of TV money – and will soon probably earn even more – and an FA that can blow £757 MILLION on that white elephant called Wembley – get any Government funding at all at a time of austerity when the UK is swimming in a sea of debt? In my opinion no.
Especially if Ched Evans plays again. Ched Evans is a Sheffield United footballer who has been convicted of rape and sentenced to five years in prison. Having served over two years he will soon be released and – showing no remorse – wants to play professional football again. That is unacceptable. Football has a bad enough image with its treatment of women as it is. If it lets Evans back into the game it will deserve to be called the “nasty sport” (I’ve named that after a remark from UK Home Secretary Theresa May who once called her own party the “nasty party”). What it would not deserve if Evans played professionally again is Government money and the Government should impose that as a condition for any funding football might get. If Evans plays …no money for football.
But the Government should go further. Football is racist, sexist and homophobic and in its present culture does not deserve state support. If it wants funding from society it should be made to embrace society’s values. Here are four things that I would insist football MUST do if it wants Government money.
First of all it must bring in the “Rooney Rule”*. There are 92 professional football clubs in England. Only two have black managers and black coaches like Eddie Newton claim they are victims of racism. The implementation of the Rooney Rule would give black coaches a chance to get on the managerial ladder
Second homophobic chanting at football matches should be made a criminal offence (I was amazed it wasn’t already). This was proposed at the Liberal Democrats conference last week and there is absolutely no reason why football shouldn’t crack down on it. One club – Brighton – a place with a large gay population – has its fans regularly suffer homophobic chants. One suspects if it were Liverpool or Manchester United fans suffering something should be done. And it should be.
My next two ideas are more controversial. First men should be banned from coaching women’s teams. First of all it would Give women a route into the profession. Of the eight clubs in the Women’s Super League (WSL) one(Chelsea) has a female coach. At the start of the season it was two so the situation is getting worse. Secondly a ban on male coaches would mean there is no risk in the UK of the horrific molestation of female players in Africa exposed by the excellent Jennifer Doyle. This rule is necessary as UK politics shows. Only the Labour Party insists some seats should have women candidates. In the 2010 UK General Election Labour had 258 seats to the Conservatives’ 307. However they had 81 women MPs to the Conservatives’ 48. That proves “positive discrimination” works.
My most controversial idea is the ban on mixed competitive football – men and women playing together – should be lifted. it should be up to individuals who they want to play football with. The ban can be ludicrous sometimes. Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford Tracey Crouch was banned from the House of Commons football team for being female. As a football player and a coach she would play for that team on merit. I know FIFA say the male and female game should be kept separate but there are amateur mixed leagues in the US and no one complains so why can’t we have that here? FIFA, I suspect are only concerned with the professional game. I hardly think Sepp Blater knows – or cares – about the House of Commons’ football team. Besides any rule that makes me feel sorry for a Conservative MP has to be wrong!
In my opinion football should not get Government funding unless what I wrote above happens. If an industry wants Government money it should live by the rules of society. if the football establishment does not want to change fine. But it should be told in that case it should fund the grass-roots itself with NO Government money.
*The “Rooney Rule” – nothing to do with Wayne – is a rule in American Football that states that NFL teams must interview at least one non-white candidate for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. It is named after Dan Rooney the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and chairman of the NFL’s diversity committee.