Tag Archives: Sexism

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.

Advertisements

Scotland’s shame…and pride?

I was going to write about something else today. But something happened yesterday that made me so angry I had to write what I am about to write. I’m still angry even as I type this.
I’ll start with a question. Apart from being blatantly sexist what do the following remarks have in common?

“If I had my way today’s Premiership fixture between Motherwell and Ros County would have been cancelled. That’s because Fir Park should have ben torched on Thursday in order to cleanse the stadium after it played host to women’s football.”

“Can you believe that? Women don’t know the offside rule”. Why is there a female linesman? Somebody’s —- up big”.

“But put political correctness to one side and ask whether the clamour for equality justifies the amount of cash resources being thrown at it (women’s football) when grassroots football is in neglect”.

“I hope she’s looking after your needs. I bet you’d love a bounce on her falseies”

“She’s dragged herself out of the kitchen”.

The answer is that they all involved Scots. From the top down Tam Cowan, Andy Gray, Gordon “Jurassic” Parks* Malky Mackay (I don’t know if him or Ian Moody wrote that text) and Sir Alex Ferguson (to a female journalist on International Women’s Day 2013). To my mind that is more than a coincidence. Five different Scots involved in sexist remarks. Add to that Alan Brazil’s remarks about Robin Williams’ suicide and George Galloway MP and his views about rape and you have a clear pattern. Scotland is a sexist backwater full of dinosaurs. Frankly if I was running an English football club I would not employ a Scottish manager. if I ran an english TV or radio station I would not employ an ex Scottish player as a pundit. I don’t know why Scotland is like this. My mother – god rest her soul – called non whites “Pakis” – we had furious arguments over this – and of course the West of Scotland is full of sectarianism. Also the current independence referendum has turned nasty with “No” posters being vandalised by the SNP’s lunatic fringe. I am ashamed to be from Scotland. And yet as I will write later there is another side to this story…
But before I go on to that two further points about the Mackay affair. The League Manager’s Association (LMA) called the texts (there were also racist and homophobic remarks) “banter”– a word with which we are becoming depressingly familiar with and seems to be becoming a catch all defence to allow people in football to say what they want. I know a trade union – which is what the LMA is – is meant to defend their members but there are – or should be – limits. Even worse is an article in today’s “Daily Telegraph” in which Henry Winter writes “Educators must take action as FA will not”. The FA should not be investigating this. As I have said before football should have an independent regulator – most other UK industries do – which could investigate matters like this. Having the FA investigate is like having football investigate itself. It won’t work.
But back to Scotland. Despite the fact that the country would appear to be a sexist backwater there are signs of hope. A Scot – Andy Murray – has appointed a female coach. A Scottish club – Stirling University has just this week appointed a female manager – Shelly Kerr. Of the four main political parties in Scotland two have female leaders and another has a female deputy leader.
And in a bizarre paradox this sexist backwater has a good women’s national team that has at least a 50-50 chance of going to the World Cup in Canada next year. It has produced in my opinion the best female player in Britain’s history Rose Reilly** as well as Julie Fleeting and an early female football pioneer in Nettie Honeyball. The current Scottish women’s football team has players like Kim Little – the Americans wish she could play for them – and Lisa Evans who plays for one of the beat teams in Europe Turbine Potsdam. Frankly Scotland has got a NWT it does not deserve (its home games are shown live on BBC Alba – a Gaelic channel so the commentary is not in English!). Frankly if this team qualifies for the World Cup amid the hatred of the sexists it would be an amazing feat. Good luck to them. If they play in Canada next year hopefully they will get support and show Scotland in a different light.

*A sports journalist with the Scottish Daily Record (the nickname is mine). He thinks football in Scotland should not be on TV – a view that died out elsewhere in the 1980s – and that fans should be allowed to drink alcohol at grounds. In a country where there are riots at Rangers v Celtic youth games that is asking for trouble. I bet he wishes James Callaghan was still in Number 10…

**Rose Reilly deserves to have a book written about her. Banned from Sottish women’s football for life in 1975 she carved out a career in Europe. She won an unoffical women’s World Cup with Italy (her adopted country) in 1983 scoring a 40 yard goal in the Final. Among her feats was winning the League title in two different nations in the same season (1978-79.). That season she played on Saturday evenings for Italian team Lecce and Sunday afternoons for French team Reims – and both won their League titles! Add to that the fact that Jock Stein’s Celtic sent a scout to watch her when she played for her local boys club (she had to cut her hair short and call herself Ross to play for them. When her ruse got discovered she was banned) and you have a remarkable person. And I stand by my view that she is the best female player Britain has produced although she is from my part of the world (North Ayrshire) so I could be biased.

Finally the British journalist and academic Carrie Dunn is doing a sponsored 10k walk on September 28th to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. If anyone reading this is on Facebook or Twitter please ask their followers to go to http://www.justgiving.com.carries-memory-walk280914 and donate to this wonderful cause.
.

Too much too young

An unusual sporting event starts in Williamsport, Virginia. It is the Little league World Series a baseball tournament for 11-13 year olds. The unusual thing about it is it is live on ESPN Television in the USA and has been on American TV since 1953. It used to be on TV in the UK too but not now. I could never watch it anyway – partly because Little League’s record on gender equality is awful* but mainly because in my opinion treating children like professional athletes is just wrong.
You think I’m exaggerating? This appeared in the Boston Globe in 2004 (reprinted in Eileen McDonagh and Laura Pappano’s excellent “Playing With the Boys” (page 242) and is about the response to a team of Little Leaguers from Saugus, Massachusetts in 2003:

Highlights from their Little League games were even shown on the jumbotron at Fenway Park. When the team returned home and the bus pulled into the high school parking lot on Aug 25, the players were greeted by 200 fans. As the police held the crowd back, the Little leaguers signed T-shirts, baseballs and hats on the back of a pick up truck that said “Saugus Americans, New England regional champs”.The team was also honoured by the Red Sox, and with a motorcade through Saugus”.

And this for a team of children – who weren’t even American champions. For the team that did win the US Championship – from East Boynton Beach Florida – “recognition came during Game 3 of the Major League World Series between the New York Yankees and the Florida (now Miami) Marlins. The boys met President George W Bush and Florida governor Jeb Bush and were recognised at a Miami Dolphins (American) football game. As McDonagh and Pappano say (page 242-3) this reveals a system seriously out of kilter. It will be virtually impossible for those Little League players to do anything in the future without it being noted they were members of that team. That is true even if they make it to the majors. Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds is an all star and runner-up in the 2014 Home Run Derby. And still they mention the fact he was a member of the Toms River New Jersey team that won the 1998 Little League World Series.
Of course this does not just apply to baseball. Women’s tennis used to be full of 14-year-old whizzkids – Austin, Jaeger, Hingis, Seles, Capriati – but most of them burned out too young. The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) quite rightly introduced a rule that stops anyone under 15 from playing at all and limits the events 15 to 17-year-olds can play. The result? Fewer cases of burnout and 20 is considered young to be a Grand Slam finalist these days.
Not that we in Britain can gloat. Anyone who attends a boys’ football match in Britain can hear parents shouting at young children while living out their fantasies and pretending to be Mourinho or Wenger. It is an obscene spectacle and quite rightly the FA are trying to stop it.
Nor is this unique to sport. In 1974 a 10-year-old called Lena Zavaroni won Opportunity Knocks (think Britain’s Got Talent) for five weeks in a row. But the fame destroyed her. By 13 she was anorexic, and by 15 she was clinically depressed. It is at least possible her early fame was a factor.
And we haven’t learned the lesson, even today. Just last week Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole had a row over 14-year olds in the X Factor (he was for she was against). Cheryl is right. The age limit should be 16.
The point I am making – wither in sport or show business – is just let children be children. Don’t treat them like professional performers until they are ready. Let them enjoy their sport or their signing. There is plenty of time for money and fame when they are old enough to cope with it. And Little League should not be televised. Let the children enjoy themselves. Free from TV cameras and media hype.

*In 1951 Little League Baseball(LLB) introduced a rule saying “girls are not eligible under any conditions”. In 1974 they had to admit girls after they lost a New Jersey court case and the US government passed legislation allowing girls to play. Their response was to set up Little League Softball for girls on the basis that girls (aged 11-13!) could not play baseball with boys. According to John Kovach (“Where’s the Ponytail?” 2007)”At almost every Little League season sign up if you are female you are sent to the softball line and not told you have a choice. The choice is made for you”. Since 1974 only 18 girls have played in the Little League World Series – the 17th and 18th are playing this year. It could be said LLB lost the battle in 1974 but won the war. And to think this organisation has a Federal charter from the US government – meaning that “its mission and values should support those of the United States government”. I did not know it was US government policy to deny girls freedom of choice. LLB, in my opinion, must be the most sexist sports organisation in the world.

Is Murray’s new coach on a hiding to nothing?

The fact that the England football team will now be “home before the postcards” in the World Cup is not just bad news for them. It might also be bad news for Britain’s reigning Wimbledon champion Andy Murray as he begins the defence of his title on Monday (since the UK press will put the spotlight on him now that England are out). He’ll become the first Briton to defend a Wimbledon title since Virginia Wade in 1978 (as a sideline it will be interesting if the UK press acknowledge this fact. Last year when Murray won the title – as Chloe Angyal pointed out on Twitter – the Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail called him the first British Wimbledon champion since 1937 when in fact there were four British female champions since 1937.)
This would seem like nit picking but for an event that has occurred since last year’s Wimbledon. A couple of weeks ago Murray appointed a new coach. She is female – the 2006 Wimbledon Champion Amelie Mauresmo. Needless to say this has made headlines. At first I was shocked but one must remember Murray was coached by his mother in the early stages of his career and so a female coach is not the novelty it would be for the vast majority of ATP players. So far his record under Mauresmo in baseball parlance is .500 (one win one defeat) and to no one’s surprise Mauresmo is taking a lot of stick on social media (none of it will be reproduced here).
People are praising Murray for his bravery but in truth he isn’t the brave one here. Ever since July 7th last year – when he won the Wimbledon title – Murray is a British hero. He always will be. The man who ended 77 years of humiliation for British men at Wimbledon won’t be attacked by the press now. Mauresmo is the brave one. She is the one that is stepping out of her comfort zone. Knowing the British press as I do Mauresmo is on a hiding to nothing. If Murray plays well he’ll get the credit. if he plays badly she’ll get the blame. Not fair? Of course it’s not. If Mauresmo was coaching Britain’s number 1 female Heather Watson it would have got some publicity – ex Wimbledon champion to coach British youngster could be one headline – but it would cause nowhere near as much fuss and if Watson did well Mauresmo would get credit for it. An example from the 2012 Olympics shows this. In the women’s football Final German (female) referee Bibiana Steinhaus missed a US handball so obvious even the US’s two goal heroine Carli Lloyd admitted “it was a clear handball. It hit her (Tobin Heath’s) arm”. It got mentioned a bit in the UK press but if she had refereed the men’s Final and made the same mistake the poor woman would have been hung drawn and quartered for it.
In fact today’s Daily Telegraph backs me up. The headline in Simon Briggs’s article on Wimbledon is “Mauresmo blameless if I lose, says Murray.” It goes without saying that the last time Murray went into a Grand Slam with a new coach – the 2012 Australian Open – he did not say that Ivan Lendl would be blameless if he lost. Mauresmo will not be allowed a honeymoon period like most new appointments get. Just because she’s a woman.
An example from the UK’s past confirms this. The three toughest most high profile jobs in the UK in my opinion are the England (male) football team manager, the England (male) cricket captain and the Prime Minister of the UK. But a new appointment to all three of these jobs gets a honeymoon period where they do not get attacked by the UK’s press and public. Only one of those jobs – Prime Minister – has been done by a woman, namely Margaret Thatcher. Perhaps it is just a coincidence but as David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh wrote about her first government ” The new government’s honeymoon was much shorter than usual.The 7% lead in the general election evaporated within six weeks and by October Labour were 5% ahead in the polls” (The British General Election of 1983 page 14). It might have nothing to do with her gender but it is amazing Thatcher’s honeymoon was far shorter than any other UK Prime Minister.
I really do fear for Mauresmo that Murray will get the credit if it goes well – and that she’ll get the blame if it does not. She could be on a hiding to nothing. Let’s hope the UK press – some of whom still have naked women on Page 3 – prove me wrong. An interesting footnote. Melanie Harvey in the Daily Record wrote that a friend of hers said that all men with half a brain should consider themselves a feminist. Ah so that explains the behaviour of Sepp Blatter and the UK press then!