Ally Moncrieff questions what it would take for football to cross the line, and whether in some cases it already has. Is it time to walk away?
You always hurt the one you love. Maybe that works in reverse as well.
For many of us there comes a time when it becomes clear the thing you do for fun, the thing you think you love is doing you great harm. Whether it’s the MDMA user seeing a picture of themselves ‘on it’—pupils the size of snooker balls with their jaw on the other side of the dance floor—or the gym rat waking up one day to find himself alone apart from his ‘guns’ and protein shake induced flatulence. These moments act as a mental jolt: a little shock to the system that allows us to take a step back and see our lives for what they really are. If we don’t like what we see then this is a chance to change our behaviour.
The question is will this moment of clarity ever arrive when it comes to football? At what point do we decide that enough is enough and that despite the joy that football brings us the corrosive effect it has on our morality is too high a price to pay?
This isn’t a call to arms or to action. It’s more a question of what your football club would have to do for you to walk away. Do you draw the line at racism? At Anti-Semitism? At sexism? At rape apologism? Should we have drawn the line a helluva long time ago?
Balancing what you like and what you believe is right is tricky enough at the best of times. Living in a society that tolerates exploitation as long as that exploitation helps turn a profit means that even buying a new t-shirt is a morally questionable exercise. At least though when you pop in to Primark your fellow shoppers aren’t singing songs in defence of a convicted rapist. Everyday immorality is easy to ignore. With football it’s often more in your face. Football clubs of course have a ‘brand loyalty’ that any high street retailer would kill for to help clear those kind of moral hurdles.
Just now it feels like football is lagging behind the rest of society when it comes to questions of tolerance and inclusiveness. The statistically inexplicable lack of both gay players and black managers points to a sport still infected with bigotry and prejudice. That’s not to say that football really is some intolerant backwater (in fact in many cases it’s a genuine force for good and reaches people other mediums cannot) but events of recent weeks and months might just have you questioning if this thing that you’ve loved for as long as you can remember is actually deserving of your love.
Ah yes, events of recent weeks and months. Ched Evans a convicted rapist (an unrepentant convicted rapist) was essentially chauffeured from the prison gate to the training ground of his ex club. Only the activism of the local community and (probably more tellingly) the nervousness of club sponsors put a halt to that. Malky Mackay a thoroughly average manager was welcomed back into employment even as an FA investigation into his alleged anti-Semitism, racism, sexism and all the the other isms rumbles on. Most depressingly of all we were told that Mackay deserved another chance because he ‘was a good football man’ and ‘he hadn’t raped anyone’. Sometimes there really are no words.
Personally I am fortunate enough to support neither Sheffield United or Wigan Athletic. If I did it is my genuine belief that I’d have packed it all in light of the incidents above. I can’t say that for sure and I’m not judging those who haven’t, but for me the conduct of each club crossed a line that cannot be uncrossed. I do however support Celtic and we have our own sordid little episode playing out at the moment: two separate players are embroiled in two separate racism storms. I can’t say I’ve renounced my fandom but I haven’t been to the ground since the first story broke. I choose not to celebrate Leigh Griffiths goals (I doubt I’ll ever have to make that choice when it comes to Aleksander Tonev as he’s utter wank) and I am genuinely ashamed of how the club has behaved throughout. Maybe I’m a massive fucking hypocrite.
The worry is that many if not most of us are so wedded to the idea of supporting our chosen club that we will never be able to take a step back and ask whether it’s all worth it. The ease at which we ignore or evade questions of morality is troubling indeed.
You should follow me on twitter where I’m much less serious https://twitter.com/AllorNothingMag