Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Politics Of Sport - Why Do They Keep Getting Away With It?

By Shane Thomas

The point of a verdict in an inquiry, investigation, or legal proceedings is to act as a full stop. To clear the fog of questions surrounding an issue, remove the anxiety of indecision, and let us breathe because we now know where we stand.
But in the case of the FA declaring Malky Mackay and Iain Moody free from sanction despite being caught sending text messages rife with bigoted content, we don't have a resolution, at least not one to the satisfaction of any fair-minded person. All we have is frustration, and more questions.

After an 11 month investigation, how could Mackay and Moody have no case to answer? How does the FA's reasoning that they won't take action because the communications were private hold any weight? After all, they're English football's governing body. If they can't take action against this behaviour, who can? And yet, as Jason Roberts pointed out, Jack Wilshere's comments at a trophy parade - that while lacking in maturity, also lacked in oppressive connotations - were regarded as necessary of censure.

This is a roundabout way of asking, just why were Mackay and Moody allowed to get away with it?

The reasoning of the FA's decision is worryingly simple. We're currently in a time where bigotry in football is fine, as long as it's private and goes beyond simplistic understanding. Tony Evans (former football editor of The Times) queried what exactly the FA stands for. It appears that a sport which makes all feel welcome isn't among them. One only has to look at their social media output.

Here's the dirty secret at the heart of those tailored suits, PR-driven soundbites, and ostensibly reassuring credentials: Football's governance - from the FA to FIFA - don't care about a decent game. They only care about a profitable one. This type of emetic conduct won't stop until it becomes bad for business. For the moment, white men can still partake in "acceptably" oppressive behaviour, because the proverbial trains are still running on time.

In a rum way, it's football's greatest strength that has buttressed such deportment. What the game has done since its inception is bring people together in participating in the base pleasure derived from kicking a ball. This would be a social boon if the world hadn't been carved up as a neoliberal pyramid scheme.

Alas, the kyriarchal way society has been assembled ensures that the full fruits of the sport are reserved for those who operate in spheres of privilege, resulting in only a narrow subset of society being brought together: cisgender, heterosexual men (primarily white), and that's why football still remains uneasy with anything that exists outside that prism.

A consequence of this being "jobs for the boys". Their coterie of associates are all "good lads", good football people. Anyone else is immediately deemed as suspect, and a problem, unless they take whatever scraps they're given, and be grateful[1].

Football still gets to pretend it has no more than the anomalous bad apple, instead of acknowledging that the whole orchard is rotten. We may love this game, but it doesn't belong to us. Until those in charge reflect the breadth of its fandom, the next scandal will only be a matter of time.


Australia's blistering performance in the 2nd Ashes Test ensures that while the series is level at 1-1, and it's they who will head to Edgbaston for the 3rd Test with the momentum on their side. What's interesting from the first two encounters is that both teams have been ruthless when in advantageous positions, but have shown alarming frailties when put under pressure.

When the urn is finally delivered at The Oval to either Michael Clarke or Alastair Cook, the deciding factor could be which side shows greater resilience over the course of the series. To badly paraphrase Marilyn Monroe, if you can't perform when you're at your worst, you don't deserve the Ashes when you're at your best.

[1] - Or, as Caddyshack put it.

Part of this piece was first published on Think Football.

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