Sunday, 7 November 2010
Sweet F.A. Responsibility
We only have to go back one or even half a generation to a world where teachers being verbally let alone physically abused was almost unheard of. There have always been scallywags who care not a jot for the long arm of the law, but there has been a seismic shift in the confidence of youth to confront and disobey the police. Parents, adults in general - any figure of authority has taken a nosedive in how they are treated. There are changes across the social cross-section but none so obvious as those displayed by the lower echelons of society.
So to what can we attribute this change, what on earth has this to do with sport, and what can we do about it?
Well, there are undoubtedly many factors, but I'm going to pick one. It probably isn't the main reason but it's an easy fix and I'm spoiling for a rant.
Week in, week out, the nation watches in rapture some of the worst behaved people in the country; foul mouthed louts with no respect. Nope, not Eastenders' own Mitchell brothers (I am told it is just 'brother' now but I didn't know who else to use), but the Football Association's finest Premier League players. Watching the likes of Wayne 'Morality' Rooney and pals, you would have thought the referee was there to count to 90 minutes and to be used as a verbal punchbag for 22 angry men. He couldn't possibly be in charge of them all, or else he wouldn't tolerate the torrent of verbal abuse that wends its merry way to him every Saturday afternoon. If he's in charge, why when awarding a penalty does he sometimes feel the need to perform the back-pedalling Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy? You know the one - pretending he wanted to go for a backwards jog whilst actually running away from the vile mob screaming at him (of whom he is of course in charge).
The way that the F.A. allows referees to be treated is a disgrace. It is a disgrace to a once fine sport - however its pernicious grasp goes further. To many youths, top footballers are Gods. They are who they want to be. They want the blonde bird with fake boobs, the Bentley convertible, the monogrammed wrought iron electric gates adorning the entrance to their MTV 'crib'. They might not even mind the skill, but most importantly it's the trappings. The problem is, they see these men act like vile children, not get in any way reprimanded and then payed a bucketload of cash. This must be the way forward.
For many young people, the referee might be one of the most important figures of authority in their lives. The F.A. has a responsibility to see that figure of authority respected. It does no such thing. Is it any surprise if children see reward in the disgusting behaviour of Rooney & co. that they replicate it? I feel it no coincidence that the antisocial endemic that has spread through this country has varied directly with the maltreatment of football referees by players and its acceptance by the powers that be.
How can it be solved? Simple - have a look at rugby. Oh and don't give me any tosh about football being a passionate sport as an excuse for screaming "Are you f***ing blind, ref, you f***ing c**t!". If you think football is more passionate than rugby, a game where you literally put your body on the line, spend 80 minutes on a rugby pitch. Then tell me how many times the players talked back to the referee. If it's above once, how did it go for them?
One could probably replace rugby with many sports, certainly hockey from my experience, but it's the easiest comparison. Football is unique in its incredible mistreament of referees. If you talk back to the referee in rugby you are penalised. If you persist, you get sent off. Introduce that to football and see how valuable you star players are when they spend half the time on the sin-bin. It would make football no worse a game, and in my view definitely a better game, if there were the same laws applied as rugby for conversing with the referee. I defy anyone to put forward an even half-baked argument to keep the current system. More importantly though, it might actually provide young fans with an idea that to get on in life, respect for authority actually helps, rather than the opposite.
They won't change though - maybe they just like being able to scream at 'the man'. Perhaps this is their way of being anti-Establishment - a great social demonstration against tyranny that I'm not clever enough to get. Hey ho.