Football Column – A Few Good Men

A pre-season return for The Substantive Football Column.

The Premier League had a launch party today. It’s not entirely clear why. It’s nothing new and the media that report on the launch cover the Premier League on a daily basis anyway. A suited Mike Reilly demonstrating how a black can of whipped cream can vanish when sprayed on astro-turf doesn’t justify Richard Scudamore picking at cocktail sausages while having a dig at La Liga, boasting how many $200 tickets were sold for a pre-season friendly and no doubt checking his emails on his mobile device.

Before the launch, the start of the new season in England actually came last Friday night, for what can surely only have been a small number of TV viewers. There then followed a full weekend of League games and a glorified friendly at Wembley in a game that will surely be pimped out round the world on an annual basis soon in enough; if UEFA’s regular jolly to Monaco for the Super Cup can go, it can’t be long before the Community Shield is played in a ridiculously hot climate in a stadium that has yet to been built by economic slaves with no Health and Safety protection, no union representation or nothing close to a living wage.

Despite the gloom of where football is headed, it is always pleasing to see someone in the game stand up for what they think is right. And the highlight of the opening League weekend came from an unlikely source, Millwall manager Ian Holloway (a man who once compared winning despite playing poorly to taking home “an ugly bird”), standing up for decency.  He publicly criticized chants from his own fans that most in the game would have laughed off as “banter”.

While a paying punter has the right to criticise their own team, sing loudly or stay silent and even walk out when they want to, passing through a turnstile is not a moral vacuum where decency should be left at the gate along with plastic bottle tops. Even over priced tickets and years of club rivalry doesn’t excuse using any victim of abuse as a tool for trolling opposition fans, and Holloway was right to say so, rather than taking the easy option and ignoring people that are crucial to keeping him in a job.

But Holloway’s stand is not the only bit of decency in the game. Earlier this month Everton’s Steven Naismith revealed he was buying batches of tickets for job centres to give to the unemployed who haven’t been able to find work despite their best efforts.

The piece on Radio 4’s Today Programme last week on England cricketer Moeen Ali’s ambition to succeed in order to inspire others coupled with Naismith’s act are reminders that even when top flight sport looks like it will eat itself, you can’t keep good men down.


Mel Gomes is the author of the e-book Glory Nights from Wankdorf to Wembley which documents the escape of travelling to watch sport. It is available to preview for free and download in full from Amazon and Smashwords. More details, including photos and links to reviews, here.

Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley

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