• Niall O'Carroll

Football needs massive changes to survive latest scandals

Having written an article a couple of weeks ago about racism in football I find myself writing again on the topic.

As Ole Gunnar Solksjaer said after Man Utd’s victory over Manchester City;

 “We keep talking about it every bloody week. But he’s been caught on camera. He should, in my opinion, never be allowed into a football ground again and I’ve seen the video. Unacceptable.”

Of course he is right it is unacceptable and discrimination in any form be it racial, sexual, religious etc should never be tolerated. What I found particularly distasteful about this incident was the video footage showing not just the clown involved, but also the behaviour of those around him.

The post-game report suggested that items were thrown at Man Utd players. Is this as distasteful as the disgusting monkey chant by one idiot? Maybe not but is the aggressive behaviour and hatred on the faces of those around this moron acceptable?

Why has football in particular become the go to place to vent whatever nasty bile you have inside. I have heard arguments that football is ‘the game of the people’ or that it is the ‘working man’s game’, but I would argue that for one thing how many working class people can afford season tickets at these stadiums these days and also why is it that sports like GAA (hardly a bastion of gentry) can avoid such distasteful incidents.

Is there a suggestion that the working classes don’t know any better? For some reason football is seen as an outlet for all the hatred any individual can muster. So often you hear football fans refer to going to a game like they are going to war.

I love football. I have always enjoyed playing it (not to a great standard in fairness). My dad was one of a couple of guys who founded a football club in Limerick in the early 70s and I spent my youth going to games, being brought to the pub on a Sunday after a game and being told ‘don’t tell your mother’.

Being thrown out of the pub for holy hour and going home for a Sunday roast. This is what soccer was about for me. I remember in 1980 watching the team win their first major trophy in what was then Priory Park against a great Geraldines FC team of the era.

The game was hard fought but sportingly played and both sets of players socialised after. I remember my teenage years helping my dad, brothers and other volunteers fund raise to buy a pitch to give the club a home.

This is what football was about for me. I remember my dad coming home from work every Saturday and sitting down to dinner with the same question “How much did Liverpool win by today?” I was brought up to respect referees (not always an easy thing to do) and the opposition. Football was about bringing people together, having fun.

I also remember the difficult times of the 70s and 80s. I remember the vicious nature of the rivalry between my club Limerick Utd and Waterford and Shamrock Rovers in particular. I remember the shame that was the Heysel disaster and how that changed the makeup of football grounds.

I remember the disgraceful scenes in Windsor Park in 1993 when Andy Townsend reported having fans scream in his face ‘I hope your mother dies of cancer’. This was dismissed after the game by Northern Ireland manager Billy Bingham as merely being ‘banter’.

Irish football is going through its own challenges in the disastrous aftermath of the John Delaney Autocracy. The figures running football in this country at national and local level should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this to happen and for supporting the sham that was Delaney’s leadership.

How embarrassing that one of the most vocal supporters of Delaney in recent times was Limerick chairman Pat O’Sullivan who wrote a public letter of support for the man responsible for drawing one of the largest salaries in world football and leading the organisation to point of extinction.

SSE Airtricity League Premier Division, Showgrounds, Sligo 30/10/2015 Sligo Rovers vs Limerick Limerick chairman Pat O’Sullivan celebrates after the game Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Ironic that Limerick are a club on the a similar trajectory. No shock then that Delaney was the disgraced Pat Hickey’s choice to replace him at the IOC. But then should we be surprised when global football overlords FIFA was run by such charlatans as Sepp Blatter for so many years. How ironic that the economic future of the FAI could dependent on another qualifying one off game in Windsor park.

Football is broken, but if we accept low standards of behaviours from those making the decisions how can we expect anything more than the shameful scenes we saw not just at Etihad stadium yesterday but what we see at football stadiums all over the globe every weekend?

Those running football globally have a duty to those who love the game to show leadership on issues such as racism and LGBT rights. They also have a duty to root out agents of averageness like John Delaney and assure that the culture in football is one that encourages players to express their differences free from fear of recrimination from the terraces.

Change starts at the top.