There are times when I despair of those in authority in the football world. “Football has a Respect Agenda” the FA and Premier League chorus loudly. Oh Really? Was it AWOL when that colossus of rectitude, Mr Joey Barton, once again let himself down by electing to attack an opponent after having been sent off during a critical match on the last day of the league season? Is it similarly absent when other star players direct foul and abusive language at match officials on a depressingly regular basis with absolutely no sanction? Where is the respect when top players of that game openly cheat and feign injury?
Since the day of the match, every soccer pundit in England has been wondering what to do with Mr Barton…Well, as the soccer authorities are clueless, let’s take a look at another winter team sport which is growing in popularity by the day. Step forward, Rugby Union. Violent conduct – red card and a long suspension. Assaulting a match official – lengthy ban running into years. Cheating? Well “Bloodgate” cost Dean Richards a three year ban from the game. Disputing any decision during a match – a 10 yard march forward. Yellow cards carry a 10 minute sin binning. Coaches and spectators can be sent off too. Everyone knows who is in charge. The referee IS respected. The consequence is that there is no crowd trouble. In the time I have been a season ticket holder at Leicester Tigers, I do not recall seeing a police officer at all…No need. We respect each other, fans and players alike even to the extent of silence descending when either side has a penalty and elects to go for goal. Everyone is welcome at Welford Road. No need for crowd segregation and you can take your pint to your seat.
The clincher for me is at the end of every rugby game, from local veterans to premier league, the teams form a guard of honour to clap their opposition from the field of play then everyone (match officials too) retire to the bar.
I acknowledge the frustration of decent soccer supporters at the inability of referees to deal effectively with the devaluation of their game by the overpaid prima-donnas who play it at the highest level and cheat. I do not know why the great referees of that game have to put up with the antics of such players when those in charge of rugby matches do not.
Interestingly, teaching friends of mine tell the wonderful story of a teenage lad who Fs and blinds at the referee when playing soccer yet transforms into a respectful and polite young man when playing rugby union.
Message to the FA…Respect starts at the top and cascades down. There is no point in introducing a respect agenda at the ground floor when top-level players are allowed to act like morons with impunity.
To those in successful businesses and indeed the military, mutual respect and good manners are endemic. There are the foundation stone of leadership and motivation. Our great entrepreneurs and generals inspire those under them by setting an example. Society’s problem now is that many who know their rights demand a level of respect they themselves are simply incapable of reciprocating. It would do no harm for soccer stars to grow up and accept their wider responsibility to society and thus improve a game that has given each of them so very much.
Final word to the FA…Get a grip! Ban Barton for life. Your game doesn’t need him.