Sunday, 30 December 2012

New Year's Resolutions

After a tumultuous 2012 here's a wishlist of changes to football for 2013. Some may be about to happen, many never will and some simply must.

Firstly Arsenal FC need to find some new defenders - did you see their defence against Newcastle? Theo needs to sign a new contract in January and buy into the new vibrant young GB side 'In Arsene We Trust' is assembling.
Rock Required

The FA needs to greatly increase the available sanctions for racist abuse by players/managers. Clubs need to incorporate termination/compensation clauses into contracts for racist abuse. The game cannot be further tarnished by episodes such as 'Terry' and 'Suarez'. I am not confident this will happen. I salute Milan for taking their players off the field when Kevin Prince Boateng was racially abused. It was though a friendly. Would FIFA support them otherwise?

Sepp Blatter's first act of 2013 should be to resign forthwith. His contribution to the 'Beautiful Game' is entirely negative. His successor should come from outside FIFA.

Countries which fail to properly offer equality for women players should be banned from all international tournaments.

FFP must be adhered to and enforced (I am after all an Arsenal fan).

ITV Sport should be discarded from the schedules.

Proper tackling and contact should be allowed to return. Gareth Bale and other miscreants should decide if they are man enough to play football or find another sport.

Man Up

With that in mind simulation should be a red card offence with 3 game bans.
To assist with the above the use of technology should be extended to all 'goal decisions', simulation incidents, red and yellow card calls and off the ball incidents.

Officials' microphones should not only be recorded, but published when players are abusive to referees or each other. Abuse would rapidly die out. Similarly what is said in the technical area should be broadcast. Managerial contributions are hardly rocket science. It might even be illuminating.

Shirt pulling in the box should result in a penalty.

Goalkeepers should no longer be treated like an endangered species.

Gary Neville should be on MOTD.
Lawrenson, Savage and Shearer definitely should not. Elsewhere we don't need Townsend, J Redknapp, Niall Quinn and many others. Keown has potential.

Serbia should receive its just desserts for racist abuse.

Women's football should feature on Football Focus and have weekly terrestrial shows. We should also have access to the National Women's soccer League when it commences in USA.
Lianne Sanderson should return to the England Women's Football team. This might require changes at the top.
My England Wish

A new vibrant young England team featuring Wilshere, Chamberlain, Walcott, Gibbs (of course), but also Jones, Smalling, Welbeck and Sterling to name but a few.

Fan representation on every board.

An end to the managerial merry go round. Introduction of a form of Rooney Rule to give all talent a chance. End to knee jerk sacking of managers (Forest, Blackburn), but also terrible appointments - Hughes, McLeish ...
However also an end to managerial excuse making, abuse of referees and negative tactics.

An end to interviews with English players (most) which are frequently embarrassing and tedium personified.

I forgot about gloves - they should never be seen on a football pitch - possible exception for goalkeepers!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

'Rock Against Racism'

Anthony Clavane's Sunday Times 'Think Tank' started me thinking. A few weeks ago I attended the 'Football, Leadership and Race Debate' at the Stephen Lawrence Centre. Amongst the passion and the articulate voices, I detected a noticeable subtext. People felt that high profile figures should have made their voices heard. The KIO t - shirt protest (Jason Roberts etc) was welcomed. It was a start. A ripple on a seemingly calm pond.
At that point we had endured Suarez and Liverpool's embarrassing t - shirts, the infernal Terry affair and the tepid sanctions which left a nasty taste with many. Clattenberg was exploding on our consciousness, but his case was perhaps a red herring. But we had not had some West Ham 'fans' (a tiny sick minority) invoking the Holocaust to mock Spurs fans. Similarly some Millwall now seem to want to reignite a previous reputation. An under 15s football match in Leicester is alleged to have degenerated into racist abuse by supporters (parents?) The referee is accused of not reporting the incidents. To our mutual shame racism appears to be alive and well in Great Britain.
Mr Clavane called for a 'Football Against Racism' campaign to support victims and to raise awareness. Top stars would tour the country and football mad rock stars would play anti racism specific concerts. He invoked the Rock Against Racism campaign of principally the 1970s.
He had been involved in the Dark Ages - the 1970s - when extremism was on the rise, the National Front was making electoral headway, football matches were battlegrounds with the enemy being the opposing fans or the Police.
Back then Eric Clapton made appalling public statements at a concert praising Enoch Powell (I dont think I need to mention him further) and declared that 'we' should 'Keep Britain White'. I had forgotten this. It seems almost laughable, a man who made millions from black music. But this was no laughing matter. I was shocked to learn that David Bowie also, for a time, embraced fascism. He later recanted and blamed his sentiments on excessive drug use.
In the late 1970s people with soul fought back. Musicians sent a letter to the NME calling for a Rock Against Racism Concert. It struck a chord. In Spring 1978 (30/4/78) 100,000 people marched from Trafalgar Square to Hackney (the East End being an NF heartland) and attended an open air concert  organised by RAR and the Anti Nazi League. Steel Pulse, The Clash, The Buzzcocks, Sham 69 and The Tom Robinson Band stood up. In South London Elvis Costello, Stiff Little Fingers and Aswad played a similar gig.

Back then Tony Benn was a Labour Minister. He fell out with Harold Wilson because Wilson did not want the issue of racism to feature in the election. does that sound familiar today with the approach of the football authorities? Benn said 'When you get to my age, you realise that every generation has to fight the same battles'.

Is now the time to take sides? Will high profile figures embrace this, join in and stand in solidarity. Who would lead this? Is the current softly softly approach of the authorities effective?
There are many good things being done by the the PFA, LMA, KIO and FARE. But do we feel that the tide is travelling in the right direction? I sense that some do not feel confident that the future is brighter than the past in spite of the gains. Would be fascinated to hear people's views.