I love a bit of football (or for the international reader – ‘soccer’).
For my sins I’m an Aston Villa supporter. It’s been a long old season and one which is now down to the business end. All to play for, with relegation a real possibility (but fingers crossed after last night’s amazing 6-1 win over Sunderland).
The English Premier League itself has had a turbulent twelve months. Increasingly, the behaviour of players has been under the microscope. Some has been bizarre and downright unpleasant. Not to mention well outside the rules of the game and any kind of ethical code of conduct.
Hmm. Anyone else feel a metaphor coming on…..?
Barton & Suarez
Towards the end of last season, Joey Barton (QPR captain) was banned for 12 matches after being found guilty of two counts of violent conduct . He was also fined £75,000.
The Guardian website reported that:
…the (FA) regulatory commission chairman condemned the midfielder's actions, saying: "There are rules of conduct that should be adhered to, and such behaviour tarnishes the image of football in this country, particularly as this match was the pinnacle of the domestic season and watched by millions around the globe."
Earlier this month, Liverpool FC striker Luis Suarez was banned for ten matches after biting (yes, biting) a member of the opposing team during a televised match.
‘So what?’ I hear you say. ‘That’s footballers for you. Champagne lifestyle, ridiculous salary and do what they like. Are they who we want as role models?’
The thing is – they have a skill. And a skill is a valuable commodity in a global market where rewards are extraordinary. They don’t claim to be role models, albeit they certainly contribute to the overall reputation of the game and the clubs they represent.
And their clubs pay handsomely for their skills. They understand their inherent value in terms of commercial returns from sponsorship, shirt sales, league positions and tournament participation. They also recognise that if they were to sack them, they will invariably end up at a rival club (see the saga of Adrian Mutu).
So what can be done?
What else can be done by the governing bodies such as the FA, UEFA and FIFA? They oversee football on a national, continental and global level.
When players earn so much money and remain so valuable to both their clubs and the broader football system then realistically, what sanctions are going to bother them? Will a fine and a ban really matter?
So do we then suggest actions against the Managers or the Board of the clubs, for failing to implement effective systems and controls to stop their player’s errant behaviour?
The Ultimate Sanction
What if the club’s licence to participate in the league was revoked?
I’m sure that Liverpool FC would have had something to say if this had been suggested as the ultimate sanction in the recent Suarez affair. Can you really do this to an organisation which has so many global stakeholders and is such an integral part of the lives of so many?
I can’t see it happening, or working.
But on the plus side, it might help Aston Villa stay up.
(this blog is intentionally tongue-in-cheek. The ludicrous actions of footballers are in no way comparable to the terrible damage caused by money laundering activities, fraud and so on).