How Should Moral Standards and Crime Be Treated in Football?
The announcement that Marlon King’s appeal against a conviction for sexual assault had been rejected raised two debates in my mind.
One was the contentious rule of law that means previous convictions cannot be considered before the end of a trial and secondly it made me think about the level of reporting of the case which featured as heavily in the sports media as it was in the news media.
The thoughts around the second point I suppose depends on much on what allows a shocking but nonetheless in the day to day dealings of the British legal system a textbook case of sexual assault to be a national news piece.
Before I go on I want to stress that sexual assault and violent offences are very serious and are treated as such by the author and I hope that those affected have received and continue to receive the support they require following such incidents.
I consider myself a football purist, I have never been a cult follower of footballers, as a kid I did not pester my Dad to wait outside the player’s entrance after games to hunt the autograph’s of my teams players.
The products they endorsed held little weight with me and I say them as they truly are as human beings lucky enough to be blessed with a talent that people will pay to see.
Therefore the personal life of players does not really interest me, I have looked at the dawn of the cult of celebrity with the worlds top footballers with disdain, the plethora of pages in Hello, OK or other similar magazines a waste of paper.
Whilst I envy the reward they are given for their skill it does not to me make them worthy of being a role model on that score alone.
Unfortunately however my view does not pair with a large portion of popular culture as aided by WAG accessories, the tabloid press and revenue hungry executives seek to build players up and put them in view of the world both on and off the pitch.
In previous eras players cheated on their wives and often brushed with the law but this was rarely big news, players were held up for their football skills and behavioural role models were found in other areas of society.
Thinking about this then hurdled quickly towards the idea that if footballers should be role models to what kind of moral standard should we hold them to and if they fail to meet this should they be excluded from the game?
In recent years there have been a trickle of high profile cases where professional footballers have broken the law and in the cases of Lee Hughes and former Plymouth Argyle goalkeeper Luke McCormick their actions have resulted in the deaths of others.
Luke McCormick is still in jail but Hughes and King have now been released and despite a great deal of protest been able to restart their careers.
The protests and upset that Hughes and King caused when they returned to football was understandable both committed albeit different crimes both of which cause anger and sorrow that an apology cannot dampen.
Some clubs were unwilling to take the players on with Hughes dropping down a division to League One with Oldham and Marlon King finding a home with Coventry.
Whilst Hughes has gone onto become a hero at new club Notts County due to his performances, some of the fans I have spoken to still feel uneasy cheering the player knowing his past.
There was great debate as to whether after their convictions there was a place in football for these players, some particularly those close to those affected called for life bans from the game. Citing the role model aspect and the message that it sends that after committing such a crime they can go back to their previous lifestyle.
This sits uneasy with me, two individuals were imprisoned for their crimes in line with the law, for action to be taken by the FA on moral grounds would not only deprive two individuals a livelihood but set a dangerous precedent that the FA should get involved with the moral activities of players.
If a player serves his time and the crime was not football related then should a club wish to employ a person in spite of this, it may not always sit well but should we not accept it?
Unfortunately though footballers are still seen as role models, of the England team the captain, vice captain and former captain have all found themselves shamed on the front of national newspapers and that’s without mentioning the terrible PUNK’D show that Rio Ferdinand took part in to shame himself.
The real issue here however is not whether the behaviour of players should be monitored but the role of the media in our society.
Footballers are not good role models, they are young, wealthy and not always the sharpest minds, nothing is out of their reach financially.
The media obsession with making them celebrities is terrible for the game, footballers are not PR experts (although some have developed these skills), they have a primary skill that should be illuminated and their ability to drink, sleep or cheat their way around an expensive nightclub should be kept between the player and his conscience.
In this case it is easy to conclude that the only moral standard a player should be held to off the pitch is his own and not one conceived in the media, yet if a crime is committed the lines become more blurred.
If I was to be convicted of a crime getting a job in my current line of work would be impossible to find a new job after being released, yet footballers seem unaffected. I am honestly searching for answers on this one I cannot balance the morals and the will to give someone a second chance.
How should footballers committed of a crime be treated once they have served there sentence?
Should they be excluded from the game or welcomed back under certain provisions?
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