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Football's social conscience

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David Bond | 15:42 UK time, Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Premier League is increasingly confident Tottenham's game against Everton will be the only casualty of the competition's first weekend of the new season.

With Tottenham High Road still a crime scene and the club so close to the rioting and trouble which sparked the wave of copycat attacks across London and the rest of the country, that fixture was always vulnerable.

But barring any further trouble the nine remaining fixtures should go ahead. The League's chief executive Richard Scudamore told me today that it was important that national life got back to normal as soon as possible, not because of the need for the football juggernaut to get back into top gear, but because it would send a message to those bent on causing mayhem.

At the Premier League's new season launch at the luxury Landmark Hotel today there was much discussion about what role football and footballers can and should play in the sorts of communities fractured by this week's events.

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Shortly before England's friendly international against the Netherlands was cancelled on Tuesday, Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand tweeted appeals for calm. Ferdinand tried to identify with the yobs by making the point that he grew up on a council estate but had worked hard to become "rich and famous".

While I winced at the measure of the England defender's aspiration, the sentiment was a laudable one and there is no doubt, talking to representatives from the players' union the PFA today, that if anyone can connect with disaffected youngsters then it is the country's leading footballers.

Many of them get a rough ride from the media. Often they don't help themselves.

And wherever they might have come from (Rooney grew up in Croxteth, Ferdinand in Peckham) can they really identify with kids from deprived areas now that they live in gated mansions in posh suburbs?

But the players of the 20 Premier League clubs are at least trying to do their bit, having a whip round to pay for free kits for grass roots clubs, schools and youth schemes worth £500,000.

Detractors will point out that £25,000 per club squad is not even a round of drinks for some players but in many ways the game's stars are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

The bigger point for me is not whether clubs donate enough money to local community projects but whether poorer fans and families have been priced out as top football has become more gentrified and expensive over the last 20 years.

Has the game become too remote and should clubs be doing more to try and make their grounds more accessible? It would certainly have felt strange for Spurs' millionaire players to have driven their super cars past the police tape and burned out buildings as they turned up for the game on Saturday.

Having said all that, is it really right to expect football and the games leading players to be doing the job of politicians and social workers? Sure, the game has a responsibility to its communities and has a reach and influence beyond political leaders, but is it fair to expect a group of young men to do what many of our institutions have failed to do?


  • Comment number 1.

    "Having said all that, is it really right to expect football and the games leading players to be doing the job of politicians and social workers?"

    They could try not to portray themselves as worthless rich scum quite so much.

    Might help.

  • Comment number 2.

    David - please don't begin the 'hue & cry' that football is to blame for these riots.

    The only people to blame are those who took part, nobody else, not the Police, not the Schools, not the Youth service, not even the parents, although you could argue some parents clearly have no control, or even concern, about where their kids are, or what they get involved with!

    Football has had its share of hooligans and even at times some looters, when problems at matches have spilled over into City centres. However the kind of thing that went on over the last few days is nothing to do with football and is simply out and out criminal behaviour.

    We should stop making excuses for these criminals and sort out some real justice, that makes them pay for what they have done and that acts as a real deterrent to others.

    Please don't 'cloud the issue' with this nonsense!

  • Comment number 3.

    Not sure where Georgie is coming from in his post. I though The blog was asking what could football do to help and should it. Reasonable question but in my opinion most of the clubs and players these days are divorced from their fans and only pay lip service to them. They want their money yes but with Sky's money it is no longer crucial that fans turn up to fill the stadium. It is a bonus if they can afford the prices and do turn up but I wonder how many people from underpriviledged areas attend Premiership matches regularly. Not many I suspect.

    Back to Georgie - how do you make them pay? The jails and young offenders institutions are already full, some are too young to imprison and many have no money to pay a fine.

  • Comment number 4.

    Clubs can and should do more for communities because they should be a part of the communities in which they reside. At Watford the Community Trust does a great deal and the Supporter's Trust is supporting the BEST project (bringing sport and education together) in primary and middle schools for 3 years with £20,000 per year. This project involves the willing participation of the players who actually go into schools working with the kids on the various sports while there are parallel classroom links following the national curriculum. This is a positive image for young children with the objective of improving healthy living, introducing kids to a range of sports and helping with classroom learning. The results have been brilliant, particularly in deprived schools.

    Let's see more of this and credit to clubs who do get involved instead of just thinking about how much money can be made.

  • Comment number 5.

    @ #2 georgiesthebest7

    Hear hear !

    Out of control criminal behaviour is exactly what it is.

    "Political correctness" and bleeding heart liberals have brought about this situation world-wide.

    People expect "rights" with no "responsibilities". "Respect" is demanded, trather than earned, and sendom if ever given.

    I agree, sort out some real justice that enforces the idea of responsibility for actions and acts as a deterrent.

    I grew up in an age where my "right" was to respect my parenst and elders, and the law. If I got out of control I got my butt kicked. It did not make me "hate" my parents, it made me respect them and learn boundaries. I learned that my actions carried responsibilities and came with reactions, and it was up to me to decide what types of recation I wanted and expected.

  • Comment number 6.

    Footballers are born with a talent and it just so happens that it has made them rich for life.

    The people smashing up our country are wastes of space.

    Parents too lazy to work but comfy on benefits = Children too lazy to learn at school or develop a skill.

    Recession means that there are less benefits for Lazy Parent and Lazy Child = Riot, nothing to do with footballers, police or anyone else other than the wasters who no longer have it easy sponging off tax payers and now expect a job to fall into their lap.

  • Comment number 7.

    Perhaps it was pricing people from low-income backgrounds out of the game that has led to a decline in hooliganism over the past decade?

    Maybe the problem of hooliganism never really went away in this country and its just been transferred elsewhere?

    The problem with the image of modern footballers is that the media potrays all the bling and glamour but not enough about the handwork and effort required to get to that stage. Kids grew up without being able to connect the dots from a) to b), as well as understanding the basic tenants of luck and chance. Young people today want everything Rooney's got without realising you need to work damn hard and be incredibly lucky to get it. Football needs to ground these kids into reality.

    And finally FYI: Football clubs have long since been detracted from the communities they represent. Unless Manchester has a population of 1 billion people from 90 different countries.

  • Comment number 8.

    David, ypu don't need a blog to report that one Premier League game has been called off - unless you're trying to asociate football with the recent rioting/looting.

    you'll be blaming footballers for phone-hacking next.

  • Comment number 9.

    I gave up on the idea of footballers being moral role models a while back. Sportspeople inspire by their exploits on the pitch/track, yes the money in football is insane nowadays but that's not the players' fault.

    Yes, there is a culture of entitlement within the UK nowadays and different parts of society have contradictory senses of's a trap that even I fall into...but I've also learned that you get what you pay for in this reality and if you don't have the money or luck or aren't going to get the result. I don't always feel part of the local community...but it doesn't give me the right to smash the place up.

  • Comment number 10.

    David.. i have to say you are completely and utterly wrong when it comes to this

    The riots where caused by over 20 years of social and moral decay in the british society . and quite sadly the government has helped to by handing out benefits to anyone and everyone . most especially those who do not deserve it ..

    quite honestly "Black On Black" gang violence has killed and will continue to kill more young teens and adults than one police incident..

    Parents need to step up and begin to act like parents rather than sitting at home and doing absolutely nothing .. No one automatically grows up to be rich . you decided that yourself either by working hard or getting an education ..

    Yes there might be some discontent and all but compare it to the rest of the world where people are living way beyond the poverty line . I hate to mention this but kids in somalia are dying everyday while british youths get all sort of benefits and help from the government at the expense of hard working people ...

    The events that unfolded in london was caused by stupid youths who i feel should be punished to the full extent of the law. without the government "LEGAL AID" paying for it .. I'm not looking for fines or suspended sentences . i want to see imprisonments and harsh sentences .. secondly i have to say the MET responded quite poorly and this helped to fuel the fire of the riots .. I am in no way blaming them but at some point serious severe actions could and should have been taken ..i.e WATER CANNON and TEAR gas.
    I am appalled and disgusted with parents of today . and quite frankly DOWNING STREET needs to step up and do more.. cut the benefits for those who sit at home and drink from sunrise to sunset .. cut the benefits for those teenage girls who use their ability to give birth to milk as much money as the can ..


  • Comment number 11.

    A group of 600 or so men have donated half a million pounds to help kids across the country play football by getting them free kits. And yet people choose to say they aren't doing enough?

    The fact that it equates to less than 1% of their weekly wage packet for many of them is irrelevant.

  • Comment number 12.

    "in many ways the game's stars are damned if they do and damned if they don't."

    I'm sorry David I don't understand. In what way are footballers damned if they do try and do something positive for the community?

    The reason they are 'damned' is because they do so very little for anyone other than themselves. Considering their vast wealth and good fortune, in the main the players in the public eye have little sense of philanthropy or generosity.

  • Comment number 13.

    There is something implicit in your blog that these riots arose from social exclusion and poverty. Plenty kids in these areas did NOT riot, loot or steal David and there were no riots in areas of the UK with higher levels of social deprivation than these.

    Given the many explantions for the English riots that have been put forward in the press, ironic that you have a picture in the blog of former 'Dad of the Year' John Terry.

  • Comment number 14.

    From my own perspective in America, it seems strange to see "underpriveleged" youth in the UK - who are much better supported by the various governments there than ours could hope to be here - protesting conditions that really aren't that bad. One could argue that it's an expression of "the poor will always be with us" - at any given time in any society, one or another socio-econimic group will feel disenfranchised, and given the opportunity will make their mark en masse.

    With regards to footballers, from what I have heard about ticket prices for top-flight football matches there, the Premier league and the clubs themselves are mostly disassociated with their neighbors and fans - never mind the players themselves. Their power to affect social issues is surely hollow in every way except one: the money. Play your games, get your money, re-invest it however and whenever you can - let your actions precede any comments you have to share.

  • Comment number 15.

    All riots aside (remember it was a tiny minority of people, the riots aren't the issue here), it would be great to see footballers on such high weekly wages giving more to the communities that support them.

    People of such high public standing should be ready to take a pro-active approach to the communities local to their clubs because it is those people who support them week in week out, and those people need support of a different kind. I don't think that after tax someone can reasonably argue that they need £125,000 or even £15,000 a week, when there's people unable to access jobs paying minimum wage, but are ready and willing to work.
    They could use it to improve people's lives so much more than they already do. 'With great power comes great responsibilty', and we all know that in modern society, and indeed as far as history can be traced, money = power.

    But it's up to them how they spend their money at the end of the day. All I'm saying is that they have it within their power to make a real difference to people's lives.

    Oh and on the riots - I'm sick of reading about people trying to shove the blame onto 'liberals' and political correctness. Man up and stop trying to dodge responsibility for the idiots our society has produced, sitting safe in your armchairs in the country you bunch of mugs. You haven't got a clue.

  • Comment number 16.

    maybe they could contribute to society by paying the 50% tax they should be paying instead of setting up dummy companies so to avoid taxation.
    many contractors i work with do the same and they earn more before tax than full time employees.
    no wonder the country is split and society breaking down when all the wealthy and rich avoid paying their dues at the expense of the paye employee and the rest of society.

  • Comment number 17.

    Yes some people in all sports aren't always the best role models and some sportspeople are ridiculously highly paid but why always focus on the negative.

    John Kennedy's recent testimonial contested by Man Utd and Celtic teams mixed from ex-players and celebrities at Parkhead where John donated his proceeds and and a vast amount more was donated through the 55,000 fans who attended for the Oxfam east africa appeal was a terrific example of how sporting organisations can contribute in a positive way.

    This game received very little publicity from the BBC or anyone else but well done to ITV (didn't think I'd ever say that) for screening it (ITV 4). But i have to say if i wasn't a celtic fan I'm not sure I would have known the game was on at all.

    There is a lot of negativity in football perhaps most of all recently in Scotland but lets not forget the positive aspects of the sport no matter if they do not quite enthrall the reader as much as a riot or an affair.

  • Comment number 18.

    Why do people keep trying to suggest there is one cause behind the riots? For every drunk intent on criminal damage, you will find one kid led astray by the likes of the EDL. There are lots of reasons.

    Why are people saying that the rioters were all on benefits? Most seem to have jobs. I'm not a bleeding heart Liberal, I am a deep red Socialist. I see the off-spring of Thatcher, told that they are worth nothing if they don't have possessions and wealth. Even if they have jobs, they don't have riches. And whatever they are told, that doesn't make them worthless.

    I grew up a council estate in the North East. My father was an unskilled and low paid worker. My mother was a cleaner. They encouraged me, and taught me right from wrong. They would not have wanted vengeance against the rioters, but justice, suitable punishment and the chance for them to learn. I am about to complete - I hope - my fourth degree, a doctorate. I have funded myself by working full-time to do that.

    I remember 1973 and a certain Sunderland win at Wembley. That was an inspiration to me, to show you CAN do things regardless of your background.

    So, no lynch mobs against the rioters, please. No going soft, either, on those intent on causing serious harm. And no knocking a group of footballers who at least have stuck their hands in their pockets to try to do something to help. Unlike the bankers and Tories (and their Liberal chums), who have stuck their hands in ours.

  • Comment number 19.

    #3 Raduriel

    My first point was:-
    David's blogg seemed to me to suggest that football clubs, via their interaction (or lack of it) with communities and some footballers themselves (i.e. not being very good at being role models)were part the problem; that these factors caused young people to participate in these riots! I am saying that is rubbish!

    My second point:-
    How do these people pay for what they have done? They first of all must publically apologize to those who suffered loss, also to the Police and to the general public; then they make restitution by taking back what they took and/or by paying a fine of somekind, even if it takes them years to do so; then they promise to devote some of their spare time to helping others in the community, a fixed number of hours per week for the next 5 years, what sort of service would be decided on by the local community they have violated.

    **For those who'se crimes involve arson, or physical (GBH) attacks on others, these people if convicted must also serve the appropriate term in prison, even if it means building some more!

  • Comment number 20.


    Well said. It's about a bigger picture as well as a few individuals who have done something wrong for no reason.

  • Comment number 21.

    I hope this is true but I'm expected our Premier League footballers to be in each other's face on the next weekend, pushing and shoving and ignoring the ref. Thats football hypocrisy for you!

  • Comment number 22.

    I thought the England team looked as remote from the great unwashed as a G12 summit. The statue of Moore, Hurst and Peters on the Barking Rd. is more comforting and reassuring then anything that lot could ever say.

  • Comment number 23.

    Football clubs can make a difference. Many of these yougsters feel cut off from politics and society, but most will have an interest in football and/or other sports. Football is a truly multi-racial sport in this country and has the power to bring people together.
    @15 Totally agree. It's getting tiresome hearing people blame the fact that corporal punishment was abolished in schools for all this. Corporal punishment was abolished because it was assault, and assault is a criminal offence. Maybe some of the other poster on this issue should also learn what political correctness actually is before they start blaming it for all of societies ills.

  • Comment number 24.

  • Comment number 25.

    Football can do something immediately, it can lead by example.
    Start by making sure EVERY player who uses abusive language or challenges the officials gets a yellow card (or red if deserved), this wouldn't mean changing any rules, just following the ones already there.
    Whether you think it's right or wrong that sportsmen/women are rolemodels doesn't matter, they clearly are to a large chunk of todays youth, so lead by example and show everyone that people do actually get punished for breaking the rules.

  • Comment number 26.

    Do footballers show little respect for authority (referees)?
    On rare occasions, do they not fight on the pitch?
    Are they role models?
    The answer is yes, yes, yes.
    Certainly not saying footballers are responsible for the riots, but the attitude they display on the pitch to referees and each other is replicated in youngsters. They have an important influence on how children behave and its sadly just accepted as 'part of the game'.

  • Comment number 27.

    Contrary to many posters I like this blog. And I don't say that too often to you David.

    The majority of footballers do not come from privileged backgrounds and are natural role models for many who might feel they would have much greater chances of being discovered as a sporting talent than suddenly finding themselves in a suit and tie and dipping into a golden pot of obscene bonuses.

    And the point about being priced out of the game is spot on. We need to bring back the terraces.

  • Comment number 28.

    Anyone saying that footballers don't do enough are hypocrites.

    It is up to the individual to decide what they wish to do and most footballers contribute a hell of a lot more in terms of money, time and effort than any of those who criticise them. Most do lots of good work that never comes to the national attention.

  • Comment number 29.

    Their sickening lack of respect for officials sends out the wrong message.
    Same goes for their managers. The prices they charge to get in the grounds is part of the social exclusion that blights this country.

  • Comment number 30.

    They don't need free kits. They've just stolen them all from JJB Sports etc.

  • Comment number 31.

    "Has the game become too remote and should clubs be doing more to try and make their grounds more accessible? It would certainly have felt strange for Spurs' millionaire players to have driven their super cars past the police tape and burned out buildings as they turned up for the game on Saturday."

    Not really sure how making the grounds more accessible equates to the issue of a bunch of opportunistic thugs who terrorized local people reintergrating into our society... you seem to be suggesting that the poor lambs would not have smashed up shops, looted, burgled, assulted, mugged and murdered if they had been only able to get tickets for Spurs - Everton etc?

    Granted there is a BIG issue on pricing and we should be concerned for the new generation of football supporters coming through being able to go to their local grounds but this is an issue for football and its law abiding fans.

    Two very seperate issues David.

  • Comment number 32.

    Society in England is obviously ill, as it is in many other countries. How to cure it? Look at the causes and try and tackle it. If we simply punish without trying to solve the underlying problem, the problem will reappear. Throwing the guilty into prison does not benefit society in fact the opposite as upon release 75% + will re offend. If we give the guilty a choice; community service which benefits society or else prison hopefully most will choose the previous option. But by making community service meaningful and enforcing it, only then can the offenders hopefully see the damage they have done and feel remorse, because at the end of the day if we can get these people to feel remorse for what they have done and try to repair the damage that surely must be better than simply throwing them in prison and letting the problem stagnate. Either society tries to cure the problem permanently or treat the problem temporarily.

  • Comment number 33.

    I've always been suspicious about the idea that footballers (or any other celebrities) should be some kind of moral role models when they're subject to the same frailties as the rest of us. Of course, if the media focused more on dedication and hard work than on loutish behaviour in night clubs and extramarital affairs, our perception of footballers would be different. If they are bad role models, then that is in part because of what the media chooses to focus on.

    The more relevant point is that those footballers who come from deprived backgrounds are the exception to the general rule. Yes, dedication and hard work play their part, but they do so because society in general actually rewards an ability to kick a ball, because clubs are actively engaged in seeking out new talent.

    For most of the kids who grow up in poverty on horrible estates, no one is actually the slightest bit interested in any latent talents they may have. They'll have to work ten times harder than anyone else to make a go of it, and even then the chances are they'll fail. And they know it.

    It's all very well being smug and self-righteous, but no one battles excessive odds unless they're a full blown masochist. To get anywhere in this society you need money and the right contacts to start with. Contacts are more important in the job market than educational qualifications.

    And the truth of the matter is that there's very little football/ers can do. The only thing that will help is getting a grip on the idea that everybody has something to contribute to society, but that they will not make that contribution if society does not support them in any efforts they try to make, efforts they will not make if they know that the odds are stacked against them.

    Interestingly, the word most described intially to describe the looters was "greedy". Hmmm. Greed is clearly bad - unless it's an attribute of a banker, stockbroker or... hmm... a footballer. One thing footballers could do (if they must be role models) is to start demonstrating loyalty to clubs and not bleeping off to the first club that offers them even higher wages than the excessive sum they already earn.

  • Comment number 34.

    I don't understand why people insist that footballers be amazing role-models (and then totally absolve rugby players of any fault) for the record I enjoy watching both (as well as cricket, darts and F1).

    All I ask that when they are on the pitch they respect the Laws and be as respectful as possible. I say as possible because everyone has lost it at least once when they shouldn't have.

  • Comment number 35.

    Surely if a pro footballer has come from a poor background and has made a success of his life he has every right to comment and speak to those from those areas who are rioting and destroying property. The fact that he is successful does not disqualify him but rather qualifies him to be a voice of hope and reason.

  • Comment number 36.

    Frankly, the notion of footballers as role models is laughable. No doubt it appeals to the faux world of marketeers, but in the real world they are about as relevant as a cheese saddle on a bicycle.

  • Comment number 37.

    Given that users of social networking sites are being charged for incitement to commit violence (albeit related to the riots) is anyone going to charge Joey Barton for his appalling behaviour and comments on Twitter following his appalling behaviour yesterday? This idiot is no role-model for today's children and should be banned permanently.

  • Comment number 38.

    the problem this week with rioters has NOTHING to do with football. these are people who dont know right from wrong. whoever says corporal punishment was not the answer,lets look back. by the way i was around when this was happening years ago. the cane in school,blackboard rubber thrown,a smack on your backside from your father(or mother),a policeman turning up to see your parents ?. these were not things that hindered the rest of your life ,they made you respect your parents ,other peoples property,the police,and made you know right from wrong. there are not many older people like myself who will tell you any differently,they grew up knowing what was right and now it come"s back to haunt them,as they cannot if they wanted to,do anything they were not brought up to do. wake up everyone,you have let the system go too far and now everyone will pay for it.i do not class all youngsters and young adults in the same bracket,some do now how to behave because thats how they have been brought up.

  • Comment number 39.

    Any one else notice that Gary Lineker is stuck in the past? He opened Match of the Day by announcing "we start the 2010-2011 at Loftus Road"....

  • Comment number 40.

    In a way Footballers are Social Workers. What other function do they serve.
    They can be great role models, but instead they are by and large, ill educated working class boys made good. They seem to have no morals when it comes to their private lives and no social conscience. The average supporters struggling to afford to attend a game see's these players splashing money around on tarts and flash cars. What signal does this give ? Clubs should be forced to hand over a portion of money to the local community. The area where the riots began, Tottenham, is one of the most deprived in the country and yet is home to one of the wealthiest clubs ? How have they been affected ? They had to postpone a game !
    My heart bleeds.

  • Comment number 41.

    Please can I ask for your support to the following Formula 1 Government Petition
    Please spread the word. Really do need and appreciate your support.
    Thank you.

  • Comment number 42.

  • Comment number 43.

    Many say life is short and sweet. Examination of conscience is an exercise which all of us are invited to do at regular intervals be it in sports or in other realms of life.

    Mighty England is blessed with superb playgrounds, fine sporting traditions, rich history of achievements and giant-like performers in cricket, football, hockey, rugby, tennis, athletics and other major sporting challenges and exercises of endurance.

    English sports scribes, commentators, analysts, referees, umpires and pitch curators are easily the best and most knowledgeable in the sporting arena. They keep on voicing their concern for a just and fair society all the time.

    Football fans, cricket enthusiasts, tennis lovers and others demonstrate passion for high quality performances. It's a joy and privilege to watch the action live with fans at the various sporting sanctuaries across the country.

    All our esteemed players in action are ambassadors of fair play, justice, concern, fellow feeling and respect to admirers, opponents and fans. There are many sports-persons who spend part of their earnings in educating the less privileged in their communities and countries. There are others who invest large chunks of their salaries in health care and nutrition of kids in the less developed parts of their countries.

    Many among us are touched and highly pleased by their innumerable humane ways of proceeding. May all be blessed abundantly for the good they do through their thoughts, words and kind deeds.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 44.

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