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Are sportspeople right to retaliate?

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Eleanor Oldroyd Eleanor Oldroyd | 10:30 UK time, Thursday, 8 October 2009

If sport has ever had a moral high ground, it has felt in the last couple of months as if some of its top stars have been hurtling towards its foothills quicker than an Olympic downhill skier.

An F1 driver is ordered to crash his car, a rugby union player is cut deliberately to cover up cheating, a top striker admits he "exaggerates" his reaction to fouls. Has trust in what we see on the field of play hit an all-time low?

It feels like a good time for 5 live Sport to borrow an idea from our friends on Radio Four, and launch the first sporting Moral Maze.

The idea is that we'll have an in-depth debate on some of the moral and ethical issues behind one of the stories which has dominated the headlines in recent weeks. And to kick off, we're asking: Do sportspeople have the right to retaliate after abuse from fans?

Emmanuel Adebayor was criticised in all quarters for running the length of the Eastlands pitch to celebrate scoring for Manchester City in front of the Arsenal fans - fans who'd roundly abused him throughout the match. In the end, the FA restricted his punishment to a fine and a suspended ban.

Emmanuel Adebayor celebrates in front of Arsenal fans
Emmanuel Adebayor controversially celebrates in front of Arsenal fans at Eastlands

And when Craig Bellamy appeared to shove a United fan who ran onto the pitch at the end of the Manchester derby, Greater Manchester Police launched an investigation. The fan was banned, Bellamy wasn't charged.

So how much responsibility do sports people have to control their behaviour on the pitch - even when they're subjected to extreme provocation? You didn't see Ricky Ponting throwing a tantrum when he was booed during the Ashes series during the summer.

And how far does the concept of free speech extend to crowds at sporting events?

Were the Spurs fans who sang an offensive song to Sol Campbell just exercising their democratic right to have their say?

Would some of the abuse players have to put up with be punishable under law in the world outside? Or do sporting arenas have their own rules - in every sense?

In short, where do you draw the line when you cross the white line?

We've put together a panel of deep sporting thinkers to debate these issues. Journalists Matthew Syed and Will Buckley and director of Sporting Integrity Michele Verroken will hear evidence from expert speakers and then share their own conclusions.

We'll hear from a footballer who's experienced at first hand the abuse some players receive while going about their daily business.

Can you imagine how you'd feel if you had to put up with it at your place of work. Or is your sympathy limited by the fact that some of them are on more than 100 grand a week, and effectively you're paying their wages?

We'll be joined by a football fan who'll argue that football is becoming too sanitized, and that sport needs its tribal rivalries to keep it alive.

But is that just an excuse for foul mouthed bigotry from the stands? Don't the fans themselves have a moral obligation to respect those around them - not to mention the young supporters to whom we should all set an example?

And we'll get an insight into the legal implications for the spectators identified as the key culprits in the offensive chanting, and for the players who retaliate. Should they be dealt with under the laws of the game, or the laws of the land?

Of course, we want to hear what you think too - let me know on this blog where you stand on the issues, and text us during the programme. I'm looking forward to hearing how you're picking your way through the moral maze.

Listen to the discussion from 2000-2100 BST as part of 5 live Sport - the programme begins at 1900.


  • Comment number 1.

    "You didn't see Ricky Ponting throwing a tantrum when he was booed during the Ashes series during the summer."

    But when he was run out by the sub in 2005...

    "Emmanuel Adebayor was criticised in all quarters for running the length of the Eastlands pitch to celebrate scoring for Manchester City in front of the Arsenal fans"

    Many came out in support of Ade. All he did was celebrate, and i can't believe the Arsenal fans weren't banned for injuring the steward, Ade also alleges the were talking about his mother.

    Maybe foreign players (Zidane?) feel some things are bigger than the game and should not be tolerated.

    Could do better, overall.


  • Comment number 2.

    I think the level of sympathy afforded footballers is greatly reduced due to the astronomical salaries they are paid. However I feel the level of abuse they take is absolutley horrendous and they should have the right to retaliate in certain ways. There are limits and a certain level of banter that is acceptable but those people who scream, shout, and bay for blood should be able to take it when the player decides to make a point when he scores. Half of what fans get away with whilst in the stadium they would be arrested on the spot for on the high street. Yes tribalism and rivalry tend to go hand in hand but we're meant to be a highly evolved species everytime I see a crowd close up on TV makes me doubt our level of evolution.

  • Comment number 3.

    leave the premiership for a while and come and watch non league football. players there give as good as they get verbally. the officials always turn a blind eye to it

  • Comment number 4.

    It's going to be interesting finding out what people think about this, I am betting that there will be a hundred different points of view!
    Personally I think that there is no room in the game of football for abuse directed at the players. The trouble with the Adebayor situation is that he deliberatly went out of his way, by running the entire length of the pitch, to celebrte infront of the very people who were abusing him earlier on that afternoon, the very same people who would of been singing his name in the stands of the Emirates Stadium about 8 or 9 months before this particualr incident. That was blatant provocation on his part.
    It's a very fickle world being a football supporter, someone can have the game of their season one week, and then the next week, they could be the subject of some sort of scandal involving "diving" or such like, or they could've put in a poor performance and receive mixed receptions from the very fans that were cheering his name less than 7 days earlier!
    Are sportspeople right to retaliate?
    I think they are totally within their rights as humans to express their displeasure at being abused by others, however, the problem that footballers or other sports "personalities" face is that they are under constant scrutiny now from the media. One miss-step from a player and they are lept on by the fans and the media. Being professionals in their field (excuse the unintended pun) they are expected to remain professional and act appropriately.

  • Comment number 5.

    It doesn't matter how much you're paid, nobody should be expected to put up with 90 minutes of abuse from 6000 or so people, everyone who criticised Adebayor should think about what pressure he had been under and maybe wander how they would have reacted.

    If fans are allowed to verbally abuse a player for 90 minutes then a player should be allowed to retaliate (non- violently) through celebration of a goal. I'm not talking about celebrations like Gazza's against Celtic, more like Neville's versus Liverpool.

    Im guessing that the average age of a football fan is around 30 whilst many football players can be under 20, who are the FA protecting here?

  • Comment number 6.

    I think we are seeing very different levels of protection to players/competitors depending on the sport, and it seems that the sports where the big money is hold the worst records: F1, Football in particular.

    If there wasn't so much money thrown at these sports would Piquet have been ordered to crash? I doubt it.

    Rugby has more recently joined the controversy, and it seems that this has come in since the game turned professional and financial investment to the sport grows.

    Unfortunately, too much rests on winning and losing, yet none of it is the actual honour of winning. I felt very sorry for Lewis Hamilton when he was accused of cheating at the start of the season, and again for Piquet who has been forced out of F1 for trying to do the right thing.

    Too often the young, impressionable sportsperson is the scapegoat. But also, the flipside is when they are obviously guilty (footballers diving, fouling etc) and the managers stand up for them or try to justify their acts because they can not afford to have them out of the squad.

    There are too many different scenarios for there to be one answer to your question. Until sport is played for the love of the game instead of to fill people's pockets, we will always see lying, cheating, abuse and retaliation. None of it is right.

  • Comment number 7.

    No, they are not right to retaliate. But they are only human, and we have to understand that under certain provocation, humans will lose control of their emotions sometimes and act out of character. Most people don't go out with the intention of having 'road rage' or getting into a fight on a night out. Sometimes the red mist descends and we lose control. I think the provocation certainly needs to be taken into account when looking at these cases, and when you add the intense pressure of professional sport, you can understand that some people might be more likely to react.

    I agree with captainlazytim – Adebayor was simply celebrating. So what. There are far too many rules governing what players can do now like running into their own fans, taking their shirts off, going over the perimeter boards. Just chill out, these things increase the spectacle for viewers. With Bellamy also, fair play. The idiot ran onto the pitch trying to wind up the City players. As he was committing a criminal offense by being on the pitch, Bellamy was in his rights as a citizen to use reasonable force to get rid of him. They guy deserved more if you ask me.

    On the other hand of course, football supporters need to calm down a bit too. The hate directed towards football players is pure stupidity. They just kick a ball around for a living - it's only a game. I support West Ham and would never wish death on any football player from another team. What's the point? There is a difference between humorous banter and small-minded ignorant stupidity, which unfortunately still permeates football grounds (although not as badly as some european countries).

    Finally, the media need to stop taking all of these indiscretions so seriously and pretending to be some sort of moral guardians to our sensibilities. Most footballers are working class lads from poor backgrounds so they are not always well behaved angels. A lot of the things they do off the pitch are things many other people their age do, especially if drink is involved added to a vast fortune in the bank. Is it right to assume that as soon as a kid signs a professional contract he will turn into some sort of perfect role model and help old ladies across the road? No. We have an un-realistic perception of how footballers should behave I think. They are just normal people who happen to ply their trade in front of millions of people and it is hard to change a personality over night and engineer them to behave how we would like them to.

  • Comment number 8.

    I stopped taking my kids to football matches when the swearing and level of abuse hurled at away fans and players (and to the ref as well) became way too much.
    They dont deserve that abuse - even if you think they do, express it to yourself

    Its a respect issue - most football fans dont have it for opposition players/supporters.

  • Comment number 9.

    Who is this 'football fan' who claims that football has become too sanitized? What a pathetic statement. Maybe it has become MORE sanitized than years gone by but we cannot be complacent. What you have to remember is that children are inspired by football and it is important to demonstrate to them that football can be a civilised.

    Agree with SuperNintendoChalmers™ that we are supposed to be a highly civilised species but you wouldn't think so whenever you see fans swearing to players whenever they are in earshot distance. Where is the respect? Shocking behaviour and it does need to be sorted out. The FA/UEFA/FIFA definately need to sort this out. I agree that many other nations (Italy, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, ...) have a worse record than England in crowd behaviour. However, we should set an example to the rest of the world as the a nation that takes zero tolerence.

  • Comment number 10.

    'We've put together a panel of deep sporting thinkers to debate these issues. Journalists Matthew Syed and Will Buckley and director of Sporting Integrity Michele Verroken will hear evidence from expert speakers and then share their own conclusions.'

    It's not really necessary to go to such detailed analysis. Banter is banter, but personal abuse hurts no matter how much money you're on. 99.99% of those fans who resort to vile abuse aimed at a player who once played for 'their' club would not dream of repeating that abuse if (a) sober and (b) on a one-to-one with said player. It's very much a 'safety in numbers' issue here, and in the end, if you can't take what you dish out, shut up! I mean it's not like Adebayor returned the abuse, he simply celebrated in front of the fans he once played for. Wow, that must have inflicted some deep psychological scars on some of those fans! Talk about weak minded!

  • Comment number 11.

    I think the best story I heard to highlight the issue I think related to Stewart Downing and his father (although I may have recalled the names wrong).

    By all accounts his father was sitting in the stands watching his son play at an England match. An individual behind repeatedly shouted obscenities, criticism etc at Downing.

    After having heard to much his father turned round to the individual, asking him to refrain from the language as that was his son. The individual responded with I pay my money I can shout what I like.

    Seeing a small boy next to the individual, Downing's father asked if he was his son. The guy responded yes, so Downing's father throws £40 at the man and says 'now its my turn'.

    That was where the conversation stopped but I thought it illustrated the point quite well that you would never allow an individual to shout such abuse normally so why can it be done at a match. Comedy banter is fine, support likewise but abuse is not.

  • Comment number 12.

    Yes Footballers are well paid, but those of us who enjoy or enjoyed playing the game are only jealous.
    The abuse they get from the so called fans is out of order.
    Surely you go to a football match to be entertained and to support your team. Football fan are even called supporters, not abusers.
    What right do fans think they have to abuse players, managers and especially referees.
    Could they do a better job. Not a hope in hell.
    Would they put up with such abuse at there own place of work? NO.
    Part of tyhe problem is caused by the players and managers trying to cheat and influence the game.
    This makes the job of the officials almost impossible and the 'fans' react to this.
    It also seems to me that football fans go to a match to unload there frustration at the world in general knowing they won't be brought to task about it.
    This does need stamping on as a football match is not a place to take small children, and at should be!
    Without them the game will die out. Sky will stop puttiing money into it and all hell will break loose in English football.

  • Comment number 13.

    It seems the crowds at a football match can say/shout or chant whatever they want as long as it is not racist or homophobic etc. Surely then the same rules should apply to those on the pitch. Adebayors celebration was a man sliding on his knees on the field of play. A statement that said 'I'll let my football do the talking' - nothing malicious, nothing racist, nothing violent. And yet because of the idiocy of a few Arsenal fans who i thought were happy to see the back of him (?) Adebayor is the villain. What a shambles.

    Bellamy shouldnt have hit the guy who came on the pitch, but if the guy comes on the pitch he has to expect to be physically confronted and removed by either the security (who let him on the pitch to begin with) or anyone else there looking to proceed with the game as everyone wants. 2 wrongs dont make a right, but if a player were to enter the stands surely they woudl be banned too - as it is not their domain and have no need to be there. Cross the line, you get whats coming to you.

    Adebayor didnt retaliate, he played football and celebrated on the pitch where he is allowed to do so. If infront of the Arsenal fans, then so be it. If intentional to get back at them so be it. I thought it was class, as he showed them what they had lost and thats why they hated the situation so much. Their loss, Citys gain. Boo hoo Arsenal...

  • Comment number 14.

    I passionately believe in free speech. The fans should be able to say what they like, the managers says ANYTHING about referees and the players react however they want.

    In response of people saying fans should respect people and not say anything that might offend others I totally disagree. Small children should not go if they can't cope with adult humour. Suppressing it is wrong people have a right to say what ever they want and that should never be censored in any way or shape. Despite what many people thing you can not control what people think and as we live in a democracy, they can say what ever they like and who cares who it offends.

    The fuss about Alex Ferguson is a joke. Alex Ferguson is wrong, of that there is no doubt, but to try and sanitise what he says is totally wrong, he is allowed to say what he likes. He should just be mocked for making such useless excuses for a poor display.

    Players can celebrate however they like. If fans don’t like it tough. The Arsenal fans were totally at fault, they should be fined not Adebayor. Don’t give if you can’t take!

    To summarise adults should be able to say what they like regardless of who it upsets. If people don't like it, don't listen but to react violently is totally unacceptable. Anything less than this is censorship of free speech and leads to a dark path!

  • Comment number 15.

    With Adebayor I dont see what he has done wrong.

    I didnt see Adebayor jump into the crowd, throw anything, shout abuse back or anything like that.

    He was getting dogs abuse scored a goal and then celebrated in front of the people giving him dog's abuse. The fact that the same Arsenal Fans who were giving the dogs abuse overreacted and then blamed Adebayor for inciting the crowd is pathetic. Arsenal Fans should be done for injurying the steward and throwing things on to the pitch.

    The only people who should be saying sorry is Arsenal for the way there fans behaved.

  • Comment number 16.

    I think football louts use the anaonymity of a large crowd in true cowards fashion to say and do things they wouldn't dream of in real life for fear of getting their heads kicked in.

  • Comment number 17.

    Personally I don't see why there needs to be such confusion about this issue. Should footballers have to face 90 minutes of abuse every week, some of it racist, some homophobic, some just vile? Of course not. Does that then give footballers the right to respond by taunting, gesturing, or returning abuse. No, it doesn't. There are systems in place to deal with offenders in the stands. They should be more effective than they are but we are seeing progress on this issue, with more and more fans being prepared to report people sat around them for their behaviour.

    When footballers are on the pitch, they are doing a job for which they are very handsomely rewarded. I don't think that job involves taunting opposition fans in any other way than with their skill.

    Adebayor was wrong to act in a way that put both fans and stewards potentially at risk. Bellamy was wrong to cuff a spectator who came on to the pitch (especially as stewards had the matter in hand). Both may use the excuse of the emotion of the occasion getting to them, but that is pathetic. Grown men should have control of the emotions.

    None of this however, is to suggest that the fans in either of the examples above were in the right. The Arsenal fans behaved in a ridiculous manner and the club should have received a warning. The pitch invader at OT has rightly received a ban.

  • Comment number 18.

    Ade suffered terrible abuse.. the kind that would make any sportsman lose focus eapecially after scoring a goal. His family were insulted over and over again sepecially his mother, no matter how much they get paid sportsmen are same as us all and will go on the offensive when family is brought into question.(as mentioned earlier Zidane's mother and sister were insulted and he reacted) Arsenal fans dont have a leg to stand on IF YOU CAN'T TAKE IT DONT GIVE IT. If ade had ran length of the pitch without provocation then there is a case otherwise he just gave back the banter he had been recieving but he won the battle. Some people go to games and say they are fans but they are thugs many examples of so called fans screaming abuse at ethnic players from all over the world only to have players on their team from same backgrounds!!!! mindless. most people just want to watch a great spectacle and enjoy it!!

  • Comment number 19.

    I read that article too. It related to Joe Cole.

  • Comment number 20.

    Not sure what's worse, the fact people hide behind the "I payed my money I can say whatever I want" or the fact they've probably paid money with the sole intention of using the kind of language they do.

    I agree with E-Type, they hide behind mass crowds to get away with it but I'm a big believer in if you can't take it don't give it. Its always the same though, the fans dish out abuse then cry to the authorities when they get it back.

    But why does it seem this is only a major issue in football?

  • Comment number 21.

    Adebayor was abused blah blah. He wasnt abused, fans showed how little they think of him. There was no racism or anything like that so stop making out the guy was tortured for 90 mins. He acted very very poorly while he was at the club and has done nothing but slate arsenal, fans, players, managers et al since he left. Now i know the beeb will remove this as they always do but you only have to look at media clips to see what hes done. The guy is arrogant beyond belief. He deserved stick. You give it out (right before the game he was slating arsenal fans) then you should take it back. And no arsenal fans werent fickle. Did you see the reception Toure got in the same game? He was shown love because he is a nice guy who doesnt open his mouth every 5 mins. Kanu gets nothing but affection when he comes to the Emirates. Please please just get your facts straight

  • Comment number 22.

    I have a lot of sympathy for sports people, who are subjected to terrible abuse by fans that believe they are buying the right to abuse players when they buy their ticket. Forget "sportspeople", however. It isn't generally acceptable for people to retaliate to abuse, and the principle that "two wrongs don't make a right" applies in all cases.

  • Comment number 23.

    @ mjio15:

    Youre right the mother song was out of line but that has been sung by EVERY SINGLE CLUBS FANS who we played while he was with us. Where was this uproar then?

    Youre right that if you cant take it you dont give it. So Ade doesnt have a leg to stand on, not the fans. He started the whole thing with his actions while he was at the club and when he left the club. Arsenal fans showed him nothing but love until he declared that he was moving to Milan. Then when that fell through he demanded more money. So first game of the season he got some stick. That would have been the end of it but then he repeatedly kept saying how he wanted to move and couple that with lazy performance you can see why he is not exactly mr popular with the fans. He did an interview a day before that City game and did nothing but slate everyone involved with Arsenal. He gave it and shouldve been man enough to take it. He wasnt and decided to wind people up even more.

  • Comment number 24.

    "But why does it seem this is only a major issue in football?"

    Possibly because football is in the media alot more? It happens in other sports. Main reason is that footballers generally have a bad rep which is entirely down to the media. So in all honesty its the media who cause the trouble. Those same outlets then cry about it wen trouble starts. Pot. Kettle. Black

  • Comment number 25.

    This issue has nothing to do with the amount of money players earn. Football fans used to get away with far more in the 70s, 80s and even 90s than they do now. Player then behaved far better than nowadays even though they weren't on the excessive salaries that current players are.
    Everyone should be subject to the laws of the land, and it is up to the people in charge of the relevant sports how they want to deal with anything else. If FIFA decide to stop footballers retaliating on the pitch then that is upto FIFA. If the IRB decide demand a higher level of self control from rugby players, then good on them. If tennis players continue to get fined points for outbursts on the court then even better.
    The legal side takes care of what is generally considered acceptable by the majority of society and the rules of the various sports will take care of what the fans, players, managers ans investors view as acceptable.

  • Comment number 26.

    How can anyone have sympathy with Footballers when they receive Crowd Abuse when their own behaviour towards their fellow professionals is so poor?
    The consistent attempts to get each other sanctioned by the referee by feigning injury and abuse. Falling like a 'ton of bricks' when touched with a little finger comes to mind.
    I seem to remember Graham Lesaux suffering constant abuse from his fellow professionals (especially one Mr Robbie Fowler) just because he wasn't the usual 'one brain cell' footballer and preferred some intellectual stimulation rather than the usual getting steaming drunk and misbehaving.
    When Footballers put there own house in order then they may have a case for berating the Fans.
    As for other sports; the booing of Ponting was unacceptable. That behaviour wouldn't have occurred even 10 years ago, but unfortunately the soccer mentality has pervaded cricket as well as other sports to their detriment.
    Unfortunately Soccer has too disproportionate a control of the Sport fraternities mentality in the UK. Perhaps if Rugby and Cricket were the predominant sports things would be different?

  • Comment number 27.

    No, they are not right to retaliate.

    Sportspeople know what they are getting into and will have received abuse long before they have ever made it professional.

    Take footballers, since they seem to be the focus of most of the comments. It should not come as a suprise to them if a)they are having a bad game and their own teamates, manager or fans verbally abuse them or b)they happen to be good and the away fans verbally abuse them... this has been the case since the mists of time and it won't change.

    Abuse from 6000 fans is not personal, generally it is aimed at trying to put a player off their game. This is why no fan would ever to say it the players face - because it's meaningless.

    Obviously racism and bigotty have no place in or out of sporting venues and as far as I'm aware rules are in place to deal with this.

  • Comment number 28.

    Morals, that is all it is about.
    Do the people who run sports have them?
    Do the sportsmen/women have them?
    Do the supporters have any?

    Certainly most administrators would claim to have morals, sadly their punishments for those who break rules (Spanish fans against England U21s a few years ago, the continued shouting of 'paedophile' at Wenger by Man Utd fans, players who deliberately set out to injure, athletes caught taking drugs etc.) never seem to be anywhere near hard enough.

    A large percentage of sportsmen/women, will cheat if they think they can gain an advantage and if they'll get away with it.

    Many fans act in ways that would disgust them, if others abused them in the same way they hurl vitriol at their 'heros'.

    So, is it just sport or are people just becoming morally bankrupt in general?

  • Comment number 29.

    I hope we see some actual moral philosophy in these debates, and not just ill-informed ranting from self-appointed moral arbiters. Start talking about Kantian ethics or Utilitarianism of the type promoted by Jeremy Bentham (still the only two ethical stances that make any kind of sense), and maybe there will be some useful outcome. Otherwise, all that will happen is people talking past each other, coming to no conclusion, making no difference.

    Not that I am optimistic about the best that could possibly happen, either.

  • Comment number 30.

    I don't think it's right for people to shout unnecessary and unfair abuse at players. However, joke chants and booing have, and always will be, part of the game. It shouldn't be in a sportsman's mentality to retaliate in any way. I find it frustrating when a footballer turns round and hits someone who's just fouled him. He should be sent off immediately. In the case of Adebayor, he has been treated harshly for his celebration. He was booked at the time, so the case should never have been reviewed by the FA (according to their own rules!) However, he should have ignored the fans and carried on with the game.

    Personally, I have been to many football, rugby and cricket matches and never directed abuse at a player but it's impossible to stop all fans doing it. Also, where do you draw the line? Will the crowd behind the goal be stopped from cheering sarcastically when the opposition striker blazes his shot into row Z?

    I went to a lot of premier league matches at a certain ground in the '90s. The abuse the opposition players suffered was horrendous (and, unfortunately, occasionally racist) but I never saw one of them react. If modern players can't cope with it, I think it might be because they become very highly paid at an early point in their career and they don't have to cope with adversity in their young adult lives. Ryan Giggs started playing in the early '90s and must have taken more abuse than any current premier league player. What does he do? Ignore it. Compare that to Wayne Rooney when he went back to Goodison Park and had a tantrum in the middle of the pitch.

    Football fans may have a moral obligation not to hurl abuse at players and to show an example to younger fans, but don't all people in all walks of life. How many people reading this blog have suffered some form of (often unwarranted) personal abuse or threatening behaviour in the street? (The best thing to do in this situation is to ignore the threat and walk away, if you can: take note footballers!) How many people have also suffered abuse in work? In my job, I am sworn at and insulted by customers on a daily basis because they have been inconvenienced by something that is nothing to do with me. Do I have a tantrum? No. I deal with it professionally. If these situations happen in one on one situations, is it any surprise that they happen when 40000+ people are all crammed into one building.

    The only way to stop this abuse is have football behind closed doors. Is this what the players want? No, because they love the adulation and the experience of playing in front of thousands of adoring fans: they can't have it both ways. Maybe they should start behaving like the rest of the adult population have to in order to carry on with their lives.

  • Comment number 31.

    Adebayor treated the Arsenal fans with no respect whatsoever and deserved to be abused for treating the club so poorly which gave him so much. And he showed even more disrespect with his celebration. It's not about whether he should be punished, his attitude to football fans and fellow professionals is a disgrace. It angers fans when they travel from London to Manchester to support their team because they care - and then a player shows such a lack of respect for them.

    And abuse towards players has always been part of the game. Racism is one thing, that is out of order but swearing at players and trying to wind them up is just part of the experience. I don't like the attitude of some snobs on here claiming all football fans who join in with chants are yobs and hooligans who only go to abuse people in numbers. We go because we care about football. We stand up and chant to support our team. If the footballers can't handle a bit of abuse, which is only chanted lightheartedly in the scheme of things. I know plenty of reasonable people who go to the football and join in with chants. It's just something that takes place at the grounds. If you can't deal with it, don't go. And remember, swear words are only shocking and unacceptable because society has made them so. They're just words with little meaning really. Get over it.

  • Comment number 32.

    Adeybayor had every right to do what he did. He didn't break any Laws, he ran and slid on some grass. People need to stop shifting the responsibility from the fans. These people are grown men and women and should no how to behave in a public place.

    The fact that they can't simply illustrates the hooligan problem is still alive and well.

  • Comment number 33.

    Rob K: Perhaps you could start that debate?

  • Comment number 34.

    Will Buckley? You're having a laugh right?

  • Comment number 35.

    aehartley; that was one of the best passages of football blogging I have ever read. maybe the beeb need to recruit you to their blogging team =D (i'm not being sarcastic by the way)

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    People forget that Adebayor had been putting up with all that for a season already, not just the game. Bellamy didn't get arrested because the fan he did it to would have needed to press charges, which he didn't because he knew he was wrong in the first place.

    And I cannot believe that a single person would just take a deep breath and ignore racial chants and abuse at them, personal insults, slurs on their mothers and sisters.

    Finally, fans get rushes of adrenaline just watching sports, so imagine how charged up a player must be during a match.

  • Comment number 39.

    Thanks everyone for your great comments so far. I thought we'd get some interesting debate on this subject, and you're definitely proving it. I agree that aehartley makes some fantastic points, captainlazytim I'm intrigued by your thoughts about Zidane (do national/cultural differences make certain insults even more unbearable to certain players?), David_Speedie - that's a great story about Stewart Downing's dad (if it was indeed him!). I know from talking to Graeme Le Saux in the past that for his wife and kids to sit in the stands and hear some of the rubbish he got thrown at him was particularly difficult. Lambagoan - what do you do for a living?? Sounds like you need the patient of a saint, and I'm guessing you're not on a 6-figure salary per week...Anyway, I'm planning on picking up on some of the above points on the programme tonight (Five Live Sport from 7pm), and it'd be great if you wanted to keep adding comments while we're on air. You'll be able to listen again via the iPlayer after 10 tonight, too.

  • Comment number 40.

    the void between players and fans is so large, it seems to become even more common in football to turn on a player for the slightest thing. with the huge wages footballers recieve it seems the fans are looking for the new pantomine villian to frustrate there anger at, this has become common on programmes such as britians got talent, big brother where members of the public get a chance to boo and shout at people like themselves trying to make it big and 9/10 times these people in fact dont have any talent and i think this is the feeling supporters have at footballers alot of money for alot of average type players trying to make more money without the loyalty and love for clubs fans have seen in the past.
    i think sports personalities can make a point and there are ways that this can be done score goals win trophies prove the move was good. but it seems the not so intelligent footballers feel the need to demonstrate
    there point in the wrong way.
    Craig Bellamy pushing a fan in the face as he was being held by 3 stewards proving what a hard man he is. Comedy

  • Comment number 41.

    It goes with the territory of being a professional athlete. Fans having a diehard opinion is one of the many evils of professionalism in the fickle games of professional sport, fans who pump all their earning into the club should be able to voice their opinion (as often they do) and their displeasures but being racists thugs and threatening physical violence (coin throwing, spitting etc) is not on. Booing and jeering is part of the panto entertainment that is sport and sports men and women should know that if these people pay their wages that is goes with the territory.
    Adebayor was completely in the wrong for baying the fans and forgets that the very people who paid for his Bentley car, his Gucci man bag and his expensive flat via their season tickets were the people who once sang his name and paid his wages, they have the right to boo! The fans who acted like animals should have been identified and banned, how hard would it have been? The majority of Arsenal fans their would have been season ticket holders! Arrests or bans should have been made!
    But why were they giving him such grief? because he gave the people he played for no reason as to why he left, he simply took the money and ran, if he gave a real explanation as to why he was leaving and showed them respect during the fixture maybe they would have returned it. Maybe he could learn a thing or to from Dunn, his actions from the point of learning he was not wanted at City up to scoring the crucial goal to earn the 1-1 was commendable and a perfect example of a top professional.

  • Comment number 42.

    When people are paid in a week what it takes some people to earn in 5 years I expect so called 'professional' people to act accordingly. They should have composure and realise that they are influential figureheads to millions of children around the world.

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    jonny3689 - thanks. BBC, I'm here if you need me ;-).

  • Comment number 45.

    all i know is if i'd spent 90 minutes being roundly abused i would've done exactly what adebayor did. How can what he did be considered inflammatory? And how can what the arsenal fans did just be brushed off like nothing happened? All he did was celebrate his goal, nothing more.

    Also, if i was an arsenal fan, shouting all sorts of disgusting abuse at one player, and then all that player did in response was slide in front of us celebrating, i'd count myself lucky i wasn't nursing a fat lip or a sore face cos half the stuff they were singing would've got them a punch in the face if it was done face to face.

    Adebayor should be praised for his restraint and these arsenal fans need to get a grip, ade did not insult them, swear at them, either in words or gestures and he certainly didn't challenge any of them to a fight, as these morons who tried to charge the pitch seemed to think he did. I can't believe ade's been fined and now faces the threat of a 2 match ban if he does anything else. Meanwhile Arsenal and the idiot fans that tried to start a riot, are off scot free. shocking decision.

  • Comment number 46.

    The greatest blow against gutless abuse thrown from the perceived anonymity of the crowd was delivered by Eric Cantona in 1995 at Crystal Palace. If there is a better argument for retaliation I have not heard it.

  • Comment number 47.

    #11 David Speedie - Great story.

    Slightly off topic, but I was in the away end at Bristol last season and after listening to one of our own players get stick for over an hour - nothing too offensive just OTT criticism - I turned round and started my "call yourself a supporter.." rant, at which point he cut me off by saying "I'm not a supporter - I'm his Dad!"

  • Comment number 48.

    If you cant take it from the player, don't give it.
    yes they get paid a lot of money
    yes there 'role models'
    but there human too...

  • Comment number 49.

    Are sportspeople right to retaliate?

    The authorities in sport should take steps to punish bad behaviour, BOTH on the stands AND on the pitch (or track, or whatever). Deciding which form of bad behaviour is "worse" strikes me as a fruitless exercise.

    My mother told me that two wrongs don't make a right, and I've never found any reason to revise that view. Provocation cannot make retaliation "right", although I do accept that it should be considered as a mitigating factor when considering punishment.

  • Comment number 50.

    Sport is entertainment. You pay to be entertained. When you abuse your your role as a spectator and start abusing those playing the sport then expect every retaliation from the players. Even more when it's get's personal or racial. What are the likes of Adebayor, Beckham, Figo, Symonds, Eto'o ect expected to do. Just carry on playing with a smile on their face?

    Theres only so much abuse player can take.

  • Comment number 51.

    Wanderers_Scarf - Brilliant anecdote.

    I hope for the Dad's sake he didn't get carried away and make inappropriate comments about the players mother.

  • Comment number 52.

    It's very rare that players are completely blameless in this. The majority of flack they receive is for actions or behaviour that fans take exception to. It's very seldom that fans jump on players for no reason at all. It's usually following an action they find unsporting or because of an apparent lack of loyalty, or occasionly, media talk.
    I remember watching a Villa vs. Blues game many years ago in the League cup, when Mark Bosnich, in goal for Villa, was stood infront of the Blues end and received some of the most horrific abuse I've ever heard from a crowd, they mercilessly abused him and his family, leaving nothing to the imagination. Later in that half, Blues got a penalty and as luck would have it, he saved it. On doing this, he simply turned around towards the Blues fans with a chesire cat smile on his face, looked at them for a few seconds, before turning back around and carrying on with the game. The majority of fans carried on with the abuse, but I distinctly remember a few being very impressed with the way he handled the sitaution, no big celebration, just smug self satisfaction. If Adebayor had done something similair, maybe a few Arsenal fans would have said "fair play to him".

  • Comment number 53.

    Fine, Ade has every right to express his opinion by his act. Gunners fans should not have repeatedly shouted abuse at him. At the same time, Ade didn't have to go at some of the Arsenal players and deliberately kick at their knees or stamp with his boots on the face to exact revenge!! By banning him for 3 games will not solve the problem. The players are now all high earners, and they should set a better examples for all the young people who follow the games.

  • Comment number 54.

    I thought Adebayor was well within his rights to do what he did plus it will be seen as a landmark comedy moment of the season. Any Arsenal fan guilty of injuring the steward should be prosecuted though.

    Bellamy was wrong point blank. He moved a few steps toward the spectator who was restrained in any case. He couldn't control his reaction and should have received a ban and a fine.

  • Comment number 55.

    also, i know this is contentious, but i've always felt that the game is there and the fans are lucky to watch. the money comes from the support in part (less so today than 20 years ago) but the players are playing football, not creating a spectacle.

    essentially, the event (stadium, league, culture and business) is extraneous, but without the players there would be no game, so they must have precedent in decisions.

    and why are all Arsenal fans infected with the 'don't talk about Arsenal in any remotely negative way' disease? ichi_1 was watching from Arsene's seat, it seems.

    finally, Zidane had the freedom to do what he did as he already had a WC and EC, but i doubt these mattered in the moment. maybe Matterazzi was more willing to do whatever it takes as he has an empty trophy cabinet.

  • Comment number 56.

    "maybe Matterazzi was more willing to do whatever it takes as he has an empty trophy cabinet."

    Try "had" bending the rules is for winners!

  • Comment number 57.

    ichi_1- 'Youre right that if you cant take it you dont give it. So Ade doesnt have a leg to stand on, not the fans. He started the whole thing with his actions while he was at the club and when he left the club. Arsenal fans showed him nothing but love until he declared that he was moving to Milan. Then when that fell through he demanded more money. So first game of the season he got some stick. That would have been the end of it but then he repeatedly kept saying how he wanted to move and couple that with lazy performance you can see why he is not exactly mr popular with the fans. He did an interview a day before that City game and did nothing but slate everyone involved with Arsenal. He gave it and shouldve been man enough to take it. He wasnt and decided to wind people up even more.'

    May get some stick for this but i sort of agree with this, Adebayor had a good season with us and instantly thought he was better than Arsenal and looked for the move to Milan before demanding more money. You're going to get stick for things like this, but the best thing to do is to go out and perform, accept what they say and they will get behind you (just ask Ronaldo). Instead Adebayor stopped playing, got lazy and blamed the crowd, maybe the crowd didn't help but, you have to accept this happens in football, its a passionate sport. You can't excuse the crowd, but Adebayor dug his own hole, with his comments aimed at arsenal, when he moved and before the match. He will have known what he was getting himself in for and at any point in this he could have stopped what was going to happen. If he had been less lazy at Arsenal, if he had not wound up the crowd against arsenal with his 'tackles' and his celebration or if he had shown any gratitude to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, who found him before he was known world wide, stuck with him against criticism and made him the star he is today.

    The crowd shouldn't have acted like that but it was always going to boil over, only Adebayor could have stopped that.

  • Comment number 58.

    I think that the abuse at a football is not right but football for some people this is there passion and some people have to pay quite abit of money and so when thier team starts loosing they'l start abusing players and bantar to the away fans is all part of the game. F.A. are protecting the fans aswell as who is paying the wages?? the fans are. you can't stop thousands of fans swearing its impossible their isnt the man power to stop it! sports people get payed sheds amount of money they should learn to deal with it and anyway it will blow over till the next incident happens


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