Football slimefest

by Chris Bertram on October 9, 2003

Poor IDS. The Tory party conference (like “the Women’s World Cup”: ) has been entirely overshadowed in the British media by the ongoing slimefest that is the English Premier League. Following a mass brawl at the end of a recent Arsenal-Manchester United game, we’ve now been treated to two separate sexual assault allegations (one a gang rape involving players from at least two clubs), various petty acts of violence and verbal abuse, and finally, a leading club allowing one of its players to “forget” to take the drug test he was selected for shortly before. The refusal of the Football Association to select the player for England with investigations pending has led to England players (led by the player’s mates from the same team) to threaten to refuse to play against Turkey. Meanwhile, there have been hints that the England manager has abused his position to tout for a club owned by a Russian oligarch.

This list could be extended considerably to include more episodes involving overpaid young men acting in the belief (usually underwritten by their corporate employers and managers) that their wealth and celebrity exempt them from both the criminal law and sporting regulations.

The Football Association, whose moral authority in relation to the big clubs has hitherto resembled that of a gerbil in a snakepit, seems to be willing to do something at last. That seems to offend many pundits, who have been echoing the players’ mantras of “innocent until proven guilty” and “benefit of the doubt.” Such sentiments would certainly not have been expressed by tabloid journalists had the athlete speeding off in their BMW instead of pissing in a pot been a Dutch cyclist or an Irish swimmer. I don’t expect the FA’s resolve to last, though, and I predict that this latest offender will be dealt with more leniently for failing to take a drug test than an earlier one was for merely joking about cocaine. It almost makes me want to watch rugby instead.



Nabakov 10.09.03 at 1:19 pm

Tories at Blackpool or English soccer. Much of a muchness, really.


Michael 10.09.03 at 1:39 pm

nice comment, but what do you mean?


Lucy 10.09.03 at 1:40 pm

Just nice page that what I wanted to say


Matthew 10.09.03 at 2:01 pm

It’s not entirely clear that rugby players are any better — it might just be that they have less money. It wasn’t that long ago that the England rugyb captain was forced to resign due to allegations of his dealing Class-A drugs, after all.


jdsm 10.09.03 at 2:04 pm

Frankly, Rio has been hard done by and no-one appreciates your inverted commas around the word “forget”.

The deputy chief of the FA said on BBC World last night that there are procedures for dealing with what he did and that they were not followed. Thus, he has been badly treated.

The fact that this has overshadowed the swansong of wannabe demagogue of the week IDS, is no great loss.

In general I agree though – footballers are scum.


Nabakov 10.09.03 at 2:14 pm


re…”nice comment, but what do you mean?”

jdsm sorta answered it above – think subsitutes.


Doug 10.09.03 at 2:15 pm

I dunno, you could always opt for watching cricket or, more excitingly, grass growing.


Chris 10.09.03 at 2:35 pm

jdsm: You seem very confident that no-one appreciates my inverted commas. Have you conducted a survey?


chave 10.09.03 at 3:10 pm

In your threatened defection to Rugby you are out of touch with much the greater part of the football loving folk of this country, you and the risible Tom ‘shattered dreams’ Bowyer. The point is the recent events have made football all the more absorbing and exciting. It is now not just a great game, but an irresistable Ballardian spectacle. If viewng figures drop one fraction of a percent next premiership weekend, I’ll eat my casey.


jdsm 10.09.03 at 4:26 pm


“jdsm: You seem very confident that no-one appreciates my inverted commas. Have you conducted a survey?”

Straw poll of three. Two thirds of respondents agree with me. Pretty conclusive I’d say. Mancunians may be on your side but I’d bet if you went to London it’d be a different story.


Merkin 10.09.03 at 5:12 pm

You call that a brawl?
I mean I know that was the term that everyone in the media was using but it just looked like a little posturing and shoving to me. As an American non-football-follower living over here.
Just curious.


bobbie 10.09.03 at 5:47 pm

re: “forget”

Unless I’m reading it wrong, I’d say Mancunians are less likely to side with Chris? I think those quotes were perfectly well placed: whether or not he intentionally missed his appointment, frankly I find it amazing that a professional athlete paid would manage to forget a drug test. All the more shocking, since the penalties are so severe. Hard done by? I don’t think so. This is part of Rio’s job, and he knows it.

And what’s happened over the past couple of weeks is (in my opinion) a sad indictment of our increasingly cash-rich, above-the-law, media-led society – whether that’s TV, tabloids or simply celebrity worshipping.

And I could never turn away from the beautiful game – but then again, I’m also a rugby union fan. I certainly don’t see the difference as one of class; head to the west country on a saturday afternoon and you’ll know what i mean.


jdsm 10.09.03 at 8:11 pm


“Unless I’m reading it wrong, I’d say Mancunians are less likely to side with Chris?”

It was just a little swipe at the fact that most Manchester United supporters live in the south rather than Manchester (where they support City).


Selina Chen 10.10.03 at 9:01 am

but Robbie’s antics were SO funny!


bobbie 10.10.03 at 12:45 pm

ah, sorry jdsm – forgot about the croydon manure supporters – and easy thing to do when round my way it’s all arsenal, arsenal, arsenal.


Raj 10.11.03 at 1:03 pm

Whilst the rape allegations are horrible I have to disagree on the Rio matter.

Rio did not attend a out of competition drug test. The normal procedure for anyt drug offence is that confidentiallity is kept untilthe hearing. The hearing is scheduled for monday but Rio has been prejudged and dropped for England. Surely there hould be some sort of chinese wall between the enforcement side of the FA & the England team so that any punishment can only be applied once a hearing has taken place & not as some sort of prejudgement.

As to the England players I can understand their anger. A colleague has been laid out for punishment , probably not because of what he has done, but because the FA feels they must be seen to be tough in the wake of the recent incidents you have mentioned.

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