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Football’s elite likes to give players such as Joey Barton a kicking

Time:2017-05-14 10:51Shoes websites Click:

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Football’s elite likes to give players such as Joey Barton a kicking

by Kevin McKenna Today

Governing bodies could have done more to help the player

The 15th-century ecclesiastical judges of the Holy Inquisition could be considered soft-touch liberals compared with the people who run football. Little parcels of cruel and unusual punishment are scattered throughout the season as judgments for misdemeanours that would warrant nothing more than an admonishment or a small fine in the outside world.

Any young supporter, perhaps howling with drink and emotion, who commits a transgression at or near a stadium can expect the full force of the law as laid down by their favourite club. Very often, this will be grotesquely disproportionate to the offence committed. Encroaching on to the field of play or espousing sentiments considered to be offensive will often result in an immediate lifetime ban from the ground. The judgment will be handed down and cloaked in the sort of language that leads you to think the miscreant has murdered his children. You get the impression that clubs would favour the death sentence for any of its fans caught behaving badly.

Related: Joey Barton banned for 18 months by FA and says it effectively ends his career

The notion of background reports or mitigating circumstances are rarely considered by clubs eager to show they are beacons of upstanding behaviour. Confiscation of a season ticket for several matches is never an option because to show mercy means condoning racist or sectarian behaviour. Many of these clubs are run by men who deploy a mafioso approach to their business practices. This, though, is never allowed to get in the way of the message that has to be transmitted: that an esteemed football club – a pillar of virtue in its community – must set an example of lawful and proper conduct.

It matters not a jot that the guilty supporter has paid a significant portion of his life’s earnings to his club. Much of that will have gone to help pay for the personalised shower slippers of an indolent Spanish midfielder whose own questionable attitudes towards women and black people will be accommodated by a club eager for his goals… and his sell-on fee. This club will have been at the centre of the offender’s entire existence. Very probably, he will have sprung from a working-class community whose collective support brought the club into existence. Despite enduring the entire range of social challenges, these families will have still found enough to support their football club, which will never attempt to rehabilitate or educate anyone from this background who misbehaves while wearing their colours.

Joey Barton came from a neighbourhood like this. Of the tens of thousands of working-class children who clamoured for a life-changing career in the sport they loved, Barton was one of the handful who made it. He would go on to become a top-class footballer whose natural habitat was the English Premier League.

His career, though, was scarred by occasional acts of delinquency that probably prevented him from gaining more international caps. When he joined Rangers last summer, there wasn’t a Celtic fan who didn’t think he had the ability to render some damage in matches against their oldest rivals. Barton’s spell at Rangers came to an abrupt end after he is reported to have deployed a string of words in an exchange with his manager that some viewers might have found distressing.

Now, Barton’s career is virtually at an end. Last month, he was handed an 18-month sentence by the Football Association because he was found to have placed thousands of bets on matches, including some in which he was a participant. Barton’s age – 34 –and the length of the ban means that his days as a top-class footballer are ended. After his ill-starred stint at Rangers, he rejoined Burnley and had become a key player in their fight to avoid relegation. Football is all Barton has known and, in common with many other elite players, will require most of what he earns in a few years at the top to provide for him and his family for the rest of their lives.

The FA has effectively become a silent partner of the UK gambling industry. As such, it has invited these jackals to use football to reach its intended and most attainable prey: working-class men.

Our top clubs, eager for sponsorship money to pay the gargantuan salaries of overrated footballers, invite the big betting companies to prey on their fans by selling the jerseys to them. They know that men from the UK’s edgiest communities are at their most vulnerable when watching their favourite team over a few beers. In these circumstances, they are ripe for the plucking by an industry that spends billions on television advertising to insinuate itself into their bank accounts.

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