Mike Rowbottom: Drugs, money and Harvey Nichols: a tale of English football

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The Independent Football

It has been a tumultuous, tortured, troubling, traumatic week as far as our national game is concerned, and to the untrained observer many of the events that have unfolded may have seemed puzzling, depressing, excessive and regressive. Here then is a cut-out-and-throw-away guide to some of the more complex footballing issues which have surfaced over the last few days:

"Why should Rio Ferdinand have been allowed to stay in the England squad following his failure to attend a compulsory random dope test last month?" Because, basically, Rio is a good lad with a lot of really good mates both at Manchester United and within the England camp.

"Why has football yet to sign up to the World Anti-Doping Agency's code which is due to be in operation before the start of next year's Olympics?" Fifa representatives attended the World Conference on Doping in Sport held at Copenhagen earlier this year, but only remembered that they needed to put pen to paper after leaving Denmark.

"That's not the real answer, is it?" No. The real answer is that football's international governing body is unhappy with some parts of the proposed code, particularly those which relate to sanctions in the event of doping transgressions. Negotiations are also taking place over the wording which relates to rule violation 2.3: "Refusing, or failing without compelling justification, to submit to sample collection after notification as authorised in applicable anti-doping rules or otherwise evading sample collection." Fifa is believed to be pressing for the rule to be amended with references to Heals and Harvey Nichols. A source confirmed that WADA was also being pressed in future cases to acknowledge "circumstances of exceptional forgetfulness".

"Were England's players right to threaten a strike if Ferdinand was not restored?" Yes, absolutely. Withdrawing one's labour in the face of injustice is a key individual right within any society that calls itself a democracy. Only by refusing to take part in today's vital European Championship qualifying match in Turkey, and hence risking disqualification, could England's players prove that they had no idea of the consequences of their action.

"Was England's coach Sven Goran Eriksson right to side with his players rather than the Football Association over the matter of Ferdinand's exclusion?" Yes. After all, the FA are only his employers.

"Was the FA stuck between a rock and a hard place in its dealings with Ferdinand, given that the other England players were bound to react adversely to the immediate sanctioning of the Manchester United defender and the Government - with an anxious eye on London's bid for the 2012 Olympics - was insisting that any doping cases had to be prosecuted swiftly and sternly?" Yes.

"What would Sir Alf Ramsey have made of this week's goings-on in the England camp?" Most certainly, Sir Alf would have been remindin' his men of their patriotic duty. Remindin', and effin' and blindin'.

"Is Rio Ferdinand really a good lad?" Yes he is. An absolutely diamond geezer. Top man.

"If you were a professional footballer earning £50,000-a-week, what car would you buy?" I think I'd buy a Ferrari, although I quite like those little Audi TT soft-tops for getting around town. And obviously I'd need a four-wheel drive.

"Why do young, highly-paid footballers keep getting themselves involved in drink-related trouble? Is it because they have more money than sense?" Yes.

"When does no mean no?" When a player refuses to sign an autograph, whether he is at the ground or drinking in a late-night West End club, his wishes should always be respected.

"When does no mean yes?" If a manager, say Sven Goran Eriksson, is asked if he has made any kind of arrangement to take over at Chelsea once his time as England coach has come to an end.

"When does yes mean no?" If a spokesman for the Football Association, say Paul Barber, is asked whether negotiations with the players during the recent dispute have been "amicable".

"Have England footballers been encouraged to disrespect the game's authorities through the persistent example of club managers who routinely condemn referees and seek to justify the wrongdoing of their own players?" What do you think?

"If England fail to qualify for next year's European Championships will it be the end of civilisation as we know it?" Of course.

"Who will we blame if that happens?" That Swede, of course. The one with the funny name.

"Do you mean Ulrika Jonsson?" Yes.

"Where will it all end?" In tears.

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