The Last Word: Less outrage, more wisdom – a fat chance

Inept FA lack the ability to recalibrate the ‘fury’ and ‘anger’ inanely taking a sport to fever pitch

A Premier League footballer wears white robes, an Arabian Keffiyeh head-dress and an Osama Bin Laden mask at a New Year’s Eve party. He poses with fake dynamite, a bullet belt and his fiancée, a “glamour model” dressed as a Dalmatian.

At precisely 8.39pm on 31 December she posts two photographs of them in character on social media. The perfect storm duly breaks when the player, Jermaine Pennant, concedes an injury time penalty to deny his side, Stoke City, victory over Everton the following day.

“Outrage,” screams a headline. “Terrorist?” asks one cyberwarrior. “Not the smartest,” posits another. A third philosopher, who observes: “Damn! A lot of stupid ppl are gonna start talking shit lol” is uncannily prescient.

Welcome to Planet Football 2014, a strange world where there is an open invitation to take offence; controversies are manufactured in a moment; opinions are mandatory; regardless of logic or legitimacy; Twitter trolls, shock jocks and assorted spittle-flecked loons are on someone’s case 24/7.

Let’s call it the Joey Barton Syndrome. The volume of anger or alarm is directly proportionate to the lack of knowledge, wisdom or experience applied to the task. Thinking for oneself is strictly optional; following the herd is preferable. Bile should be secreted in 140 characters, if possible.

Players and fans are upset by referees, who infuriate managers, who are patronised by administrators, who are a universal target. It is a conga of the damned going nowhere fast.

Everyone in the shrill saga involving Mark Clattenburg, Adam Lallana and Southampton Football Club is, understandably, being judged as caricatures. Preening, perma-tanned celebrity referee bites back at precious, potty-mouthed Premier League millionaire. Club officials are “furious” (naturally) and demand FA action.

Right on cue, cranky conspiracy theorists suggest the spat was leaked to ruin Clattenburg’s chance of officiating at next summer’s World Cup finals. They do not offer a shred of evidence, but online chat rooms amplify their rantings.

The underlying issue, the unconscionable abuse directed at referees by players – who in turn have the right to feel aggrieved at their inability to respond to the invective to which they are subjected by spectators – is trivialised. This suits football’s powerbrokers, who routinely cower from the truth.

Debate, such as it is, is driven by all-pervading political correctness and a variety of conflicting agendas. The game is riddled by rapid-rebuttal units staffed by PR men who have watched too many episodes of West Wing. They conspire, consciously or otherwise, as serious issues become side issues.

Football has created a climate of fear that reflects and subtly encourages homophobia, which comes under the remit of the FA’s new Inclusion Advisory Board. The furore about board member Michael Johnson, who insists he has revised his view that homosexuality is “detestable”, has involved an unseemly scuffle for the moral high ground.

The FA invite much of the criticism to which they are subjected. They are inert and often inept, so it suits the political priorities of the League Managers’ Association to attack the “megaphone commentary” of former chairman David Bernstein. Similar tactics worked for the Premier League.

Much more nuanced issues, such as the quenelle gesture by Nicolas Anelka, require sophistication lacking in the disciplinary system. The FA became lost in the moral maze of the John Terry case, and have an unenviable task in dealing with such a sensitive subject as anti-Semitism.

Anelka’s advisers will doubtlessly argue that no-one at Upton Park, apart from the highly respected French journalist Philippe Auclair, instantly recognised the nature of the “celebration”. They will portray him as a potential victim of mob rule, regardless of the vileness of the quenelle’s origins and implications.

Football is at fever pitch and it is time to question where all this is leading. Strong views are valid, in context. Criticism is healthy provided it can be substantiated. The game needs greater transparency, calmness and recalibration. Will it get it?

No chance.

 

England system in danger of implosion

David Collier, the unimpressive ECB chief executive, sought safety in numbers by confirming his faith in England team director Andy Flower and captain Alastair Cook (below). They will, effectively, sink or swim together in the wake of this Ashes omnishambles. They represent the self-interest shaping a system in danger of implosion.

The formative principle was fine. Develop the England cricket team along the lines of Britain’s cycling squad. Create a climate of rigour and intelligence. Apply science, empower coaches and search for marginal gains.

It worked, until its success became corrosive. England’s National Performance Centre at Loughborough University became a political power base. Emerging players were confused by conflicting advice from specialists who derided the conventions of county cricket. Established players developed a sense of entitlement sustained by up to 18 support staff traipsing around Australia. Human nature being as it is, each seeks to justify their presence.

The result is a risible 82-page list of dietary demands, and evidence of lazy practice sessions. Players like Boyd Rankin are unfit for purpose. Flower seems over-wrought and Cook’s mental disintegration is complete. Failure is inevitable.

 

Wayne's World

Wolverhampton Wanderers supported Wayne Hennessey through two cruciate operations over 18 unproductive months. He is thought to have been paid around £15,000 a week. According to his manager, Kenny Jackett, the Wales goalkeeper, now fit, refused to play in Friday night’s defeat at Gillingham.  That’s not merely unprofessional – it is unforgiveable.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition