Smudge and I are taking a walk around the recreation ground. There’s lots of mobile fencing, with signs threatening prosecution and big fines for allowing your dog to foul the rugby pitch, spread about. I don’t think it’s very clear where we’re supposed to walk but I’m not unduly worried: Smudge is only interested in playing ball. A stocky middle-aged bloke springs out from behind the shed where the mowers are stored and yells at me “Get your dog off my field”. Now, I know it isn’t his field. I’m guessing he’s a rugby player and the rugby team rent the pitch off the local council, but the field is definitely public access common. “It’s not your field” I reply. He’s not listening but yelling some more and getting very red in the face “We’re sick of playing in dog shit you bastards have left behind. You’re not allowed on here any more.” I’m trying to stay calm: he looks a bit beefy and I don’t want this to degenerate into a brawl. “My dog hasn’t left any shit on this field today or any other day. We use bags.” And I pull some out of my pocket as evidence. “Yes, you all say that but we’re still playing in shit and we’ve had enough. How would you like it if we came and shit in your house?” I struggle not to laugh at this. I think I’d better try a different tack. “Are you worried about the paedophile ring they’re investigating in North Wales?” He doesn’t understand this: I hoped he wouldn’t, so I continue “I was thinking rugby’s very popular in Wales, so there’s a good chance, if they catch a load of paedophiles, there’s bound to be a rugby player amongst them, isn’t there?” His face is now a twisted mess of confusion and anger “What the fuck are you talking about? Are you calling me a paedophile?” “No, no, not at all. I’m merely saying, if we apply your logic, we only need to establish that there is one law breaker in any identifiable group to justify persecuting all of them. Dog walkers, rugby players, if one is bad, we punish the lot.” He understands now but he’s not giving up just yet “Dog walkers are all the same”. His conviction is wavering. I walk past him and throw Smudge’s ball “You know that’s nonsense.”
At last, the litany of failures, lies, cover-ups, incompetence is made public, twenty-three years late.
Now there’s a scurry of the great and good, falling over one another to apologise for the failures within their organisations.
But the information that is now prompting them to apologise has be known to them for the last twenty-three years! Why did they need to wait for the report before coming clean? The answer is obvious: the organisations’ stated aim to serve the public is a complete sham. Their first motivation is to promote themselves, their servants, employees and officers. Football supporters are expendable; their lives forfeit; mere cannon-fodder.
This is a touchy subject, I know, but I’m never one to shy away.
I like watching sport. One of the attractions is that sport is organised to be fundamentally fair: the rules are the same for all competitors; the judge/umpire/referee is impartial; we change ends at half-time; women aren’t expected to compete with men (except in equestrian events); sometimes entry is age limited (e.g. under twenty-one football); &c. Much time and effort is expended to ensure no unfair advantage; it’s a “level playing field”.
Project this philosophy onto sport for disabled folk and I don’t understand how it can work. I don’t doubt this is just due to ignorance on my part but I have made an effort to understand. Is there a danger that the victor in any event is not the best competitor but the least disabled (and so, presumably, the least eligible to compete)?
Categories such as “confined to a wheelchair” seem straight-forward enough but I see that there are events for “intellectual disability” competitors. Surely, achieving parity for such folk is nigh-on impossible? I read that the “qualification” for entry is an I.Q. score of less than 70. Many people have suggested that I could not pass an I.Q. test but I’m certain that I could fail one with ease!
Everyone should have the opportunity to play sport, irrespective of their age, sex, ability or health. Who amongst them present a spectacle worthy of an internationally televised event is less clear to me.
I’ve seen every match of Euro 2012 so far. Some bits have been quite good but, for the most part, I have found it a disappointment. This competition should be a display and celebration of the best that Europe has to offer, but it is not. The way the rules are interpretted allows cheats to prosper, so it’s no surprise that everyone cheats. This is not a criticism of individual referees: they are only performing to the guidelines of the governing bodies. Until the refs issue a booking for every deliberate infringement, the game will deteriorate.
I also watched the women’s match England versus Netherlands 2013 qualifier yesterday. What a breath of fresh air! Although the women are not so fast or skillful as the men, they seem to show infinitely more respect for the game, and the entertainment value is much enhanced as a result. Maybe FIFA should take note!