Part-time Passions by Darren Thompson

My football taste causes a few raised eyebrows amongst my friends, which are probably justified. There won’t be much I can tell anyone they don’t already know about the top divisions. I’m not trying to sell the non-league scene, just some of my views and experiences (I’ll probably digress, as I’m no writer).

Despite been a Hull City fan for almost two decades, I have an almost unhealthy obsession with non-league football. If funds would allow it, I’d travel the length of the country to watch the most obscure of teams. It stretches to reading the TV text, looking on websites and more.

ferriby

I’ve always got my eye on travelling to a local team of part-timers. Some places I have been locally are Hall Road Rangers and Barton Town Old Boys, however I’ve developed a bond with ‘The Villagers’ of North Ferriby United, to the point where I actually dislike some of their opponents, for example Hednesford Town & Vauxhall Motors. I genuinely smirk at their demise, due to incidents that have occurred against NFU. Their bogey team is FC United of Manchester. Never seem to get the decisions against them…Well for this season at least…FCUM.

Why attend non-league? Well, it almost has the romance that the FA Cup used to have. I don’t feel insignificant or anonymous like I do in a big stadium. People tend to start recognising you after a few fixtures. I do know a few people now at NFU which is also a factor.

It is different to the professional game, in many ways.

Off the pitch: Price! entry, refreshments, programme, etc. At least 1/3 of the cost. Souvenirs tend to be similar though. A lot of clubs serve your hot drinks in a mug and trust you not to lamp someone with it. I believe every non-league ground I’ve attended, I could walk all the way around the pitch, through every stand. Quite a novelty, no segregation. On the cosmetic side, a lot of the stands tend to be ramshackle glorified sheds. Sound systems seem to be particularly poor. People are in place to run out of the ground to collect the balls that have ballooned over the fence – their actual purpose at the club. You are likely to get chatting with some old fella in a flat cap like you’ve known him for years. Every ground tends to have a freak that lives & breathes his club, sporting a flask, fleece and crap trainers. There’s no singing and goals are usually celebrated with clapping as opposed to a roar. Staff sneak friends & family in too, which annoys me as someone who doesn’t have this perk.

On the pitch: people will notice the obvious differences, especially places like Hall Road & Barton Town. The terrible pitches don’t help, but players are generally lacking most of the qualities of the overpaid primadonnas. After doing a 9 to 5 shift at work they won’t have the same opportunities or time to improve much. Players mostly rely on they physical side, often brutally so. They’d certainly do Fernando Torres a mischief. Long-ball to a decent striker is the norm. It can be horrible to watch and you’ll question how they are even footballers sometimes. Although Ferriby aren’t a million miles away, they have some very good players that could make it at league level and do play some attractive football, there is even a clear gulf in class at non-league level. I called their promotion before the season started !!! Though I’m not a betting man.

Cost and quality aside, I don’t get the same feeling of passion from non-league. If their team win, lose or draw, the fans don’t seem to get as stressed or excited. I could never give up the big leagues and revert to been a full-time non-leaguer. There’s some kind of empty space that I can’t put my finger on. Despite my many gripes about it, I still believe the Premier League is the place to be, though I love the Championship too. Nothing else comes close.

If you want friendly, cheap and intimate, give non-league a go. If you want expensive, but brilliant, exciting, controversial, memorable etc, maybe don’t bother.

I like the smalltime, but love the bigtime.

tommo profile pic

Darren is 31 years old and resides in Hull. Most people don’t know his forename and call him ‘Tommo’. He is Hull Glasses Wearing Champion and even sleeps in them. Owner of 100’s of football shirts, possibly a hoarder. Loves to experiment with coffee and literally anything football. Has no fashion sense.

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Paul Gascoigne: A Pre-Emptive Requiem by Allen Miles

I have always been absolutely baffled when public figures die and people I know get really upset. I cannot understand why the death of someone you have never met would ever affect you personally. I remember being utterly bewildered as a fifteen year-old when the tidal wave of public tears and chest-beating greeted the death of Princess Diana. The thousands that lined the streets for her funeral, with their bloodshot eyes and quivering hands, none of them had ever met her, let alone formed any sort of personal relationship with her, so why did they get overtaken by these emotions? I remember being out one Saturday night and news got round the club that Layne Staley of Alice In Chains had been found dead after a massive heroin overdose. People were actually crying in the club. The man lived 4700 miles away in Seattle, and had probably never heard of Hull, yet people in Hull felt compelled to grieve openly about his demise. I didn’t understand.

The only time I’ve been slightly melancholy about the death of someone whom I’d never met came in 2009, with the death of former England manager Sir Bobby Robson. Robson had a reputation as the nicest man in football, commanded enormous respect on the world stage for his tactical knowledge and success all over Europe, and had been heavily involved in the development of some of the greatest talents of all time, figures such as Romario, Jose Mourinho and Ronaldo. He also gave me the definitive memory of my childhood, England’s barnstorming performance at Italia 90, and Italia 90 is my favourite thing of all time. He was a relentlessly positive man, and upon learning that he was suffering terminal cancer in 2008, having beaten the disease on three previous occasions, he said: “My condition is described as static and has not altered since my last bout of chemotherapy… I am going to die sooner rather than later. But then everyone has to go sometime and I have enjoyed every minute.” On the 26th Of July, 2009, a mere five days before his death, he made his last public appearance at a recreation of the Italia 90 semi-final against Germany, and almost all of the original players turned out in the name of The Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trust. Robson was scheduled to make an appearance in the director’s box but true to his persona, he insisted on being wheeled out onto the pitch to thank each player individually with a handshake. As he went down the line it was titilating to see the 1990 squad nearly twenty years later, broader of waistline (John Barnes,) higher of hairline (Mark Wright,) or both (David Platt,) but they were all instantly recognisable, apart from this one figure, a wiry, wizened man with a stringy neck and anaemic looking arms, who greeted Robson with an almost desperate enthusiasm, and as the Knight of the Realm released this man’s hand he looked on after him with hollow cheeks and the eyes of a puppy whose master had just abandoned him in the woods. This man had been the star of the show at Italia 90, and changed English football, and arguably world football,  forever at that tournament. He was unrecognizable from the old pictures. It was Paul Gascoigne, England’s greatest ever professional footballer. And Paul Gascoigne is going to die soon.

paul-gascoigne-with-sir-bobby-robson-2930519-1389990

This week we have seen him in the press yet again following another relapse into his alcohol addiction, which led to an arrest for affray. The desperation of the story was that he was not arrested at some trendy Soho nightclub or Mayfair hotel, places where the current breed of football superstars conduct their misdemeanours these days, but at Stevenage Railway Station on the platform. This followed an incident this February where he was taken into intensive care in a rehab clinic in Arizona, paid for by his great buddy, 1996’s Chris Evans. Gascoigne suffered such intense alcohol withdrawal that he had to be strapped to a bed, where he had to be revived three times after his heart stopped, and repeatedly injected with librium. A few months later he had made a public appearance at a sports event where he was due to give an after dinner speech during which, according to witnesses, he began rambling incoherently and frequently broke down into tears.

For those of you who are too young to have seen Gazza play, ignore the general comparison to Wayne Rooney that seems to get wheeled out by the press these days. It is unhelpful for many reasons; for a start Gascoigne was a far superior player, but the major difference is that Wayne Rooney is a brilliant player who can occasionally behave like an overgrown seven year-old. Gascoigne was an overgrown seven year old who occasionally behaved like a brilliant player. In many ways it is unhelpful to talk about his playing career at all as what we are dealing with here is a man who suffers from savage bi-polar disorder and OCD, and is also completely helpless in his battle against alcoholism, but his playing career is what defined him, made him, and will ultimately kill him.

 

Gascoigne was that rare breed of English player: The Entertainer. Driven by a child-like need to please people and be seen, there was an almost desperate air right from the start of his career, when put-downs from his Newcastle team-mates about his weight led to him behaving in increasingly bizarre ways, on one occasion stealing the groundsman’s tractor and driving it through the wall of the team’s changing room. In the build-up to the match that cemented his place in the Italia 90 squad, a friendly against Czechoslovakia, he was seen in the tunnel before the kick-off, wild-eyed and unapproachable, ferociously thrashing a ball against a wall, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings. The night before the 1991 FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, he had to have sedative injections to get to sleep, and in one very revealing incident from just after his career-changing turn in Turin, got leglessly drunk and marched into his old primary school to berate his old teacher who had, many years ago, told him he’d never make it as a footballer. He was the most famous person in the country at this point, and had cemented his reputation as one of the greatest players in the world on the biggest stage of all, yet his fragile self-esteem still prompted the need to go and say “I told you so.”

gazza dribbling

Gazza played his last professional game in 2004 for Boston United, yet it is the critical opinion that his career effectively ended in 1991 when he went rampaging around the Wembley turf like a pitbull with a needle full of amphetamines up its arse, nearly decapitating Gary Parker and then mangling his cruciate ligaments in an idiotic lunge at Gary Charles. He was out for nearly two years after that match, having behaved like a wild animal for the fifteen minutes he was on the field, and his decline, both on a professional and personal level, began here. He wouldn’t be picked regularly for England again as Taylor and later on, Hoddle, both had misgivings about his “re-fuelling habits.” Only Terry Venables put his trust in him, and he was rewarded with Gazza’s last three decent performances at the highest level, against Scotland and Germany at Euro 96, and, at the same tournament, as the ringmaster in the 4-1 evisceration of a very decent Holland side, his greatest match in an England shirt. Two years after that, Glenn Hoddle dropped him from the France 98 squad, he was both overweight and out of form, and stood and watched as Gascoigne trashed his office in a fit of temper.

You see, what wasn’t realised at the time, before the era of sports psychologists and the like, was that in order for Gascoigne to perform with such intensity on the pitch, his adrenalin levels had to be through the roof, and when you’re reaching those self-inflicted chemical highs 50 times a season, the volatility of mood swings would be utterly uncontrollable. Imagine the most wound-up you’ve ever been in your whole life, the biggest pressure situation you’ve ever endured, be it your wedding day, the birth of a child, a really important job interview, a medical emergency you’ve been involved in, whatever, now imagine being at that level of mental and physical intensity, twice a week, having 30,000 people staring and cheering at you in rapt adoration, and the press are camped on your front doorstep every day looking to see how you react to it. How can you possibly deal with those highs and lows, particularly if you’re a less-intelligent-than-average bloke who already has embryonic mental health issues and an addictive personality? You escape. You escape into whatever brings it down for you. And in this case, Paul Gascoigne escaped into alcohol.

For the people who are reading this that have no interest in football, I have tried to think of a public figure to compare Gazza to, so you can appreciate the tragedy of this situation. Initially I thought of someone like Kerry Katona, a relatively normal person who is just not bright enough to be famous and needs someone to look after her. Kerry Katona, however, has no discernible talent and is on the telly simply because the general public enjoy watching human car-crashes. Then I thought of Ozzy Osbourne, a man who has a talent, but is out-of-control and in thrall to his vices. But again no, because Osbourne is a very wealthy man who lives in a huge mansion in LA and is taken care of by his wife, who keeps him off the booze and makes him lots of money.

No, I had to think of someone who, like Gascoigne, was an absolute master of his stage, had millions of adoring, hysterical fans, and when he wasn’t on his stage, simply didn’t know how to make his way through life, and would pick up all manner of grotesque hangers-on who just wanted to fleece him of his money. He would develop an addiction to mind-numbing substances and would blow all of his wealth, another deeply-disturbed man-child who on some level, possessed that rare trait that we know as “genius.”

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And as we choose to remember Michael Jackson for the video to Billie Jean rather than his squalid court cases and the horrific self-inflicted facial disfigurements, let us hark back to the 2nd most famous photograph in English football history, the photograph that documented how one brilliant player’s inability to control his emotions one night in Italy led to an irreversible change in the English game, how it was dragged out of the doldrums of hooliganism and right wing politics to be the billion-pound entertainment industry, that, for better or worse, we all subscribe to today. Look at the carved stomach muscles and tree-trunk thighs of a player who, for much of his career was derided for being fat; a player who, for much of his career, was the best on the planet.

gazza turin

 

It is difficult and heart-breaking to equate the gaunt and frail looking figure that is the Paul Gascoigne of today to that photo. And it is deeply upsetting to watch the perpetual chain of humiliations that his life has become, whether it be turning up at a police barrier to give a lunatic who’d gone beserk with a shotgun some fried chicken and a fishing rod, or cashing in by giving “confessional interviews” to parasitic vermin like Piers Morgan. His friend and former team-mate, Gary Lineker, recently spouted up on twitter with the following:

“Lots of you asking for my thoughts on Gazza’s plight. I can only hope he finds peace somehow, but fear those hopes maybe forlorn.”

And Lineker is right, Paul Gascoigne is going to die soon. Whether he commits suicide, poisons his liver beyond repair or drunkenly toddles out in front of a bus, unless he finds someone who can nail the thought into his brain that he has to stop drinking, he will end up dead. And when he dies, a big chunk of my childhood will die as well. This is the saddest story professional sport has to offer. If you don’t want to shed a tear, don’t look at the following video.

 

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 2 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of 18 Days, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx

Sir, Your ‘Fergie Time’ Is Over by Dave Gouldson

fergie watch

 

You know ‘that feeling’ that you experience when a famous star or iconic figure suddenly dies and a strange shade seems to hang over everybody on that particular day but you can’t describe exactly how you feel, you walk past friends and colleagues and greet them with just a little less of a smile on your face. You also find later in life you can strongly recall that day’s events and how it all unfolded. Many people over the years have told to me about where they were and what they were doing when Princess Diana died and I’ve read stories of how John Lennon’s tragic end effected fans around the world.

I am by no means here to inform the country on the passing of a famous Iconic person. I am just writing to acknowledge the end of a true sporting achievement and one that leaves me feeling close to what I can only describe as ‘that feeling’. It’s a feat which stands head and shoulders above most achievements in the game of football. I am of course talking about the career and retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

It’s fair to say that if you live under a rock which lay deep beneath the ocean on a distant planet orbiting a sun in a galaxy far far away then it’s possible you haven’t heard the news. Yes Sir Alex has finally had enough and his trophy cabinet is finally full.

It’s a story that deserves everybody’s attention even just for a second. It’s not just a story for the United supporters or even just football supports for that matter, it lies deeper than that. It echoes through all the major professional sports and hangs high among the greatest sporting achievements the world over as any athlete, manager or coach would crave such a long standing and prestigious position in their sport.

I am sure he sat down with his wife and discussed the finer details to make sure the time was right. They would have to discuss the key issues for example; how can the chewing gum empire survive without him, will his hip replacement still give him the accuracy of guiding a boot to the face but ultimately how the new bedroom tax would mean they just couldn’t afford to continue filling the house with new silverware and so this time it just feels right.

The last time he retired was in 2002 and it was purely about retirement and how he looked forward to that side of life. He was a man still keen and still able to do the job and when the decision was made he hadn’t realised how much he would miss the beautiful game and came back to dominate for another decade despite his age.

As he defied his own age he also defied the time lords of the 90 minute game by barking out his opinion on the amount of remaining minutes and tapping frantically on his watch in the general direction of the man in black when he won so many games in that ‘minute after’ the last minute of the game, Fergie time is over, yeah for real this time.

In true Fergie fashion he has left us in squeaky bum time to ponder on his successor but to succeed in his seat would be one of the hardest jobs in the game. When a club demands success and the manager delivers then he will receive the fans blessing but anything less than 1st place and that blessing is easily forgotten. Manchester United could be heading in the same spiral as Chelsea; they are a club where time costs more than money. Chelsea has the right players and they have a strong fan base but they just don’t have the right structure as they won’t allow a manager to grow within the club. United have to choose correctly and give the chosen one time in the job as Fergie was given in the beginning or they may find themselves in a silverware recession.

When you read this the decision of his replacement may have been announced however it seems the papers currently lead with David Moyes as the front runner, closely followed by Jose Mourinho for the job which is understandable as both managers have separate but valid reasons why they would suit the club. Moyes is all about structure, development and finding value in the right players so he could help develop the club for years to come but for all his work he hasn’t won a thing and that is a risk. Mourinho is a winner there is no doubt about it but when the going gets tough and his club ask for commitment he bails out so its ‘no way Jose’ for the special one in my opinion. It does seem that each has their own strengths but also have obvious weakness’s which makes neither the ideal replacement but such is the task of replacing a true long term winner of the game.

There is that third choice that has made the smaller inches of the papers and that seems a good fit. That third choice is Jurgen Klopp who is a game away from a true achievement. His team stands in the final of the Champions League and he builds a team in the right way. He doesn’t have the same profile of Mourinho but he is a winner and he hasn’t had to work as hard as Moyes but he believes in development. As a footballing community we all seem happy to see that ‘tikki taka’ football is yesterday’s news and German efficiency is the new way to play which is a style that Fergie admires. With an added bonus Klopp could persuade some of his better players to join him.

In my opinion Klopp seems like the right fit and in case you have missed that he announced his decision on the 8th of May or VE Day (Victory in Europe Day which was the day in 1945 when the allied forces accepted Germany’s surrender) may too fit with Fergie. With this in mind and a hope that the papers have it wrong it could indeed be a German invasion however this time we have left our doors wide open.

It is clear there are no guarantees of success on any chosen manager but what is certain is no matter your club or country of origin you cannot deny his achievement and every back page sport section of every paper around the globe will no doubt show their own respects to a man whose time is well and truly served.

Dave GDavid Gouldson is 28 years old and lives in Hull. He is an argumentative sod and he supports Manchester United. He knows a lot about Bob Dylan and is a skilled gambler. He used to be in a band who did a decent cover of Secret Agent Man by Blues Traveller. He and Mr Miles have been known to argue bitterly for hours on the issue of England’s greatest ever left-back.

No Cliche – The End Of An Era by Paul Featherstone

Alex-Ferguson

Football, eh? Bloody Hell!

In the end it wasn’t long and drawn out. Wasn’t because of a heart scare. Wasn’t because they just weren’t competing like they used to.
It was on his own terms, when he decided, when he thought it was right for Sir Alex Ferguson to go.
26 years is a hugely long time in football, especially in today’s game. A few poor results, one player turning on you and you are usually gone. Football throws around so many terms and cliches with such casual abandon it’s become a cliche in itself; but today genuinely is the end of an era. Mainly- the era of a manager being given time.
Will any another manager be given the space to slowly build a squad that can deliver the title regularly one day? Look at Liverpool’s efforts. Look at the pressure Wenger is now under to deliver a trophy. It’s going to be a hugely difficult job to keep the hounds of the press and the stands at bay if two games without a win, becomes four at United. That never happened with Ferguson from the FA Cup win onwards- because he was that good, but also because of the stature he was allowed to build.
It will happen now. One bad fixture list, 12th place after 5 games, they’ll be feeling that pressure.
Ferguson is one of those figures whom, if you didn’t support United, it was just too easy to hate. He loved riling up the opposition as much as anyone else in the game. Yet, Ferguson is one of those hugely successful people who was always destined for that.
In this country, if you’re the very best you’re hated at the top, then the nostalgia kicks in when you flop. Ferguson never really did flop in the Premier League years, so people just went on hating.
Steve Davis in Snooker, Diego Maradona and David Beckham in Football, Mike Tyson in Boxing- all hated at the top in this country, all now taken to the nation’s bosom as sporting treasures.
Ferguson was always the kind of spiky customer I was never going to warm to, but you just cannot help but respect him. As the years went on, I listened to his interviews more because you realised, no matter how it seemed, he wouldn’t be around forever. If you met him, you would know you were near a modern sporting great. Howard Wilkinson, league title winner, he is not.
Yes, the BBC interview ban was petty. Yes, his treatment of players he no longer wanted, such as Stam, Keane and Beckham, was shoddy. Yes, his lack or respect for officials was, at times,  inexcusable….but to paraphrase John Lennon- to get ahead in that game you have to be a bastard, and he was the biggest bastard going.
Every team chasing silverware will be rejoicing him going. Every fan who has to sit and watch them win, over and over again, will be rubbing their hands. They know its something you don’t see very often, and it just blew the league apart.
A huge blow, and an ironic one given his relationship with them over the years, will be to England. How many football teams are still building their teams around young, English talent? Ferguson is leaving because he thinks the current crop are good enough for someone to carry on with as a starting block.
Beckham, Ferdinand, Rooney, Scholes, Neville- before you even begin with all the fringe players, his teams have hugely contributed to England squads. For many, England fail because they cant cope with defeat and bounce back- the shirt “hangs heavy”. Given the fact half the team is from United, it’s probably true.
This isn’t designed to be a glowing eulogy, there have been countless times I’ve wished he just disappear. Yet, in a time when characters are in short supply, he will be missed. Just look at Snooker and Ronnie O’ Sullivan to see what happens when your characters dry up.
In true Ferguson fashion, you can imagine the wee glint in his eye as his opponents hurried around to take stock this morning, the cat firmly amongst the pigeons.
In his sudden departure, after a season which seemed a procession, he has given the game in this country a huge surge of excitement. He will enjoy that as much as anyone. Because hate him or love him, you can’t deny that he is a football man through and through.
True football men are in short supply, and we lost one from the game this morning. When Ashley Cole storms out of his job because the Chairmen won’t give him £100 million to spend in January 2027, you will speak of his sort not being around anymore.
Go on admit it, you’ll miss him a bit, even as the pantomime villain.
Football, eh? Bloody hell……….
Paul FeatherstonePaul Featherstone is 31 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff

Xavier Dwyer On: Tolerance

The world we find ourselves living in in 2013 is regulated. Our interactions are regulated by social acceptance and tolerance. As so is our behaviour. In short, the way in which we treat each other is fixed accordingly by what our social values will allow. For example, we live in a society that doesn’t differentiate between the sexes and therefore the just individual will behave in a manner that promotes this at all times. Our outward demeanour is essentially controlled by the society to which we belong and this is how it should be. When Rousseau said that ‘Man is born free yet everywhere he is in chains’ he wasn’t referring to the chains of society but the chains of fear. For a society without such regulation is a dangerous society. A society in which the individual is allowed to think and believe what he likes and act upon those beliefs isn’t a society in which anything worthwhile can thrive be it art or literature. No, regulation, governance and law far from thwarting freedom are essential in its flourishing. And of course regulation extends to the establishments and institutions that underpin the society in which we live and because of regulation enjoy the freedom of.

From the Police force to Central Government there is a sense that what occurs within the boundaries of an institution should reflect the beliefs and values of the wider society. That is not to say that there are not malfunctions within these institutions and establishments such as the institutionalised racism in the Police force which was brought to light by such as cases as the Steven Lawrence affair. However, by and large I feel that it is fair to say that we can live and operate with a fair degree of confidence that the institutions, establishments and organisations in which we place our trust, operate in a way that reflects, on the whole, our own liberal beliefs and values.

Nonetheless, there are still two institutions left in the Western world that have somehow escaped regulation. That is to say that there are two institutions in which we place so much love, trust and dedication that have chosen to repay this by ignoring the very core values that regulate the society in which we exist. They are ‘The Church’ by which I am referring to Organized Religion, specifically Christianity and Professional Football. Never have two seemingly distant establishments been so conjoined by their arrogance and sheer disregard for decency and social values. In order to illustrate this I will use tolerance, specifically the tolerance of homosexuality, within both establishments. ‘The Church’ has recently been asked by a left leaning Conservative Government to allow the marriage of same sex couples. ‘The Church’ said no. I write this on the day that a new Pope has been elected. His words of wisdom on the Argentinian Governments support of gay marriage; “Let’s not be naive: this isn’t a simple political fight, it’s an attempt to destroy God’s plan.” The situation is utterly baffling. To say that Britain is anything but secular in 2013 would be delusional, yet we still value the wishes and opinions of ‘The Church’. This is an institution that has harboured paedophiles and continues to deny equal rights to women. But I am not unveiling anything new in the case of ‘The Church’. This is not an attack on Religion but ‘The Church’ as an institution. ‘The Church’ as an institution is in fact detrimental to Religion. Shouldn’t Faith be between the believer and the Holy Spirit or Omi-Present being that the believer has faith in? In a secular society ‘The Church’ belongs to a minority of sorts. That is to say that the majority that are free thinking, atheist or at least, non-religious rational beings are tolerating ‘The Church’. The present state is that although as a society (I am referring purely to Britain) we chose on the whole not to serve ‘The Church’ we still, on the whole, chose not to speak out against the intolerance and exclusion that ‘The Church’ openly displays. It is my opinion that we are duty bound to regulate ‘The Church’ just as we would regulate our Health Service or Police Force etc. Somehow the institution that is the ‘The Church’ has escaped this regulation.
And this leads me to Professional Football. As a sport it is widely regarded as The World Game. It is true that Professional Football touches millions and unites people of all ages, ethnicities, social and economic backgrounds and genders. As an institution Football has made a concerted effort to be more inclusive. Anti-racism campaigns have been hugely successful, relatively speaking. But the game continues to be laced with a bitter homophobic and even right wing element that the authorities such as the FA and UEFA seem reluctant to tackle. Again I believe that as a society we have the moral obligation to regulate the institution and demand that the game cleans up its act. Football operates inside our society (again I am only referring to Britain) and therefore should be subject to the very same regulation that all institutions that operate in our society exist within. For rational thinking football fans I can only imagine that the whole affair is the cause of great embarrassment. But you do have a choice. You of course boycott the game until it makes a meaningful stand against homophobia in Football. Choose not to throw more of your hard earned money at the game until it accepts the social regulation that governs the wider society. But you won’t. This is because you fear social exclusion. To snub football would probably mean the cessation of the vast majority of all of your social interactions, which in itself is a sad state of affairs. So instead the rational minded football fan is like the parent of a spoiled bloated child who endlessly shouts out its demands as your work yourself to death in order to pour junk found down its gullet. You blush as passers-by shoot disapproving glances your way but still you continue empty cartons of fries into the open mouth of your little darling. By doing this, by doing nothing, you are facilitating the continuation of homophobia in football. You the fans are responsible. You have created an environment in which players are reluctant to be open about their sexuality. Football grounds across the country, populated by you football fans, have become arenas of intolerance.
Homosexuality is the last taboo in football. This is not solely because of institutionalised homophobia within the FA and UEFA, this is because of you, the fans, and your displays of homophobia on the terraces. The lack of any openly gay professional footballers in Britain is due to the fear of the retribution they will receive from the fans of the game. In a running column in the Guardian; The Secret Footballer, it was claimed that that a gay player would be accepted in a typical dressing room, and instead said that the worry for any would-be gay player would be the abuse from the terraces. In 2010 the FA aimed to shoot a video designed to discourage anti-gay hate-chants on the terraces, however, they reportedly couldn’t find a player from the Premier League willing to endorse it and so postponed the video.
Pundits believed that players were scared to associate themselves with homosexuality.

Xavier DwyerXavier Dwyer is 31 years-old and has a small dog called Oliver. He is a paid-up member of the Labour Party and used to play bass in semi-legendary Hull band Sal Paradise. In his spare time he makes his own wine and watches rugby league. He once claimed his favourite album was Electric Warrior by T.Rex, which was a complete lie. He holds a degree in Philosophy, but you’d already guessed that. You can find him at http://www.twitter.com/XavierDwyer1