29/Jul/2014 - Last News Update: 12:57

The Premiership footballer hatred vortex

Category: Headlines

Published: 17th Aug 2012 10:41:17

The achievements of Team GB at the Olympics have led to a wave of criticism of footballers. They've been lambasted for being overpaid, arrogant underachievers. But why do some people hate footballers so much?

Ex-England striker Michael Owen knew there was trouble ahead when the Olympics started.

In a post on his blog he wrote: "I turned to my wife, Louise, while sat in our lounge at home watching the Olympics, and said, 'just you watch footballers get hammered once this is over'. And here we are two weeks on with the bandwagon in full flow."

As the medals and plaudits flowed in, there was also a slew of comments and columns comparing the hard work and humility of Team GB's medal-winners with the brash arrogance of footballers.

The Independent's James Lawton wrote a column under the headline: "Let's hope our offensive, overpaid footballers have been watching the Games."

It was typical of a number of outpourings in the newspapers.

You get fantastically talented players, but the desire goes down when they get a big car, a gold and diamond watch”

Footballers have acknowledged a change in mood. Joey Barton wrote about what football could learn from the Games, suggesting players should start with humility.

Some of the QPR midfielder's commenters agreed with his points, but one acidly noted: "You are the epitome of all that is wrong with football."

Barton has an extraordinary CV.

In 2004, he stubbed out a lit cigar in the eye of a youth team player. In 2006, he dropped his shorts in front of opposition fans during a match. In 2008, he was jailed for six months for an assault in which one man was punched 20 times and a teenage boy was left with broken teeth. Barton received a suspended sentence for punching a team-mate on the training ground.

He has since attempted a transformation, admitting to having an alcohol problem and becoming a noted tweeter. He is currently serving a 12-match ban for violent conduct on the pitch.

It's not just violence. The tabloid scrutiny of the private lives of footballers has led to a parade of stories of casual infidelity.

Many of those who dislike footballers also do not enjoy the sport, but there are plenty of die-hard fans who simultaneously resent the conduct of some of the players.

There is a sense of ownership among football fans.

When a fan invests so heavily in a team - paying for season tickets and travel to away games, devoting weekends and raising their children as supporters - a show of dedication is expected in return.

But as Owen added, that is not always well placed.

"I do appreciate that we as footballers should, at all times, be aware that we are being watched by millions of people on a regular basis but many people are simply not capable of being role models. Surely that is not their fault."

Footballer John Charles (1931-2004) was widely regarded as a model player - both in technique and attitude.

Described as a "colossal player and a modest gentleman", he was never sent off or even booked during his career.

Born in Swansea, Charles played for Leeds and Italian clubs Roma and Juventus, where he earned the title Il Gigante Buono (gentle giant).

Charles was known for his versatility, playing centre-half, centre-forward, full-back and midfield where required.

Many are not sympathetic.

"Footballers should be embarrassed and ashamed, absolutely," says football journalist Hunter Davies. "It's not a fair comparison but we are all just so fed up with the amount of money they are paid. It's gross.

"Their behaviour on the whole is so bad, so arrogant, they keep saying that should be respected, that they deserve respect. But they are rubbish, they [the England team] haven't won anything."

The Olympics had its share of issues - drug cheats, the badminton disqualifications, and athletes sent home for racism. Cricket had its match fixing scandal, and rugby suffered the shame of the fake blood scandal.

But there are few professions that evoke such loathing as football.

"They get paid extraordinary sums of money and it's the ones that lose touch with reality who are an embarrassment to the sport," says former Scotland international turned pundit Pat Nevin.

There are numerous anecdotes of footballers' decadent spending habits.

In the Guardian the Secret Footballer recounts the time he spent $130,000 during a "champagne war" with a group of other footballers in Las Vegas. The point of a champagne war being to send over a bottle of champagne to the enemy - in this case a nearby table - who is then meant to reciprocate, and on it goes until the bill gets too big for one side to pay.

Ashley Cole famously revealed in his autobiography that he almost crashed his car when his agent called and told him that Arsenal were offering him only £55,000 a week. Cole's affrontedness earned him the nickname Cashley, as well as occasional booing at the beginning of England matches. The very same fans later voted him England player of the year in a poll on the FA website.

You feel you could approach the Olympians and that's not the same with footballers - it's the image of football that's wrong, rather than the players themselves”

"Look at Tevez last year, at John Terry and Suarez, awful. But I would be a liar if I said that the vast majority of footballers weren't great athletes and good, hard working people," adds Nevin.

Carlos Tevez was accused of refusing to play for Manchester City because he was trying to engineer a transfer, a claim he denied. Liverpool's Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches for racially abusing Patrice Evra.

"Footballers have become superstars, and the attitude of the nation to celebrity has become extreme," says Nevin.

"I was really impressed with how all the Olympic athletes handled themselves with the media, but I wonder how they would behave if they had had been subjected to four years of media scrutiny and a harsh press."

For every Barton, there is a Niall Quinn, who donated his testimonial match revenue to charity. For every star with a dubious personal life, there is a plethora of unremarkable happily married ones.

Even controversial footballers like Craig Bellamy and Emmanuel Adebayor are also noted funders and organisers of charity initiatives.

An oft-heard gripe is that there are no gentlemen playing football anymore.

In the 19th Century the biggest football teams were Oxford and Cambridge, or the Corinthians, a team who famously would not take a penalty because it would be ungentlemanly.

But demand for the game was too high for it ever to continue to be dominated by amateurs. People couldn't play three matches a week if they also had a day job. The game became professional, and when the maximum wage was eventually abolished players started to earn considerable wages.

Ashley Cole's autobiography revealed his anger at a pay offer of only £55,000 a week. Football fans responded with boos, a new nickname - "Cashley Cole" - and by voting him England player of the year.

Last year El Hadji Diouf taunted a rival as he lay on the pitch with a broken leg, prompting then QPR manager Neil Warnock to call the Senegal forward a "sewer rat". This week, he signed Diouf for Leeds.

With the influx of television money in the 1990s there was another leap in wages. Now many Premiership players earn more in a week than the average fan earns in a year.

Underlying much of the criticism is the sense that footballers are undeserving recipients of their vast wealth. That is exacerbated by the notion that standards of behaviour have declined.

"People are always nostalgic about the past, that's how we are, it doesn't mean it was any better, there are still gentlemen in the game," says Steve Claridge, another player turned pundit.

"People make opinions about footballers based on nothing, on things that they read that usually aren't true, but they stick."

There have of course been more recent examples of gentlemanly behaviour.

In 2001 Paolo Di Canio was awarded the Fifa Fair Play award after he opted to catch the ball rather than shoot at an open goal when Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard was injured on the ground.

And the outpouring of emotion for Fabrice Muamba after he suffered a heart attack on the pitch proved players and fans capable of great kindness and respect.

But when the Premier League season begins on Saturday, there will be many fans torn between love of the game and loathing of some of the players.

"If Britain's sporting consciousness has increased with the heroics of Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy and the rest of that true 'golden generation', then so, too, has the spotlight and the scrutiny on football and footballers - on the way they perform and how they behave on and off the pitch," says Oliver Kay of The Times.

Our athletes did perform so well, not only in terms of their athletic performance but in terms of their behaviour - so a benchmark has been set”

"It is a sore point among a few of the older players, who feel that the tribalism of the modern game, plus the money they earn and the media attention they attract, make it all too easy to demonise them. But for the new generation of English footballers that is emerging, there is a recognition of a need to project a softer image than that associated with John Terry, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney."

And in Manchester next month, players and Premier League officials will gather to discuss what they can learn from London 2012.

This is no sudden epiphany, says Matt Lawton in the Daily Mail. "Officials at the Premier League and the Football Association have long been aware there is a perception of the multi-millionaire footballer in this country as someone who can be arrogant and aloof.

"The money does create an obvious divide. It cost £26m over four years to deliver the 12 medals that were secured by those brilliant British cyclists in London; £6m less than Chelsea have just spent on Eden Hazard. That said, it is Chelsea's money, not UK Sport's."

Then there is the pressure of a life lived in the spotlight.

"Nobody at the Olympics is under the kind of scrutiny that has become part of everyday life for footballers, on and off the field. It has made some footballers afraid to play for England at Wembley and others afraid to engage with the media and the public."

Football manager and former player Ian Holloway, writing in the Daily Mirror, says the cash that has flowed into the Premier League has corrupted the beautiful game.

"These [Olympic] athletes have no ­problem when they look at themselves in the mirror every morning. They play sport in its ­purest form - for the glory of the game.

"I know for a fact that when our footballers were kids they played the game because they loved it for what it was. They dreamed of scoring goals at Wembley, winning trophies and becoming a hero for thousands. Then, somewhere along the line, the stars in their eyes were replaced by pound signs."

Do footballers deserve the image they have? Please send us your arguments using the form below.

If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.

Terms and conditions

Source:
BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. The Premiership footballer hatred vortex [Online] (Updated 17th Aug 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1446781/The-Premiership-footballer-hatred-vortex [Accessed 29th Jul 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Mortgage approvals back on the rise, says Bank of England

    The number of people taking out mortgages is back on the rise, according to figures from the Bank of England.
  • East Sussex NHS finance head jailed for £2.2m fraud

    A former head of financial accounting at two NHS trusts has been jailed for stealing £2.2m of NHS funds to buy 11 properties in Sussex and London.
  • Martin Conmey conviction over Una Lynskey 'miscarriage of justice'

    A court in the Republic of Ireland has declared that a man's conviction for killing his teenage neighbour over 40 years ago was a miscarriage of justice.
  • Mortgage approvals back on the rise, says Bank of England

    The number of people taking out mortgages is back on the rise, according to figures from the Bank of England.
  • James Shigeta, Die Hard co-star, dies aged 81

    James Shigeta, one of the first prominent Asian-American actors in the early 1960s who memorably appeared in 1988 film Die Hard, has died aged 81.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com