Tag Archives: shadow sports minister

Ched Evans rape case: so much wrong with petition against convicted footballer

Ched Evans playing for Sheffield United in 2010, before his conviction for rape

Convicted rapist Ched Evans may well appear in Sheffield United colours again soon

FOOTBALLER CHED EVANS currently stands convicted of rape.  He’s served two and a half years of his five-year prison sentence and he’s just been released. Although Evans has an upcoming case review and maintains his own innocence, he’s guilty until proven otherwise.

But really, Ched Evans’ guilt is immaterial to the discussions currently dominating the mainstream media. We’ve made this rape case all about us.

There are 150,000 people who have signed a well-publicised petition to ban him from ever playing football again; meanwhile the UK’s shadow sports minister, Clive Efford, has openly called for Evans not to be employed in the game again.

If your children are mindlessly imitating the actions of footballers without any intervention, you’re a bad parent

If those pressures don’t expedite the justice process, nothing ever will – yet people still feel that a fast-tracked case review somehow constitutes special treatment for the former Sheffield United frontman.

Were Evans’ conviction to be overturned, the damage might already be done by these campaigns against him (damage which, as it stands, he has done to himself). If his conviction is upheld, all the better for more prompt closure.

Fluid principles

The baleful reactions roused by Evans’ case have illuminated a more general problem, though, of people carelessly taking for granted some of the stoutest pillars of our society; principles and laws long fought for and hard-won.

Forget the case review, the law says that someone has served their time – and that’s that. Punishment served. Superficially at least we like to say that we aren’t run by mob-rule in this society. But if you’re going to pick and choose when to apply your principles, you’ll have hollowed them out by the time you really come to need them. We have to have some faith that, in the long-term, laws are better than us just making things up on the hoof.

And yes, it is very easy for me to sit here and say all this – but if it were me or one of my family or friends who was the victim here, I would still have to lump it. Because principles are not applied merely to the extent that my emotional capacity will allow. They’re tougher than that, and they’re supposed to be.  If we still have a problem, we need to take it up with our justice system – not Ched Evans.

Ban everyone. Everywhere.

You could be forgiven for thinking, after following this news story, that football was the only high-paying profession in the world. You’d think that they are the only people who are sculpted into false idols by a melodramatic media; the only ones beamed into our homes day and night; the only faces our children see and imitate; the only public figures who acquire demigod status through the incomprehensibly feverish loyalty of those who champion them.

Many think that it is perverse to allow a convicted rapist like Ched Evans to return to earning a relatively large wage. Yet people in countless professions beyond football earn unthinkably high sums of money; they can do equally terrible things. Even more so than footballers, we promote these people’s names and faces as role models.

So, I look forward to a similar petition the next time anyone finishes serving their time for a rape charge. He won’t be allowed back to work either, I can safely presume?  Because the punishment is never complete.

Ched Evas in his days at Manchester City, where he graduated through the youth academy

Ched Evans was an academy graduate at Man City

Nouveau-riche wankers

Depressingly, this episode has seen numerous people plunge enthusiastically into classism – classism that has been woven into the psyche of all of us. Footballers are, in the popular estimation, wankers.

They’re nouveau-riche wankers, too – and we’ve somehow, unquestioningly, adopted that disdain handed down to us from on high. We’re all ready to get the knives out in the same way as for the much-maligned and caricatured ‘chav’.

Why do we target the footballer for especially venomous denigration, who in most cases is neither qualified nor equipped to earn much more than buttons once he’s the wrong side of 35? All your other high-flyer professionals would have little trouble finding a new source of income even if a million of us picketed their preferred place of work.

Clive Efford says that a rape conviction would restrict the work of many other professionals, but not all.  And picking on footballers is easy, arbitrary witch-hunting.  Life is far from simple or rewarding for many footballers and the sport still takes barely rudimentary care of its players – a topic that could fill a whole tome in itself.

Parents: stop outsourcing

Ched Evans is hardly the first footballer who, having committed a serious offence, has been chided for being a poor role model to ‘the children’ – on top of everything else.

A sizeable minority of parents – the ones who are the scourge of junior football matches up and down the country – need to concentrate first on their own example to their children, rather than ranting, raving, behaving ridiculously and expecting footballers – strangers – to assume responsibility.

And we need to be crystal clear: if your children are mindlessly, slavishly following and imitating the actions of footballers – through several years of indoctrination, without any intervention – you’re a bad parent.

This piece isn’t intended to be contrarian for the sake of it, nor to dismiss or belittle the several-year ordeal of Evans’ victim, which will never truly be ‘over’ now.  But we set several damaging precedents for the process of justice in the UK if we overreach as far as we have with Ched Evans.

And if you really are feeling vindictive, surely you’ll want to throw Evans to the football fans on a weekly basis.  The reception he’ll get every time he steps on a football pitch from now until he retires will ensure he’s never allowed to move on, nor fade quietly into anonymity.

Words: Sean Gibson

Images: Lead (Jon Candy); inset (Mattythewhite)

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Supporters trusts to play bigger role in UK football, say Labour Party

Hull City fans take part in their  City Til We Die protest against owner, Assem Allam, last season - when the latter wanted to rebrand the club Hull Tigers

Hull City fans take part in their City Til We Die protest last season

THE UK’S LABOUR Party plans to overhaul the way the nation’s football clubs are run, with greater power to clubs’ supporters, should it win the general election next May.

Fans would be empowered to remove up to a quarter of the directors on their club’s board, and would have the right to buy up to 10 per cent of their club’s shares during any takeover or change in ownership.

Clive Efford MP, Labour’s shadow sports minister – who more recently has spoken publicly on the Ched Evans rape case –  said in a statement: “We have reached a tipping point in the way football is run.

“Too often fans are treated like an afterthought as ticket prices are hiked up, grounds relocated and clubs burdened with debt or the threat of bankruptcy.”

Borussia Dortmund fans on the famous Südtribüne (South Bank) terrace at Westfalenstadion

Borussia Dortmund fans on their famous ‘South Bank’ terrace – the largest terrace in European football

As English fans find it increasingly fashionable to say in such cases: ‘It’s not like this in Germany’.

Debt and insolvency

The announcement has been made against the backdrop of the ceaseless and rapid rise in costs for British football fans, particularly since the beginning of the Sky Sports and Premier League era in 1992.

The BBC’s latest Price of Football study published on Wednesday shows that the average cost of attending a football league game has risen at more than twice the rate of the cost of living since 2011 (13%).

Supporters are not only feeling priced out but helpless and ignored, as clubs like Portsmouth, Leeds United and Birmingham City have been steered into debt and insolvency in the past decade by poor decision-making at boardroom level.

Meanwhile Coventry City fans had to watch their club’s home games 30 miles away in Northampton for the whole of last season, as the club’s owners and the local council engaged in financial trench warfare.

And while Cardiff City – the Bluebirds – now play in red home kit to satisfy an owner and his overseas marketing ideals, fans of Hull City waged a season-long war with their owner last year in order to prevent being rebranded as ‘Hull Tigers’.

Price of football: the figures and context

4.4% versus 1.2% – the year-on-year ticket price rise is more than treble the rate of inflation

£3 billion – price at which the Premier League sold its TV rights for the years 2013-2016.

£4.50 – the most expensive pie in all English football, at Kidderminster Harriers of the English fifth tier.

Clive Efford, MP for Eltham and the Labour Party's shadow sports minister

Clive Efford MP, Labour’s shadow sports minister

Formal relationship

The new measures would allow for fans of each club to found and run an officially sanctioned supporters’ trust that could then take advantage of the rights outlined by Labour.

Supporter-controlled football clubs are not a novel phenomenon, though, with Portsmouth, Exeter City, Wycombe Wanderers and AFC Wimbledon currently all fan-owned and playing their football in England’s League 2.  There is also the famous case of community-owned FC United of Manchester, founded as a breakaway club in 2005 by disillusioned Manchester United fans after the Red Devils were taken over by Malcolm Glazer, an American businessman.

“Giving football fans a voice is part of our plan to change our country by devolving power to our cities towns and communities.” – John Cruddas MP, Labour

Supporters Direct, an organisation set up to help fans to initiate their own supporters’ trusts, welcomed Labour’s plans.  In a statement, they said: “This signals the establishment of the formal relationship between supporters’ trusts and their clubs, which we have sought for many years.

“No-one in football denies the special social and community nature of football clubs, yet there has always been a resistance to measures that would actually increase the role of those fans in their clubs.”

The ‘how’ of supporters trusts

So how would a supporters trust work under these new measures?  Governance standards would be maintained by an umbrella body with which all supporters trusts would be affiliated, with trusts compelled to adhere to its own constitution and elect a board on a one-member-one-vote basis.  Moreover the reforms have already been verified as compatible with European law by the Labour’s legal advisers.

And for anyone wanting to know how the financial cogs are going to turn in these proposals, the party’s official release on the planned shake-up does go into some detail.  Any buyer “acquiring control of the club (defined at a 30 per cent level) would be required to offer the Supporters Trust up to ten per cent of the shares they were buying in that transaction at the average price paid by the buyer for relevant securities in the year preceding the change of control.”  That offer would then have to remain open for 240 days.

Also noted in the report is that supporters trusts would have the right to “appoint and remove up to a quarter and not less than two of a football club’s directors.”

Jon Cruddas MP, head of the Labour Party’s policy review, said in his statement: “Football is more than business, football clubs are part of people’s identity and sense of belonging.

“Giving football fans a voice is part of our plan to change our country by devolving power to our cities towns and communities.”

Words: Sean Gibson

Photos: Jon Candy (lead); wolf4max (inset [i]); IFAW Tails for Whales (inset [ii]).