Malcolm Dawson writes…..it is ages since we heard from the Birflatt Boy but today he makes a welcome return to the pages of Salut! Sunderland with his thoughts on Monday’s events at Gander Green Lane where off field events have overshadowed those of the match itself. Over to you Birflatt.
Is a Jaffa Cake a biscuit or a cake? All of my family love them. Personally, I hate them. Too soggy to be a biscuit and too dry to be a cake. It all comes down to personal taste. Well, it would do were it not for the fact that our concept of cakes and biscuits, extends to taxation issues. McVities have always maintained that their product is a cake and so benefits from the zero rate of taxation on cakes, which does not apply to biscuits. This debate has run for years and was the focus of an article on BBC News Magazine earlier this week. Link is here; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-38985820
This is perhaps a suitable preamble to the debate which has followed in the wake of Sutton United’s substitute goalkeeper, Wayne Shaw sparking controversy after consuming a savoury produce during his side’s valiant defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup on Tuesday. I say “savoury product” because Wayne himself has declared that he ate a pasty and not a pie, although other sources say that it was a meat and potato pie. Wayne’s delectation for pies or pasties has landed him in a lot of trouble. It’s probably safe to say that pies and pasties are not unfamiliar to him. Unfortunately this pastry fetish has landed the big fellah in trouble due to FA betting rules. As anyone following this story even casually would know, Sun Bets offered odds of 8/1 on Wayne Shaw being shown on live TV during the game consuming a pie.
During the closing stages of the game, when all Sutton’s subs had been used and the game was to all intent and purposes over, Wayne got stuck into his snack. He clearly enjoyed it, but I doubt if the same can be said for the media melee and fuss which ensued. Wayne was forced to resign and his manager described his actions as making the club look unprofessional etc. Wayne himself said that he scoffed the pasty because the canteen had no pies left and that it was all done for the banter. Listening to his comments he did seem to be aware that there was a betting matter involved somewhere. What is the problem and who is to blame for all the fuss?
We are inundated with betting advertisements and all sort of betting permutations where bets can be placed at any time during a game and on all sorts of bizarre events which in many cases have little if any bearing on the outcome of a game. Number of throw ins, the cumulative total of the shirt numbers worn by goal scorers in a game etc. Gary Lineker has defended Wayne Shaw and says that football is losing its sense of humour. I didn’t think Wayne Shaw’s actions were particularly amusing. As a bloke in his mid forties I’d have thought he was old enough to know better. At 23 stones and in his mid forties I’d also have thought he was in no fit state to be considered as a goalkeeper either but that’s a different matter. He may have looked unprofessional. I thought he just looked a bit daft but who has suffered in this case? Arguably Sun Bets is the loser if they have to pay out. It serves them right to engage in betting offers which have no impact on the outcome of a game but which have led to a man losing his job. It seems to me that there are several issues or factors being confused here.
· What are the limitations on betting on football matches? The issue of ‘inside knowledge’ has been raised in this matter.
Inside knowledge on what exactly? Anyone could have seen the Sun Bets ad. Was it players or staff at Sutton Utd who placed
bets on Wayne’s pie munching?
· Why has he had to resign if he ate a pasty?
· Would he have had to resign and would there have been the same furore if he had scoffed a burger or a hot dog?
· Has anyone stopped to think that this is nothing to do with betting on football?
· Were the BBC complicit in this? Did they know about the Sun Bets offer and if so why did they broadcast images of a bloke
eating a pie/pasty during the game?
· Does Wayne normally munch his way through a pie or two during the game? His previous dietary habits had clearly not caused
his manager any concerns.
The response to this nonsense and indeed it is nonsense, is very sad I feel. Wayne Shaw is no footballing superstar. He’s a larger than life character in so many ways and has been swept along with Sutton United’s remarkable FA Cup adventure. He started his playing career at Southampton alongside the likes of stars such as Matt Le Tissier and Alan Shearer who both had wonderful football careers. Wayne didn’t. The last thing he probably expected was to become any sort of celebrity at the age of 45 yet that is what happened. He got his few minutes of fame. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the 15 minutes of fame that Andy Warhol predicted several decades ago but a few days of infamy, which will probably be remembered for years to come. Sutton United’s amazing story will be overshadowed by the story of a middle aged bloke eating a pie. That’s how ridiculous the world has become. There are more serious matters to consider in the wake of this however.
On the same day as “Piegate,” the story of Cowdenbeath defender Dean Brett emerged. Brett is currently being investigated by the Scottish FA over allegations that he placed over 2700 bets on over 6000 football matches, 8 of which were against his own team. He has been suspended by Cowdenbeath the only club the 24 year old has ever played for. “Deserves nothing better!” “He should never play football again,” I can hear people say. Well, wait just a moment. Dean’s partner, Gemma died of cancer just over two years ago at the age of 22. This happened just a few months after Dean and Gemma’s prematurely born daughter Mollie passed away. Dean was left alone to look after Mollie’s twin sister Mia. It’s virtually impossible to imagine how difficult facing each day must be for this young lad. Dean Brett’s footballing future is in serious doubt now. He admits that he had a gambling problem before these terrible events but they can scarcely have done anything to assist him coming to terms with his gambling. He even scored in one game which he had bet on his team to lose, and says the money doesn’t matter to him after all he has been through.
It’s a strange world we live in these days. The focus on what’s right and wrong has become confused so often. Both Wayne Shaw and Dean Brett have done things that they regret, and wish they could change, but situations and circumstances can impact on how people respond to situations which range from unprecedented attention to earth shattering bereavement. I hope that Wayne and Dean’s situations can be treated with some consideration and particularly in the latter case some degree of sympathy.
It really doesn’t matter whether a Jaffa cake is a biscuit or cake, they are all the same inside, just like the rest of us.