The FA, we are told, has been “letting it be known” that John Brooks, an unlikely hero of the modern game of football, has been removed from FA Cup duties tonight and Premier League action at the weekend because of “the pressure of media interest in him”.
Is it or is it not a punishment? It sounds like one, however dressed up in weasel words.
Brooks was a linesman for Sunday’s tempestuous game between Arsenal and Man City at the Etihad. He was overheard on TV telling Man City players during the post-final whistle handshakes: “They paid 62 quid over there, go and see them.”
Can anyone think of a good reason why he should not have said such a thing? Was he not just expressing a thought most us shared? City sent back 912 tickets at £62 a shot, an obscene price many supporters were simply not prepared to pay.
Arsenal’s outrageous greed had not only backfired commercially but prompted a match offical to pass on a hint of solidarity to fabulously paid footballers.
That his remark was picked up by broadcasters should not matter a jot. He did not seek publicity; it came to him.
Far from seeking to sanction him – oops, I meant to say “protect him from the limelight” – the FA should be revering the man. Football has detached itself far too far from the reach of ordinary people. It needs to reconnect and Brooks’s comment got close to reflecting that need.
Not much to do with Sunderland, you may think. But this is how I introduced a rant at ESPN on the subject:
Older football supporters are fond of harking back to the glory days when they’d take the tram to the match, have a couple of pints and a steaming hot pie, buy a programme, hand over cash at the turnstile and get home again in time for tea, having stopped only to buy the Football Pink, with change left over from five shillings.
My description of a typical matchday experience may owe a little to the imagination but – minus the tram and the beer, and with some adjustment to the financial aspect – is not worlds away from how I once spent every other Saturday with Roker Park as my destination.
If anyone shares or challenges my strong views – and please read the piece in full at this link: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/981?cc=5739 – I would be honoured if you were to add comments there, or here.
This is how I ended the article:
But don’t take a reactionary old Sunderland supporter’s word for it. The Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Scudamore, has said he does not blame City fans for not taking up their full ticket allocation.
“I think they are sending Arsenal Football Club a very clear message,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live programme.
Whether football in general, or Arsenal in particular, will take the slightest notice is another matter.