Wise Man Says: where has all the fun gone?

Nic Wiseman
Nic Wiseman
Where has all the fun gone?

Nic Wiseman has been gazing into his navel at the current state of football in general and Sunderland in particular. Nothing he says alters the right of any individual to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise (and we shall be vigilant about comments left below) but it’s plain to anyone reading his words that here is a lifelong fan who is losing the will to support …

Football has been kicking its way down Skid Row for some years now, but events over the last couple of days have made me question if I really want to finance this increasingly rancid sport any more.

First was the farcical sending off of Wes Brown at Manchester United on Saturday.

Most commentators assumed it was a case of mistaken identity and that the suspension would be merely transferred to John O’ Shea, the real miscreant.

This was before the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) took the unusual step of issuing a statement on Saturday night saying that referee, Roger East, had seen O’Shea’s offence but thought that Brown’s was worse and penalised him instead.

As Alan Shearer said on that night’s Match of the Day, if he had penalised the original offence, Brown’s subsequent “offence” would have been after play was halted. I don’t know what the game’s authorities are playing at.

Mark Halsey, a former match official, said, it leaves the PGMOL looking a laughing stock.

Is it too harsh to suggest that the FA, and these representative bodies associated with the game, desperately need better leadership?

The Old Trafford debacle came hours after world governing body, FIFA, announced it would be delaying trialling video technology in the game by another year. Why?

Then the inevitable overturning of Brown’s red card confirmed early impressions of the match officials’ incompetence.
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And as the day drew to a close, Twitter was excited by The Sun’s story headlined: “England Ace arrested on Sex charge”. Before going into this, who talks about an England Ace anyway? It was like something the dear departed Victor might have said.

Anyway, I digress. I tweeted that it probably referred to a current League 2 player who had once appeared for England under 21s. Little did I know it was our very own Adam Johnson: three times scorer at St James’s Park in away derbies; one of the star players and high earners in a Sunderland team devoid of many true stars.

The Durham police statement merely read: “A 27-year-old man was arrested earlier today on suspicion of sexual activity with a girl under 16.”

My first reaction was one of complete depression. I had visions of the disastrous Ched Evans affair going through my head. It is just as well the criminal justice system demands the presumption of innocence but it is also right, and can be said without the least risk of jeopardising that principle, that no one, whether a handsomely paid footballer, a newspaper editor, a high-profile politician or Bert Bloggs, is above the law.

The club have acted swiftly in suspending Johnson until the police investigation is concluded. Presumably that means he will not play for Sunderland until the police are satisfied he has no case to answer. The alternative would mean that he is charged and put before a jury. And then the facts – and the player’s future – would be for the courts to decide.

Thankfully, the club have acted correctly here. But on Tuesday morning, the media has been going crazy. Pictures of Johnson’s home have been published on the internet. There have been lurid details of what the alleged offence might have been. Many outlets are reporting the offence as “sex with a 15-year old”, whereas the police statement referred only to “sexual activity with a girl under 16”.

The reports of a loaded gun being found at the property spiced up the reports a little further. Never mind that the gun appears to have been a starting pistol! It is not unusual for a sportsman to own one; my granddad did and he was a Durham policeman! But The Sun didn’t report that.

I started this piece thinking that I would write about my disillusion with football and it’s seemingly scruples-free leaders.

Now I find myself being steered to dodgy reporting of a sensitive issue. Yes, the charge against Johnson is serious, but there is due process and it needs to be followed.

His girlfriend’s parents are quoted as saying they’re standing by him and have complete confidence in him. That’s good to hear. But it’s worrying that minutiae of the case have already been reported. Despite all its travails, The Sun still can’t control itself.

Obviously it has received information from someone connected with the police. How else would some of the details have found their way out?

But while this sordid matter is sorted out, let’s get back to where I started: leadership in football. Then there’s the money.

Consider another recent example. Football has been given a huge TV contract which values each Premier League game at £10m. When asked if some of this money should be used in the community, Richard Scudamore, the CEO of the Premier League, made no apologies for having obtained the best price, and was dismissive of the proposition. “We are not a charity”, he said.

So, I’ve rambled on, wrung my hands and what will I do? Well, I am seriously considering not renewing my Sunderland season card. Not because of Johnson but because of my general dislilusionment. As a London-based supporter, this may not seem such a huge sacrifice or gesture. But I am not alone; I spoke to one Twitter user last night who said she had decided not to renew, and she gave a reason that hit the nail squarely on the head. Football, she said, just isn’t fun any more.

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14 thoughts on “Wise Man Says: where has all the fun gone?”

  1. Just to underline what I was saying earlier. Since the PL was formed in 1992 with the notable exception of BlCkburn Rovers, only Man Utd Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd have won the title.

    That group is going to shrink further as there are only 2 genuine title challengers this season. Post Ferguson, Man Utd have slipped considerably and Arsenal no longer can mount a sustained challenge either.

    Over the next 5/6 seasons expect to see a situation emerge which resembles Scotland in the 1970s.

    For me, that’s when we’ll see the whole Sky megabucks show start to wither away. No bad thing either.

  2. All this on the day one of the greatest players in history, Dave Mackay, passed away. Love the iconic picture of him “having words” with Billy Bremner. RIP Dave

  3. Not a lot to disagree with in these last three posts.
    I suppose my motive for writing this was before the Johnson affair broke. The refs thing was it for me. The fact that they are not accountable to anyone. And the leaders of the game have no interest in improving the game apart from it it lines their pockets.
    I did start a ramble along the lines of The Sun and the Police lining each other’s pockets, hence all of the details of the Johnson affair coming out so quickly, but that was rightly edited out.
    I don’t know if any of you have read ‘What a Carve Up!’ by Jonathan Coe, but it predicted the cosy relationship between newspaper proprietors, police, politicians and big business perfectly. When the phone hacking and MP’s cash for questions scandals broke, I thought of this book.
    Football is enmeshed too with the Hillsborough distortions and the working man being screwed by the establishment.
    But what can we do? Other than walk away, there is nothing.

    • Coe ‘s is a great book , very prescient.

      I have been bored by the PL for a while, the only thing I have is atavistic support for Sunderland. Even that is heading towards downhill, rapidly. Quite often I wonder, “if only my dad had not landed me with this bloody football club”. Never mind, the cricket season will soon be here.

  4. Greed.Lack of respect for human dignity.Disregard for basic moral behaviour.I could name at least 4 players that have recently behaved disgracefully whilst wearing the red and white stripes of our wonderful Sunderland Football Club.They have brought the game into disrepute,and abused the trust and credibility that has been built by generations of Sunderland Supporters.I have been a Sunderland supporter since I attended the first game after the War with my father on August 31st 1946,against Derby County who included Raich Carter one of our finest ever players .He was treated with the greatest respect that his achievements as our former captain richly deserved.We won 3-2,and to this day nearly 69 years later,I found the occasion to be a wonderful experience.Willie Watson became my hero,and he represented England at both football and cricket.His stature was supreme and he represented the true character as a great Sunderland sporting legend.Others have followed in his footsteps and I would like to name a few more that have become legends with their skill, by upholding the true principles ot sportsmanship whilst representing our great SAFC…..Len Shackleton,Stan Anderson,Charley Hurley,Jimmy Montgomery,Brian Clough,Niall Quinn,Kevin Ball,Kevin Phillips.Let us get back to those days when we actually enjoyed watching the lads at Roker Park and The Stadium of Light.The drab clueless stuff currently on display is not representative of what we expect ,and is an insult to our self respect as Sunderland Supporters.Haway the Lads!

    • Really enjoyed this Horden Lad.

      I too worshipped Willie Watson. Watched him play many times at both sports. I will never forget his historic stand with Trevor Bailey against a fantastic Australian side [ Lindwall, Miller etc ] in 1953 at Lords. I was so proud of them both.

      Lovely elegant left hander and superb fielder. The only other player I’ve seen who made it look so easy was David Gower.

      He was equally graceful on the football field. Seemed to skim over the turf.

      Unlike most of today’s lot, he was quite, modest and almost humble.

      I don’t think we will see his like again.

    • Wished I’d seen Shack play but he was a bit before my time. Universally known as “the Clown Prince of Soccer” except in Murton apparently.

  5. There’s so much money spent on fees and wages and the complete lack quality and indeed competition has just about killed the whole thing for me. It’s over hyped and over blown. There’s precious little pleasure in watching the majority of the teams in the league simply battling to make sure they stay in it. The top 4/6 change only in terms of the running order.

    25-30 years ago it was possible to put together a team that could challenge at the top for a season or two. Everton did it. Villa did it, even Norwich managed it for a season or so. Cloughie won the league with players that any club could have signed (and many who nobody else wanted in fact!). That’s no longer the case, and the closed shop makes it dull viewing. If you are chasing nothing more than survival year upon year it’s really rather facile.

  6. On the first point, about referee’s, I seriously question the point of the 4th official. I cannot ever recall one of them changing any decision, however ludicrous. I wonder how much their presence costs?

    As far as fun is concerned, I think attending football matches [ other than local games in the park ] has been getting ever less enjoyable since I began in the late 1940’s.

    Overall, the skill and fitness has improved, but as a spectacle and an experience, for me at least, it has lost it’s most precious ingredient – good humour and fun.

    There is too much money involved, too much ego, and too little concern about the most important people at any club – the fans.

    I don’t anticipate that any of this will change any time soon, and I’m just pleased that I got to see the likes of Matthews, Finney, Charles, Best, Law, Baxter, Haynes and Greaves in their prime.

    Frankly, I have little time or patience for the modern game. A bit too much evidence of narcissistic personality disorder on show for me.

    • I prefer to watch Rugby as a sport over football, as I find it more entertaining over a game.
      Like you I have some favourites I have seen on the field of play. Best, Charlton, McDonald playing for Luton before the Mags got him, and Colin Todd. He was one of my fave players of all time. I love Colin Todd.

  7. Fun? It’s in the small print of all SAFC tickets. the rule that the holder should not expect enjoyment. Only a few seasons in 50 years or so have broken this injunction.

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