ALAN BIGGS: Does football really matter this much?

Sheffield Wednesday v Leeds Utd....Trouble in the second half with Leeds fans ripping down adverstising boards,invading the pitch,and one fan attacking Owls keeper Chris Kirkland

Sheffield Wednesday v Leeds Utd....Trouble in the second half with Leeds fans ripping down adverstising boards,invading the pitch,and one fan attacking Owls keeper Chris Kirkland

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When the world of football can bare again to look itself in the mirror there will be a heap of broken glass on top of the smashed-up seats and general wreckage of a discredited industry.

Yet there might be a surprisingly obvious way of putting body and soul back together. Only one question needs to be answered before the game repairs its shattered image.

Does football really matter THIS much?

So much that people can be abused for the colour of their skin? So much that an idiot thug can invade a pitch to assault an unsuspecting goalkeeper? So much that hundreds of other morons can indulge in vile chants that shame the human race, let alone those who run the once respected art of kicking a bag of wind into an oblong shaped onion bag?

Or so much that you can call your bosses a “bunch of t***s” and be fined less than a week’s wages? So much that you can unleash a torrent of filthy racist abuse and take a year to apologise, while keeping the captaincy of your club? How to repair the damage from that little lot?

This week a sort of start was made as the decent majority of Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday followers stood up to condemn those who disgraced them at Hillsborough. Tribalism and tit-for-tat claims only obscure the reality that it was a night that blotted both clubs, albeit one more than the other.

The football authorities have other painful truths to face. NO set of supporters can EVER be stripped of a moron element. NO club can EVER guarantee preventing a fan from coming on the pitch.

Wednesday could well be punished but, much as their security might need to be tightened, that is not the answer. There is only one way to keep crowds off pitches - and no-one needs reminding about where fencing led.

Ban Leeds fans from travelling? Yes, their reputation is so entrenched it cannot be coincidental. And anyone can understand why Owls boss Dave Jones made such a plea, having been subjected to disgusting and unwarranted abuse. But for all the sickening provocation behind his call, an away ban might create more problems than it solves.

Imagine, if you dare, thousands of ticketless fans arriving with a grim potential to run amok, not to mention those who infliltrate home supporters. Besides, the sanction would punish those clubs who budget for bumper receipts when Leeds are in town.

No, what does need to happen is for the courts to dispense with community service and unworkable banning orders and jail the scumbags for far longer than the pitiful four months (likely two) meted out to (already banned!) Aaron Cawley. The sickness in our society is that we are too soft from the top downwards.

There will always be low-lifes who champion the likes of Cawley, as some did last Friday. But I must add that within an hour of the game I was among journalists receiving tweets from genuine Leeds supporters naming and shaming Chris Kirkland’s assailant. .

As for the chants, actions are always more damaging than words. But those who sing disgusting ditties under the protection of being in a crowd are all cowards. Mob mentality is humanity at its ugliest, so again it was good to hear the decent majority from both clubs condemn the pond life.

That’s another reason why the good should not suffer for the bad. Better that the offenders are properly punished. And that we all ask ourselves: Does football really matter this much?

Suddenly the issues surrounding it matter more than the game we all love, often with too much of a passion. The whole football community is responsible for ensuring that changes, even if it means the one punishment everyone dreads - points deductions.

Wonderful. An extra pair of eyes on the halfway line. But what does the fourth official do when a striker defending in his own area dives full-length to palm the ball out for a “corner?”

Yes, he follows instructions and merely cocks an ear to the inevitable outrage from the aggrieved bench. No matter that he might have had a clear view of an incident unaccountably missed by the other three officials. Oh no, he can’t get involved in important stuff like that.

So what exactly is the point of the fourth official? The futility of the function was never better demonstrated than when Sheffield Wednesday were denied the clearest possible penalty last Friday.

All the guy does is police the technical area and put up electronic boards now and then. As such, he’s just a surrogate punchbag for the referee. You might as well call him a counsellor. He has to listen but it’s pointless because he’s hardly likely to shop a colleague.

Give him a job worth doing, for crying out loud.