An Early Shower…

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It wasn’t the most successful of weekends for me. A 2-1 defeat away at Oxford United was compounded in the 89th minute when I received a second booking and trudged back to the dressing room for an early shower.

There’s a level of remorse and guilt that is burdened when your teammates join you at the final whistle, but there is a level of understanding and support from them which placates that somewhat. Whereas, being Chairman of the PFA only exacerbates the ignominy of it all when you step into the wider world. That being said, I wasn’t prepared for the deluge of abuse that ensued. My Twitter feed was filled with cries of “disgrace“, “hypocrite” and “f***ing gobshite“. A tad harsh I thought, until I realised it had been reported that I was sent off for Foul and Abusive language!!
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My bookings were for a shirt pull and obstruction. The first of which I congratulated the referee for getting it right, and I jogged silently off the pitch before he’d even produced the second. You may ask why there’s any concern. Well, I’ve been campaigning strongly and openly for our industry to clamp down on the language players use on the pitch. It is often said that it’s “part of the culture” or “heat of the moment“, but I believe they are excuses, and bad ones at that. It’s part of the culture because we allow it to pass unpunished on a daily and weekly basis, and that’s what our kids are watching and learning. That’s why it’s part of the culture, but we can change this.
Desperate to find the source of this misinformation, I put out a tweet of correction and asked who had said such a thing. Short of Sally Bercow (though she was suggested), the answer was everyone! BBC, Sky Sports News, 5Live and TalkSport, each of the major outlets for Saturday football, even my mate Jeff Stelling had a chuckle at its irony. As I filtered through the replies, it transpires that the Press Association feed from the game had stated the transgression, and this is the info that all the other outlets use. Now, anyone who was present at the game couldn’t possibly have been ‘mistaken’ as to why I was sent off, I believe someone had opted to play silly buggers with me.
Thank God for social media. By targeting known folk at all the networks, corrections were made on Sky Sports News, the Football League Show, 606 on 5Live,TalkSport’s twitter feed and, by 9pm, I had a written apology from the Press Association. How times have changed. No more stewing for days/weeks while I try to straighten the mess out. A few button taps and the charge is batted out of the park.
The aggressive tweeters backtracked like Michael Jackson in his moonwalking pomp and it was actually heartening to see many say they doubted the info in the first place.
A storm in a teacup you might say, but only because of the far reaching tentacles of social media. The Press Association stated that it was “a casual error“. I’m not sure that’s a viable defence in a defamation case, the usual path after the character assassination that followed, but we don’t need to go there. For the instant frenzy that modern media can create, it can abate them too. 4 short hours later and I can “casually” return to the delights of Match of the Day and a bag of Giant Chocolate Buttons, and all is right with the world.

Pilgrim’s Progress?

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The most recent episode of the Racism Monologues has finally come to a conclusion, for most parties at least, and now the debate begins as to what effect it has had on the Anti-Racism drive as a whole. Questions are being raised on Chelsea’s actions, the integrity of witnesses, the actions of the referee’s association and the FA, and here are my thoughts on all of these.

I believe that this incident and what subsequently occurred should be seen as a genuine step forward in the fight against racism, but still leaves a lot to be desired in the way it is handled as an issue. Why? Simple, an allegation was made, reported through the correct channels by those involved, investigated thoroughly and efficiently, and a conclusion drawn, all within the relatively short period of 4 weeks. This is a vast improvement on the two previous cases that have gone before the FA, and hopefully sets the standard moving forward.
From the beginning the whole process showed signs of progress. An allegation was made ” in good faith”. To those questioning the validity of that, picture the scene. In a cacophony of noise at Stamford Bridge, a Geordie was speaking to a Nigerian and a Spaniard, and was overheard by a Brazilian (it’s almost the start of a joke). It is completely plausible that someone who doesn’t speak English as a first language could be mistaken as to what he heard, in that noise, by someone with such a strong dialect. To that end, I don’t believe there is “blame” to be shouldered by those who allege the offence occurred.
Next, Chelsea acted wholly appropriately as Employers, by reporting the allegation to the correct authorities. This they are obliged to do by the Equalities Act which is in place so that a full investigation can take place. Whatever motivation is perceived from the outside about ‘tit for tat‘ because of decisions made during the match, or deflections in the wake of the Terry/Ferdinand saga, they are immaterial. A failure to report the incident would’ve seen them in contravention of the Act, just like Gillingham were in the Mark McCammon case. Also, had they not reported it and then the information found its way to the press through another source, it’s highly likely they would’ve been accused of a cover up and more fuel added to the fire that has recently engulfed the club.
Next, the FA investigated the whole situation with relative speed, even re-interviewing witnesses when new evidence came to light. It seems that all have been happy with the FA’s process, and that the conclusion is fair.
All in all, the process has shown that no-one should be afraid to report allegations of abuse. They will be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. Equally, someone wrongly accused can have faith that the process is thorough enough, and not afraid, to vindicate them of any wrong doing.
Where this process fell down was at two points. Firstly, the allegation was put to the press by Chelsea FC before any formal process had been concluded. This meant that a huge media frenzy whipped up around Mark Clattenburg and his family. He has stated how this was the most stressful period of his life and I can only imagine how. There must be a way of formalising this reporting process which can reduce the amount of speculation and intrusion. Neither are helpful to any parties involved or the actual process of the investigation. It is highly plausible that someone can be tainted by unfounded allegations and this is where the media must shoulder some responsibility. As much effort as went into creating the headlines, interviews and speculation around Mark Clattenburg’s future, the same should go into his vindication and ensuring his name is adequately cleared.  The referees association did the right thing by taking him off the list, subsequently sheltering him from the attention of the media as much as possible. I don’t know if that is their policy, but it is something that was definitely beneficial. It would help all involved if some kind of agreement was reached that incidents were given a certain berth until they were concluded. It is only at this time that they become relevant anyway, anything said before is just surmising and conjecture.
The second flaw was the intervention by Mr Peter Herbert. Reporting this incident to the police, and then publicising it, was of no benefit to anyone involved in the case, or the cause itself. How anybody can report an incident to the police when their evidence source is the Daily Mail is beyond me. This interference was extremely unhelpful, especially when the whole thing was progressing through the correct channels. He stepped in with very emotive, antagonistic comments around a case that he had no knowledge of, and the case itself hadn’t come to any kind of conclusion. We must trust that the FA would report any findings to the police if it were necessary, and this can only be done after they have investigated events.

Mr Peter Herbert

At the end of what must have been a very long month in the Clattenburg house, I don’t think emotions should be attached to this case, other than the sense of relief that I’m sure Mark is feeling. Our view has to be in terms of the process, and that view is one of satisfaction. It was dealt with far better than previous attempts, but there are still improvements to be made.

A boot room with a view….

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Good evening all and welcome to my new blog!

I’ve often been told that “good news is no news” and, to be honest, I’m sick of it. Why does everything have to be sensationalist, scandalous or just down right smutty? Well I’m here to buck that trend. I’ll hopefully tell you about good things that are happening in the game and give some balance to very lop-sided perception.

Soccer star embroiled in “enjoyable banter” shock!

At a time when questions are being asked about the line between ‘banter’ and ‘abuse’, let me tell you about Monday night. I’m playing in the FA Cup 1st round replay for York City away at AFC Wimbledon, and it’s live on ESPN. We get a corner in front of the home fans and, as usual, the big ugly lumps come striding forward to add our unrefined yet significant aerial prowess to the attack. As I line up at the front post the whole stand breaks into song:

he plays like he’s pissed

he plays like he’s pi-issed

that Clarke Carlisle

he plays like he’s pissed’

It was all I could do to stop laughing there and then. I’ve made no secret of my past, of the mistakes I’ve made and what I’ve done to correct them, so I knew I would get something like this from time to time; it just had to happen when it was live on the bloody telly! Not long later there was a break in play while someone got treatment for an injury and I walked over to the dug-out to get a drink. As I quenched my thirst a lone voice shot out of the crowd:

Oi, Carlisle, where’s your motor?

A very well angled dig at the fact that I’d lost my licence. So good, in fact, that I actually bit back at this one…

Which one?” I shouted back, “the Porsche or the Merc?!

A little jeer went up around him and smiles were on everybody’s face. Before you lambast me for my arrogance, I don’t even have a car, but that wasn’t the point. It was great to get involved in an amicable way, to show that I am human, I can hear you and I do appreciate the funny side.

I was laughing on the inside!!!

This is where I think social media comes into full effect. Many players are on sites like Twitter, Facebook and such like, and many use them to great effect. The days are long gone where players travel on the bus to matches with fans, (although I have been alongside a few on the trains this last year!!) or have a pint in the local with them afterwards (although I did try and resurrect this tradition once or twice!!), but the technological distance between us all is just one button click. That gap between player and fan has been bridged and it is fantastic for us all. As long as everyone remembers that there are human beings on the other side of those screens, players, fans, adults, kids, men, women, boys and girls. Your screen might be faceless, but your reader is not….

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