Tom Richmond: Time for football to show a red card to dissenters

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AS the new football season kicks off, it will be a day of excitement for many – and a day of despondency for those lamenting the extent to which the winter game now intrudes on high summer.

Yet, while the Premier League will, once again, be dominated by the usual suspects (those with the deepest pockets), it can only be a matter of time before the so-called beautiful game is dragged back into the gutter by prima donna multi-millionaires who do not understand their responsibilities as players and role models.

Once a game for gentlemen players of Sir Bobby Charlton’s ilk, now barely a weekend passes without a foul-mouthed outburst against a referee, claims of spitting, players feigning injury and the type of gamesmanship that has no place in a playground game of football at school – or which would end in an almighty punch-up in a nightclub.

It’s not just the players – egotistical managers like the provocative Jose Mourinho are just as culpable with their press conference antics and gesticulations in the managerial dugout – and the footballing authorities need to get a grip before the Premier League’s dreadful example permeates through to grassroots football.

I’m not alone in this – I was very taken with Yorkshire and England cricketer Geoffrey Boycott’s views on dissent, and bad behaviour, in the just-published paperback edition of his acclaimed book The Corridor of Certainty.

A single-minded batsman who was so engrossed with his technique that he never allowed himself to become distracted by sledging, he backed up his call for tougher penalties in cricket with this argument: “If a mother hears her child swearing, she puts a stop to it and explains it is unacceptable behaviour; if she does not, the child, when hearing adults swear, thinks it clever and does it again and again.

“Mothers know to put boundaries in place for the child’s own good. They could teach our cricket administrators a thing or two about discipline. The International Cricket Council should call a summit of all the captains and coaches to tell them it has to stop or there will be suspensions. Sportsmen should not be allowed to get away with things on the field that are unacceptable in the real world.”

I agree – every player guilty of dissent in football should be given a red card and automatic one game ban (video evidence to be used if necessary) with the punishment doubled for every subsequent offence. Clubs should also dock the wages of miscreants, with the money given to football-related charities rather than a downpayment on the team’s Christmas booze-up.

If not football will lose its most important game of all – credibility – and detract from all those who are working at the grass roots level in local communities to promote a beautifully simple game to a new generation.

LABOUR’S faltering leadership contender Andy Burnham has a new rival for hypocrite of the week honours – newly-elected Lib Dem supremo Tim Farron.

Despite saying that life peerages “risk undermining confidence in our law-makers” in the wake of the downfall of the disgraced Lord Sewel, his front bench team includes at least nine members of the House of Lords. Furthermore two spokeswomen – Lorely Burt and Lynne Featherstone – are expected to join the Lords gravy train having lost their seats on May 7. I’m afraid such appointments will make it even harder to reform the Lords. For, once peers are ensconced on its famous red benches, they do not like to give up the perks and privileges.

Mr Farron has missed the opportunity to take a stand and use MPs, senior councillors and existing peers as his primary spokespeople.

Meanwhile Mr Burnham’s latest swipe against David Cameron’s inner circle – “there’s no dog whistle these Bullingdon Boys won’t blow” – reveals the snideness, and double standards, that have prompted many to think about the shadow Health Secretary’s own political morals that smack of desperation.

THREE random thoughts as the Calais migrants crisis drags into another month. First, refugees from north Africa and beyond still think that Britain is the best salvation because of a perceived cash-in-hand economy if they do find slave labour. This needs addressing.

Second, the Government’s pedestrian response revealed its complacent attitude towards the road haulage industry. Without lorries, there are no goods in the shops or no exports – the key to this country’s future economic prosperity. And, unless UK hauliers are compensated for the inconvenience, they will be at even greater risk of being undercut financially by rivals from the EU who can operate on this country’s roads for free.

Third, it is a reminder of the need for a strong Opposition to hold Ministers to account and Labour has failed this test because it simply does not know which way to turn on immigration policy.

Rather than the trade unions describing acolytes of Tony Blair as being “poison”, the political left needs to start coming up with some coherent policy positions of its own rather than blaming its current woes on a former PM who left office eight – yes, eight – summers ago.

IT FILLS me with dread that All Creatures Great and Small, the acclaimed television series that was inspired by the books of Thirsk vet Alf Wright under the pen name James Herriot, is set to be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster. Though the final film will be a major boost for the county’s tourism industry, I fear the Americanisation of this much-loved programme, which featured the likes of Christopher Timothy, Peter Davison and the late Lynda Bellingham, will detract from this most authentic of Yorkshire stories. I hope that I am wrong.

UNLIKE the BBC’s Wimbledon highlights programme which marked a low point in Clare Balding’s career, cricket’s Test Match Special continues to delight with incisive commentary sandwiched between tweets, emails, jokes and other sundry observations.

The reason? Commentators and pundits have been allowed to develop their own personalities rather than try to emulate the late, great John Arlott and Brian Johnston, those unique voices of summer from yesteryear.

Long may this continue.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk