Friday, May 04, 2007

Keep football on the pitch - not in court

Dave Whelan, sugar daddy of Wigan Athletic, wants to sue West Ham and the Premier League. Terence Brown, largely discredited ex-West Ham Chairman, wants to sue West Ham. Ousame Dabo is threatening legal action against "loose cannon" Joey Barton.

OK, all the stories are down south and something should certainly happen to Joey Barton. But they show a worrying trend. Football is big business and that means people are far less likely to keep things in house. It’s one of the reasons that Hibs appointed an employment lawyer to their board this season.

But football is not all about the money. Essentially it remains about clubs and their fans. We shouldn’t run to the courts at every opportunity. The people who think referee Steve Conroy should have taken legal action after Laryea Kingston’s racism slur are wrong.

I don’t think they would be quite as keen if it was one of their best players doing the slurring.

And where would it stop? Another Duncan Ferguson case every week?

The football authorities need to change their disciplinary procedures. Nobody can argue with that. But the spirit of the game, already diminished, will be lost forever if every decision, every fight, every argument is dragged through the courts.

So here’s my advice: the authorities need to develop a spine, become more open and clarify their rules and everyone involved in the game should grow up.

So football can be a real bastard sometimes? That’s why we love it. But we want it on the pitch not in the High Court.