Month: August 2014

The Death Penalty Should Stay Dead

One of the more arduous, repetitive and indeed controversial political debates currently is that of the death penalty’s restoration. Having not seen an execution for fifty years, recent high-profile crimes such as the murder of Lee Rigby have sparked some support for reintroduction of capital punishment. In fact, Ukip MEP Louise Bours stoked the discussions last week by hinting that Ukip may be in support of the re-introduction.

With an issue like this, there are always strong feelings on either side. Those in favour of reintroduction say it will mean the worst of criminals pay the ultimate price, the families of the victims will get ‘closure’ and it will stop tax-payers funding criminals’ prison life.

However, it isn’t that simple. How are we supposed to teach lessons to criminals if we kill them for their crimes? They won’t suffer, they’re dead. Is it not the ultimate hypocrisy of the justice system to punish killing by killing? Should we not deter society from killing by never using it to solve problems? It’s also short-sighted to assume that victims’ families want the death penalty reintroduced too, with many speaking out against the penalty.

The death penalty is not even a sufficient deterrent of crime. The UK’s homicide rate is 18 times lower than the United States, where they do utilise execution. It’s not even cost-effective to kill violent criminals either, a common misconception is that the death penalty is cheaper than keeping criminals in prison for life – but it isn’t. In the United States, those sentenced to death can end up costing the tax-payer four times as much as those given lifetime incarceration. Those on death row often appeal and can end up waiting for execution for up to twenty years, which hardly solves the prison overpopulation problem either.

And just what are we to do if a jury reaches an incorrect verdict and innocent man or woman is charged with murder and subsequently put to death? Do we then send the executioner to death for what would be the killing of an innocent person? Do we kill the jury too? These cases, although rare do happen – it only takes one instance for this potential law to be thrown in to disrepute.

As far as Ukip goes, Louise Bours support for this motion’s reintroduction reeks of right-wing populism. She’s probably just testing the waters to see if they can ram this in to their manifesto for later this year. Either that, or they hate the EU that much that they simply cannot stand that the organisation opposes the death penalty too. In reality, the death penalty is expensive, labourious, hypocritical and barbaric. Journeying back to a bygone era where brutality was an acceptable resolution is not the answer, as is shown by the USA’s higher crime rate. I don’t think it’s wrong to feel vengeful in situations like these. Of course, those supporting the death penalty have a point – these people don’t deserve to live whilst their victims don’t. Financially, the death penalty isn’t beneficial – let the criminals suffer in prison, their life can be taken away from them without death.

Advertisements

FAO: Leicester City Supporters

Yesterday, top-flight football finally returned to Filbert Way. An exhilarating game ended 2-2 as a weakened Leicester side more than spurred a quality Everton outfit. An 86th minute equaliser from the Foxes was welcomed by a wall of noise that in truth encapsulated the King Power Stadium for match of the 90 minutes but for some, it still it isn’t enough.

Since the inception of ‘identikit soulless bowls’, of which we’re proud owners, home atmospheres have been routinely slated. Our home atmosphere has been steadily improving for the last few years, it’s still not as good as Filbo’s – it never will be. As a group, we’re probably a little hard on ourselves. Having followed City away for years, I can safely say we’re above average at home. Of course it fluctuates and sometimes the atmosphere is dead but such is the nature of the beast.

Anyway, getting to the point, yesterday’s atmosphere was raucous. Our supporters have received acclaim from other football fans, press, pundits etc. but in turn we’ve also received criticism (mostly from Everton fans).

Firstly for the goal music. Okay, no one wants goal music but this isn’t something we as fans control, like having ‘Hey Jude’ played instead of ‘When You’re Smiling’ and Lee Jobber’s irritating drum. It’s not like our goal music is loud either. I cannot count how many times fans have left the ground asking “did we not play goal music today? I didn’t hear it”. It’s certainly not even close to the deafening sounds of Chelsea Dagger that literally mute the Forest fans at the City Ground.

However, the major complaint was ‘the poznan’. Okay, it’s not ours. It’s not Man City’s either and while we’re on the subject, Crystal Palace did not start the ‘We Love You’ chant they just popularised it here in England. We’ve done that with chants too you know, without being uppity about it. The celebration was only adopted to parody the Citizens during an FA Cup tie three years ago and it probably should have died a death when they showed us how to perform it during last season’s League Cup meeting – but it didn’t.

For the record, I don’t like it. Having watched the poznan on Saturday instead of doing it, I realised it looks a bit naff when the whole ground isn’t joining in but suggestions that it needs to be ‘binned’ or ‘axed’ or ‘banned’ are a bit over the top. You can’t ban a celebration -we would all be moaning more if the celebrations were muted and nobody did anything following a goal. Actually, why are those partaking in it more at fault than those that aren’t? Wouldn’t it be ‘amazing’ if the whole stadium did it?

What’s really embarrassing, is that fans only seem to want to lead a charge against the poznan now because we’re in the Premier League and other fans are criticising our support. Who cares what they think? We should have some self respect and ignore their opinions. It’s great that people are currently so enthusiastic about improving (or maintaining) yesterday’s atmosphere but maybe just sign up and follow the activities of Filbo Spirit rather than attacking fans who are trying to support the team.

 

Football is in Debt to its LGBT Fans

It’s 2014 and there are still no openly LGBT people in English football. Not a manager, a player, nor even a physio. Other sporting organisations in the traditionally more conservative United States such as the NFL and the WWE and even Rugby Union and cricket here are streets ahead of ‘the beautiful game’ when it comes to equality.

Homophobia is still a huge problem in English football. The FA and the 92 league clubs are, in my opinion doing little to combat anti-LGBT perceptions on the pitch and in the stands. When I corresponded with the FA, they were proud to boast of several initiatives they had backed including Opening Doors and Joining In and Football vs. Homophobia. Other than placing their name on a few programs, the visibility of the FA’s work is scarce to say the least. In fact, the campaigns they allegedly support haven’t had much success with England’s top clubs either. Just over a quarter of the ninety-two Premier League and Football League clubs are signed up to the Football vs. Homophobia campaign.

The FA has had numerous opportunities to avow its pledge to opposing homophobia but refuses to comment on the provocative choices of Russia and Qatar for the following two World Cups. Sadly, it seems there was greater tumult in the footballing world, when it was alleged that the decision was the product of a payoff rather than the fact the bribers were from a country that incarcerates homosexuals?

The biggest problem is the non-existence of ‘out’ footballing personnel – and the absence of transparency. In recent years, high-profile names such as Thomas Hitzlsperger and Robbie Rogers have come out as gay. The former waited until he was retired to do so and the latter felt he’d be safer from abuse and judgement in the United States, where social conservatism is almost sacred. If that doesn’t highlight the problem then I don’t know what will.

Just this week Malky Mackay and Iain Moody were accused of sending homophobic texts as well as racist and sexist ones, using phrases such as ‘independently minded young homo’ and ‘gay snake’. Imagine being a young gay footballer working under people with those views. In a truly appalling follow-up the League Manager’s Association dismissed Mackay’s and Moody’s heinous behaviour as ‘banter’ and the pair ‘blowing off steam’. Football doesn’t take the issue seriously. Last season, footballers and managers were given the opportunity to showcase their support for LGBT people in football by supporting Paddy Power and Stonewall’s Right Behind Gay Footballers rainbow laces campaign but most didn’t lace up. Only one player from my club did so, which is demoralising – every player in the top six divisions received the laces for free.

It’s important that fans, players and footballing bodies alike make LGBT players feel comfortable to not hide who they are. A recent poll found that 73% of English fans would accept a gay player in either their club or national team, even when we account for demand characteristics and social desirability bias; we can be nigh on certain that the majority of football fans would embrace or at least tolerate more LGBT personnel in the English game. So, we need to ask ourselves why players are still so petrified.

It’s time for football to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk. It’s not enough to say you’re anti-homophobia but do nothing about it. The FA, the Premier League and the Football League need to introduce high visibility initiatives to make gay footballers feel safe enough to ‘come out’ and hopefully soon – that’s the best way to rid the game of homophobia. For too long, football fans have put banter ahead of equality, shoddily made Richard Keys vines ahead of an all-encompassing environment. Seriously, it’s 2014. There are more openly gay active NFL players and WWE wrestlers than there are openly gay players in English football. Our sport may be the world’s best but when it comes to a Premier League for equality; football is doing a Derby County.

Leicester is better than Nottingham

The title says it all. Leicester is better than Nottingham and that’s all there is to it. Today, the Leicester Mercury published an opinion piece from budding journalist Catherine Hancock (who I’m sure is lovely by the way) detailing why she thought that Nottingham was the top city in the East Midlands. Of course, you can’t expect me to read that and not respond, so let’s travel through Catherine’s arguments and unhinge them bit by bit.

Like Catherine, we’ll start with sport. Leicester has a Premier League football team. Nottingham doesn’t. Those are the facts. Actually, our northern neighbours haven’t graced the top-flight since 1999, a time when S Club 7 and Steps were still dominating the charts. Forest fans, as we all know, love a good history lesson but their triumphs under Brian Clough are not really relevant now. Not only does Leicester boast a Premier League football team, we’re also the home of the Rugby Union’s most successful ever club, the Leicester Tigers, with ten Premiership titles to their name. Add the only cricket club to have won the Twenty20 Cup more than once and the country’s oldest basketball club (and current cup champions) in to the mix and you’ve got a true sporting city,unlike the underachieving Nottingham.

And if we’re simply talking sporting icons, how can you look further than England legends Gary Lineker and Peter Shilton, who both hail from the city? And who can forget the Jester from Leicester Mark Selby who won 2014’s World Snooker Championship?

When we’re talking music, Leicester once again reigns supreme. How can you argue with Showaddywaddy, Mark Morrison, Engelbert Humperdinck, X Factor champ Sam Bailey and of course, the crème de la crème; Kasabian? Are we to submit all of these music icons to that miserable Jake Bugg? I don’t think so.

Let’s not forget that Leicester was also the city that brought up the legendary Attenborough brothers – you’re welcome, Earth.

Apparently, Nottingham is also ‘the city of history’ too, because it’s the ‘home’ of Robin Hood, who could well be fictional. Leicester’s local Maryland Chicken chains have more history than that. Leicester can boast to be one of the country’s oldest settlements, as well as one of it’s most populated (more than Nottingham). It was also, the place Richard III met his maker, and was discovered some 530 years after he died – he wasn’t fictional.

Catherine also said that Quentin Tarantino chose Nottingham to be the location of one of Pulp Fiction’s premières – which I admit is quite cool. However, it doesn’t quite have the same honour as Queen Elizabeth II hand-picking Leicester as the first stop on her Diamond jubilee tour in 2012.

In fact if the cities were to go head-to-head Nottingham would be knocked out in the second round. Nottingham is the country’s singleton, bad breath and crime capital – quite a resumé, I know. We could stretch even further and call Nottingham the obese capital, if we were to include Bassetlaw in north Notts.  There’s actually such a gap in quality between the two cities that your life expectancy increases five years if you travel 30 miles south via the A46.

Let’s face it Nottingham cannot compare. How can you stand a few good ice skaters against the city responsible for Walkers crisps, the largest outdoor market in Europe, being Britain’s first environment city, the birth of local BBC radio and more importantly than anything else, the modern English language, and expect to win?

Neither are bad-looking cities by the way, not particularly beautiful but not ugly either. For me, Leicester edges that too but I’m sure others will disagree. In truth, there are several thousand reasons why Leicester is better than Nottingham, maybe the most relevant one is that nobody from Leicester would ever write in a Nottingham newspaper just about how great our city is. There you go, add humility to the list of things we do better too!

If you’re keeping score, don’t bother. It’s game, set and match to Leicester.

(P.S. – You can read Catherine’s blog at http://www.catherinescolumn.com)

2014-15 Predictions

I thought I might as well have a go at predicting the final tables for the upcoming 2014-15 season in England’s top five divisions. If nothing else, this will be good for a laugh in 9 months time.

Premier League

The usual suspects will compete once more for English football’s crown with Chelsea’s manoeuvring in the transfer market making them best placed to steal the glory. Defending champions Manchester City will challenge all the way in a more competitive race that should see both Arsenal and Manchester United more involved than last season. Despite their performance last season, the loss of Suarez could seriously hinder Liverpool’s progression.

The bottom end of the table will again be ridiculously congested. New boys Leicester should have enough about them to secure Premier League safety. There are still doubts over Burnleys staying power, given their lack of funding but spirit and team ethic may be enough for the Clarets. QPR’s squad greatly underachieved last season and there’s little to suggest their flawed transfer policy has improved – the Hoops will probably struggle. Both Sunderland and Swansea have looked to improve, though there is still some doubt over the ability of Garry Monk. Last season’s mid-table stalwarts Newcastle and Southampton will be more involved in the survival scrap but should each have enough. West Midlands duo West Brom and Aston Villa are widely tipped to drop below the dreaded dotted line and Hull City may struggle to balance the commitments of domestic and continental football.

1 Chelsea
2 Manchester City
3 Manchester United
4 Arsenal
5 Liverpool
6 Everton
7 Tottenham Hotspur
8 Stoke City
9 Newcastle United
10 Southampton
11 Swansea City
12 Sunderland
13 Leicester City
14 West Ham United
15 Crystal Palace
16 Hull City
17 Burnley
18 Aston Villa
19 Queens Park Rangers
20 West Bromwich Albion

 Championship

The most competitive division in football is once again the hardest to call. Derby’s play-off heartbreak could help them emulate local rivals Leicester by reaching the title this time around. Brighton will miss both Ulloa and Upson immensely and could find the top six out of their reach. Wigan looked a lot stronger under Uwe Rosler and could give promotion a better go this season. The relegated trio Norwich, Fulham and Cardiff all possess enough quality to be there or thereabouts next season but as we’ve seen in previous years immediate returns to the Premier League are hard to come by.

Wolves and Brentford should have enough to secure survival at the very least. Rotherham look to be the most in danger of the three former League One clubs with Birmingham, Millwall, Charlton and the disastrous Blackpool set to be looking over their shoulders once more.

1 Derby County
2 Wigan Athletic
3 Norwich City
4 Fulham
5 Blackburn Rovers
6 Cardiff City
7 Brighton & Hove Albion
8 Reading
9 Watford
10 Middlesbrough
11 Ipswich Town
12 Nottingham Forest
13 Wolverhampton Wanderers
14 Bournemouth
15 Bolton Wanderers
16 Sheffield Wednesday
17 Brentford
18 Leeds United
19 Charlton Athletic
20 Huddersfield Town
21 Rotherham United
22 Millwall
23 Birmingham City
24 Blackpool

 

****************************************************************************

From this point on, I don’t know an awful lot so please excuse my inferior knowledge

****************************************************************************

League One

1 Sheffield United
2 Preston North End
3 Leyton Orient
4 Barnsley
5 Bristol City
6 Doncaster Rovers
7 Peterborough United
8 Yeovil Town
9 Swindon Town
10 Milton Keynes Dons
11 Coventry City
12 Notts County
13 Chesterfield
14 Bradford City
15 Crawley Town
16 Walsall
17 Oldham Athletic
18 Scunthorpe United
19 Fleetwood Town
20 Port Vale
21 Colchester United
22 Crewe Alexandra
23 Rochdale
24 Gillingham

League Two

1 Shrewsbury Town
2 Bury
3 York City
4 Southend United
5 Carlisle United
6 Burton Albion
7 Luton Town
8 Portsmouth
9 Stevenage
10 Tranmere Rovers
11 Plymouth Argyle
12 Northampton Town
13 Oxford United
14 Newport County
15 Cheltenham Town
16 Hartlepool United
17 Mansfield Town
18 Accrington Stanley
19 Cambridge United
20 Exeter City
21 Dagenham & Redbridge
22 AFC Wimbledon
23 Morecambe
24 Wycombe Wanderers

Conference Premier

1 Grimsby Town
2 Bristol Rovers
3 Gateshead
4 Kidderminster Harriers
5 Wrexham
6 Forest Green Rovers
7 Barnet
8 Lincoln City
9 Torquay United
10 FC Halifax Town
11 Eastleigh
12 Aldershot Town
13 Braintree Town
14 Woking
15 Alfreton Town
16 Macclesfield Town
17 Chester
18 Dover Athletic
19 Nuneaton Town
20 AFC Telford United
21 Welling United
22 Altrincham
23 Southport
24 Dartford