SUFC

The Beautiful Game of Ugly Morality

Ched Evans has failed yet again to gain a contract at one of England’s Football League clubs. Oldham Athletic’s board today backed out of negotiations, presumably due to pressure from sponsors and fans – it seems clear to me that this is the right decision for football but what isn’t clear is why there is so much support for Ched Evans to return to the ‘beautiful game’.

Of course, there is a band of loyal Ched Evans fans who like himself protest his innocence at every opportunity, and to an extent it’s perfectly fine to hold that opinion. But when, it comes to making decisions about his future, it simply isn’t. If Ched Evans is innocent then he can appeal to the courts and amend it legally, but for now he is a convicted rapist. He was found to be guilty by a jury of people with far more knowledge of the case than the vast majority of us, so really we are powerless to submit to their superior knowledge on the matter – let’s face it, a conspiracy theory can be floated about literally anything. It’s for this reason that this post will continue to consider Ched Evans a rapist until it is proven otherwise.

Then there are those who dispute the classification of rape. For reasons I’ve already explained, I won’t delve too far in to the intricacies of the case but sex with someone who doesn’t consent is rape, not just somebody who says ‘no’. Some people have even cited instances of other convicted footballers returning to their playing careers, like Lee Hughes, as reasons for Ched Evans to do the same. Does that really make it right? Just because someone has made an error in judgement previously we should do the same again? That is no sort of logic, it’s immature and puerile.

Other myths surrounding Evans’ case have too arisen as attempts to ‘debunk’ those fighting against his return to football are coming under fire online.  Ched Evans has not completed his punishment, his five-year sentence is only half-way complete, meaning currently he’s on license. He is out of prison but he doesn’t currently have the freedoms of the average Briton and won’t do for some time either.

It’s important to make this clear too; Ched Evans should be rehabilitated. But our definitions of restorative justice need to be defied. Rehabilitation does not mean picking up where you left off. Rape is a callous, corrupting and serious crime, and for that reason an offender cannot presume to strut back in to a comfortable existence once released from prison – his victim has been afforded no such scenario and she is the victim of this crime, not Ched Evans. He hasn’t had to move homes and change identities five times because he was deemed to have been sexually attacked. Why we’re on this subject, should Ian Watkins be handed a record deal when he leaves prison? Should we grant Rolf Harris his own talk show on release? Ched should be able to resume his life but not from the lofty heights from which he fell, there’s a ladder to climb, and like offenders from every areas of work, he has to start at the bottom.

Rape is not a crime that should ever be curtailed. Regardless of what we, as outsiders to the trial have surmised, he was found guilty of rape. That is the simple fact. Now, having been freed from prison having served half of his short sentence, he should be able to go about his life. But that does not entitle him to a career in football. People are grumbling about the alleged ‘bias’ against Ched Evans because he’s a footballer but that’s actually the opposite of what is being displayed. Any other position in the country that commands that wage, influence or effect on children would not be left vacant for a convicted criminal of such a revolting crime – in fact even football stewards wouldn’t be allowed by law to return to their job if found guilty of rape, why should footballers? Ched Evans has no lawful nor ethical right to waltz back in to a cushy lifestyle. In the eyes of jury, he forfeited that when he was adjudicated to have violated another person against their will. In truth, this is indicative of a larger problem in football where there are no holds barred. For some, homophobia, racism, sexism and now rape are acceptable in the morally bankrupt world of football. Maybe our game isn’t so ‘beautiful’ after all.

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Obscure Football Rivalries

Every football fan relishes the appearance of a local derby on the fixture list. It makes the game just that more exciting. But, locality is not the only reason that rivalry erupts in the beautiful game. Below are just seven examples of when feuds have spilled over between two seemingly unrelated clubs.

Sheffield United vs. West Ham United
Distance: 177.4 miles

Dodgy… Carlos Tevez’ goal consigned The Blades to relegation

The rivalry between the two Uniteds erupted back in 2007. The Blades had won an unexpected promotion to the top flight and were battling out with three other clubs for survival, including the Hammers. Sheffield United lost narrowly at home to Wigan Athletic, who leapfrogged them in to 17th. However, had West Ham lost, the Blades would have been saved.  However, West Ham won at newly-crowned champions, Manchester United by the virtue of a Carlos Tevez goal. This might sound like sour grapes from the Blades’ fans for holding a grudge over a relegation scrap, but the signing of Tevez and in fact Javier Mascherano were illegal, meaning had a point deduction been dished out, the Sheffield outfit may be two divisions higher than they are now. The Blades have yet to receive the opportunity to exact revenge on the East London club but it promises to be a fiery affair.

Norwich City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Distance: 171.8 miles

Lonely… The Canaries see Wolves as the best alternative to Ipswich

The rivalry between the Canaries and Wolves came about over a bad tackle. Seriously, that’s it. In fairness to Norwich City, there aren’t many clubs in their neck of the woods to pick a fight with. Even their famous ‘Old Farm’ derby against Ipswich Town features a round trip of over 100 miles for away fans, so it’s no surprise when games against the Tractor Boys are in short supply that the Canaries have to look elsewhere for a bit of spice. The tackle that started it off was one by Kevin Muscat that led to Craig Bellamy breaking his leg, a free-for-all ensued and the animosity carried through to their succeeding play-off games. It’s safe to say, most Wolves fans are over this run-in but the Canaries are still chirping on.

Coventry City vs. Sunderland
Distance: 200.3 miles

Grudge… Sunderland savoured Cov’s relegation 35 years after theirs.

Okay, okay, I know it’s hard to believe but Coventry City were actually involved in a rivalry with a notable club many moons ago. This one occurred due to yet another relegation battle. Coventry, Bristol City and Sunderland had been battling to avoid relegation on the last day. Coventry and Bristol City had been playing each other when news broke that Sunderland had lost, subsequently they seemed to resign the game to a draw and allow the Black Cats to finish the 1976-77 season in the bottom three. However, the Mackems had their revenge as they flocked to the Sky Blues Talk forum at the end of 2011-12 season to mock Coventry’s descent to the third tier.

Huddersfield Town vs. Peterborough United
Distance: 124.0 miles

Drama… Posh and Huddersfield have been thorns in eachother’s sides for the past 3 seasons.

West Yorkshire met East Anglia in the 2010-11 League One play-off final at Old Trafford. Town fans had outnumbered the Posh army by 2:1 but a 7-minute goal fest stunned the favourites as United ran out 3-o victors. Huddersfield achieved promotion the season after setting up a showdown in the 2012-13 season. Huddersfield’s revenge was put on hold as Posh took four points from their league meetings but The Terriers had the last laugh as Posh fell to a 3-2 defeat at Selhurst Park on the final day. Huddersfield and Barnsley played out a 2-2 draw to keep them both in the division as Peterborough were relegated. Reports broke on Twitter that Huddersfield and Barnsley had emulated Coventry and Bristol City of 1977 and purposely kept the score level to ensure Posh’s relegation. There are still legs in this one.

Boston United vs. Dagenham & Redbridge
Distance: 124.7 miles

Robbed… Boston stole promotion but the Daggers had the last laugh.

In terms of footballing quality, this one is far from comparable with El Clasico but there is a genuine ill-feeling between to the two lower-league clubs. Boston and the Daggers led the Conference Premier back in 2001/02. United clinched the title in controversial fashion as they were accused of making illegal payments to players and as a result Dagenham finished second on goal difference, condemning them to the play-offs. Had the FA gone through with a points deduction that season, United would have swapped positions with the Daggers but they didn’t. They instead incurred a 4 point deduction the season after. Of course, had Dag & Red won the play-offs this would be a forgotten issue but that honour fell to Yeovil Town. Although, the Daggers never got to enact their redemption themselves, they can now sleep smugly knowing that they reside in the Football League while Boston United are consigned to Conference North relegation battles.

Colchester United vs. Wycombe Wanderers
Distance: 98.3 miles

Odd… Few understand this sometimes farcical rivalry.

The closest pair of rivals of this list are Colchester and Wycombe. This is another rivalry that was intensified by a close run Conference Premier title race however, it originated at a feisty 1985 FA Cup tie marred by crowd trouble. Six years later, the duo were over 20 points clear of the rest of the challenging clubs but Colchester nicked the title on goal difference and thus, won automatic promotion. Wandererers’ fans seemed to take particular offence to a defeat to Col U that involved conceding a goal direct from a goal kick. Either way, any animosity would be avoided if Wycombe won the play-offs. Of course, they didn’t.

Chelsea vs. Leicester City
Distance: 102.1 miles

Bloody… Chelsea and Leicester have a violent vendetta.

The battle in blue is an old rivalry back from the 1970s and 1980s. In a season where Chelsea were leading the charge for promotion to the top flight, the Blues travelled to Filbert Street backed by 10,000 raucous supporters. However, the Foxes rained on their parade with a 1-o win, in a match that featured a whole host of missed penalties from Chelsea. This resulted in outbreaks of violence in the stands. Leicester went on to win the league whilst Chelsea remained in the second tier. In fact, the club’s firms; the Head Hunters and The Baby Squad would have several run-ins in the years that followed. On occasion the firms would travel down to each other’s stomping yards even when the clubs weren’t playing, to scrap. Today, while it sounds a particularly ferocious fixture, most fans of both clubs are unaware or unaffected by the rivalry. However, some keep the fire burning in the terraces. Leicester’s ‘Hark Now Hear’ chant features Chelsea while the Blues started the ‘Over land and sea! AND LEICESTER!’ trend. In fact, in a recent FA Cup tie at Stamford Bridge in 2012, City fans were turned away from certain pubs being told “You don’t want to go in there. You have no idea how much they hate you.”