The big footballing story that has circulated media outlets this summer has undisputedly been that of the John Terry court case, from which the Chelsea skipper was found not guilty of alleged racist abuse aimed at Anton Ferdinand. But the case revealed an unsurprising reality, that foul and abusive language between players is strongly inherent in the modern game.
The news was met by PFA Chairman Clarke Carlisle, who stated his willingness for all foul language to be clamped out of football, but how realistic is it that Carlisle’s request will be granted?
FIFA ruling already states that any player found to be made using ‘foul, abusive or insulting language or gestures’ should be sent off. But with admittance from footballers that the game is rife with such misdemeanours, clearly the rule is not being enforced.
The inception of a ‘clamp down’ could see football transcend into mayhem, something Carlisle himself has even admitted to. Numerous players could all become accountable for their actions if the problem is as common as we are led to believe, and due to the culture that football has adopted, punishments will be dished out left, right and centre initially. But with short term ‘mayhem’ could come longer term prosperity. Whilst players are first reprimanded for something that is ‘part and parcel’ of the game, the realisation that they will be punished for their misdemeanours will mean they would need to rectify their behaviour quickly or face further punishment.
Referees of Premier or Football League stature however, are almost certainly guaranteed to be clued up with the rules of the game, such are the controversies around the decisions they make. Therefore at present, it could be seen that there is an element of consistent cowardness amongst referees as they fail to enforce these rules. As UEFA’s ‘Respect’ campaign has thus far appeared to offer little in terms of respect between players on the pitch, a re-configuration of what the campaign is enforcing, as well as implementing its stance firmly, will give referees the support they need to be able to make these bold decisions.
The opinion of some though, is that football is an emotional game; footballers put their upmost efforts physically and mentally in what they are trying to achieve, and things can be said in the heat of the moment. To punish players for expressing themselves could become detrimental to wider aspects of the game. For example, conceding a last minute equaliser would evoke a knee jerk reaction from any football fan or player who is passionate about the matter, and there’s a distinct possibility that the intricacies of English discourse won’t come to mind first.
So what of football clubs themselves? Carlisle also stated that it should be down to the individual club to further enforce on the clamping down of such foul and abusive language, not just the footballing authorities. Until every incident in every game regarding the matter is uncovered and punished suitably, it is unlikely that clubs will implement further sanctions. Further enforcing a punishment on their own player when another player at a rival club walks away with reprieve would probably not be embraced by clubs across the country, meaning every incident will need to be catered for.
The John Terry/ Anton Ferdinand incident that has provoked this reaction from the PFA Chairman took 9 months to resolve, regarding one incident in one game that was brought to public attention. If punishments are to be enforced, countless incidents are likely to surface, some could take months to solve and sanctions could be enforced long down the line, meaning football will once again take centre stage off the pitch.
If Clarke Carlisle’s wish is to be granted, a clamp down on foul and abusive language in football needs to happen in every single incident in every single football match from grassroots upwards. No stone can be left unturned should the PFA Chairman want his goal to be realised.