Football is, and will always be, a completely amoral sport.
We struggle to comprehend the existence of gay players or even black managers, yet borderline cannibals, convicted felons and racists are continually given second, third or fourth chances in football for one simple reason – the beautiful game is a results-based industry. If your positive influence on results outweighs the bad reception from the press, your prior indiscretions are quickly forgotten.
Of course, everybody deserves a shot at redemption – which is the line Dave Whelan should have taken when unveiling textgate scandaler Malky Mackay as Wigan Athletic’s new manager on Wednesday afternoon. Unfortunately, he went on the defensive.
The Scot caught public sympathy when sacked by Cardiff City’s Bond-villain owner, Vincent Tan, nearly twelve months ago. But that was flipped on its head when, upon applying for the Crystal Palace job in August, it was revealed that the Welsh side had sent a dossier of texts and emails between Mackay and scouting crony Iain Moody to the League Managers’ Association, many of which were homophobic, racist and anti-Semitic.
Some of the highlights included referring to a homosexual club official as ‘a gay snake – not to be trusted’, texting ‘f**king chinkys. There’s enough dogs in Cardiff for us all to go around’ after the Bluebirds signed South Korean international Kim Bo-Kyung, responding to a list of transfer targets with ‘not many white faces amongst that lot but worth considering’, stating ‘there’s nothing like a Jew that sees money slipping through his fingers’, in reference to agent Phil Smith and sending a picture to Cardiff’s staff entitled ‘Black Monopoly’, where every square was ‘Go to Jail’.
One could argue the Latics owner’s bravery in ending Mackay’s tacit banishment from the footballing landscape after just three months is highly commendable – if you’re willing to ignore that Wigan desperately need a proven manager after plummeting into the Championship’s relegation zone and Mackay’s track record in the second tier is solid, having achieved promotion with Cardiff in 2013.
Even so, Wigan are hardly the only club on the lookout for a new boss but Whelan’s probably the only chairman in England that would have extended an arm to Mackay at this point in time. Whelan’s amicability often precedes him. Someone has to give Mackay another chance sooner or later, so why not the Latics right now?
Mackay was apologetic enough in his unsurprisingly tense inaugural press conference, too, insisting he’s ‘not a racist’, is aware of his mistakes and has even taken part in an on-going educational programme – a token gesture perhaps, but symbolic of his wrongdoing nonetheless.
The predominant oversight on Whelan’s part however is that Mackay’s problems have now become Wigan’s problems – as if escaping the relegation zone to get within a respectable distance of the play-off standings wasn’t already a daunting enough challenge for the 2013 FA Cup winners.
In the space of two days, Whelan’s – and subsequently Wigan’s – reputation has already taken an incredible hit. Bizarrely, building upon concerns of his light-heartedness towards Mackay’s crimes during Wednesday’s press conference, arguing the Scot was ‘unlucky’ for ‘doing a little bit wrong’, the 77 year-old millionaire told the Guardian yesterday afternoon; “I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else,” before attempting to downplay the offensiveness of the slur ‘chink’.
In short, it’s been a public relations disaster. Two sponsors have already severed ties with the DW Stadium outfit, including shirt sponsors Premier Range, a kitchen firm, describing their position as ‘untenable’. Equality campaigners Kick It Out have publically declared their condemnation and Wigan now have a new enemy in the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who rejected Whelan’s ‘half-hearted apology’ of his controversial remarks.
But things could soon get a lot worse for the former JJB Sports owner and his latest employee; the FA’s official investigation into Mackay and Moody is still several months away from completion. It’s believed the Latics boss will be sacked on the spot should further shocking revelations come to light as part of a clause in his contract, should that be the case, however, what as Whelan gained from his idiotic, poorly-thought defence of Mackay? What have Wigan gained from associating themselves with a racist? How dented will the family club’s reputation be?
Amid this ongoing debate however, perhaps the most important people have been forgotten. How do Wigan’s black and ethnic minority players feel about answering to a manager that willingly uses racial slurs behind closed doors? How can they possibly trust him?
I wouldn’t be surprised if between now and January, some of the six non-white players to have represented Wigan in the Championship this season decide to hand in transfer requests.