Football is the most popular sport on earth. The world cup final in 2006 was watched by 700 million people, and viewing figures are expected to rise for this years finals in June.
As the furor surrounding the personal lives of members of the England squad continues to intensify, with fresh revelations of indiscretions on an almost weekly basis, the Football Association finds itself in a position where it has to act. The impact football has on young people is unprecedented- in generations gone by, the idolized came from the realms of music and film. Now it is the super-rich, super-glamorous lives of top footballers that people most want to emulate. The recent expenses scandal within the British government saw more than a dozen resignations, including a Labour Justice Minister and the Speaker of the House of Commons. Tiger Woods was dropped by his sponsor Accenture the day after allegations of numerous affairs surfaced. Before Wayne Bridge’s announcement on Thursday last week that he was pulling out of the England squad for the World Cup, the FA were doubtless hoping that the personal indiscretion of John Terry would be quietly forgotten in the hype surrounding-heaven forbid- the actual football taking place on the pitch, both internationally and domestically.
It was believed that enough had been done with the removal of the captaincy from Terry, and yet Bridge’s decision has hurled that player’s personal life back into the public arena. The FA needs to follow the example of others and pull Terry out of the England squad, or ban him for a certain number of games. This would show they are aware of the impact the game has on the young male generation of this country. Up until this point, players like Terry and Ashley Cole, and countless before them have been accepted under the premise that they are young men with buckets of cash for whom temptation lurks around every corner. The poor guys are constantly exposed to dangerous women armed with short skirts and perfume- how are they expected to react? The expenses scandal highlighted the strength of public outcry when those in privileged positions abuse their positions and claim public money for inappropriate products and services. They are public servants and have paid the price.
Investigations are still in full swing and some may yet face legal action against them. As football is driven by the fans and the general public, why should footballers be treated any differently? When playing for England they represent the nation and if they fail to conform to a strict code of conduct they should be axed from the squad. Domestically, the decision currently lies with the clubs but it is within the powers of the Premier League and FA to introduce sanctions and punishments for clubs whose players damage the public image of the national game. Some clubs have acted before, and are doing so now (Ashley Cole faces a record fine of £400,000 from Chelsea for recent revelations about his private life). Bottom line time? John Terry and Ashley Cole should not be allowed to attend the World Cup for their behaviour off the pitch this season.