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article imageOp-Ed: Soccer - the not so beautiful game

By Alexander Baron     Jan 29, 2012 in Sports
The hysteria generated by the non-incident of John Terry apparently using a racial epithet to another player on the field may have been unwarranted, but the people at the top of this overpaid sport definitely need to clean up their act.
The average UK salary for full time employees was £31,323 in 2008. Assuming that figure is reasonably accurate - and by some calculations it should be lower - it begs the question, how can a man who was once paid £24,000 a week, find himself bankrupt? That was what was paid to Lee Hendrie some fourteen years ago. It remains to be seen how accurate is the above figure, or for how long such an enormous salary was paid, but he is said to own a six bedroom mansion valued at £1.6 million, so is unlikely to end up on skid row anytime soon.
After spending £60,000 on his wedding, he split with his new wife - the following day - and lost a further £12,000 over the abandoned honeymoon. He may have made other mistakes too, but he has been fairly busy since 1998, having played for a number of clubs, and obviously not lacking in talent - if kicking a ball can be described as talented. How did he manage it?
While this is a sad tale, it is one that relates purely to financial mismanagement. Other players may have earned less and managed their money more efficiently, but their behaviour both on and off the pitch has often left more than a little to be desired. Here is an example on the pitch; Mario Balotelli is another high earner, currently playing for Manchester City, watch this video. What justification can there be for stamping on a player's head like that? Come back John Terry, all is forgiven. This is not the first time Balotelli has blotted his copy book, but there are others who make him look pale in comparison.
In August last year, another professional footballer was convicted of rape. When he appeared at Leeds Crown Court, 30 year old Tesfaye Bramble told the jury: “I assume that when a girl's coming back to a hotel after the club, it's for sex.”
Mike Tyson made the same assumption; he was wrong, too. Bramble was given a four and a half year sentence, and the judge had some strong words for him while delivering it.
Another player who became embroiled in a sex scandal - albeit of a strictly consensual nature - was Ryan Giggs. On the field, Giggs cannot be faulted; his activities off the field have even earned him an OBE, but his wife can't have been too pleased with his extramarital affair, and then there was the extraordinary case of the super-injunction he obtained to prevent his name from being disclosed. It would later be revealed that he had accused TV presenter Imogen Thomas of attempting to blackmail him. Last month, the High Court heard it was now accepted that this was not the case.
Football players and others connected with the game have a long history of inappropriate and even illegal behaviour off the field, and outrageous behaviour on it. At present, the manager of Tottenham Hotspur, Harry Rednapp, is on trial for allegedly evading income tax. Whatever the merits or otherwise of this particular case, aficionados with long memories will recall the phrase “Cloughie likes a bung."
If there is one sport that needs desperately to clean up its image, it is soccer; to do this, it might consider taking a leaf out of the snooker world's book, and calling in Barry Hearn.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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