‘Horrific, deplorable violence is okay, as long as people don’t say any naughty woids’, to paraphrase Sheila Broflovski. It is seemingly the Football Association’s new mantra, after the governing body’s decision to charge Wayne Rooney with using “offensive, insulting and / or abusive language” today. After all, the body did little when Jamie Carragher sliced open Nani’s left shin; nor when Ashley Cole shot a Chelsea intern; nor when Michael Essien attempted major surgery at the weekend.
“You fucking beauty,” screamed the striker after lashing home his personal third against West Ham United at the weekend. “What, fucking, what?,” he added as the Sky Sports camera was thrust into his face.
Yet, the FA’s decision is more than simply inconsistent, it smacks of gross victimisation. Indeed, in a sport rife with blue language, used on the pitch and in the terraces, the FA’s response is that of an organisation weak beyond contempt and driven by the media agenda that seeks only to scandalise.
Given the body’s role as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner it is almost certain the 25-year-old Manchester United striker will receive a two match ban – three if he appeals – ruling Rooney out of the Reds’ games against Fulham and the FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City. It is a gross injustice – one that could cost United in both the Premier League and FA Cup.
‘Ah but think of the children’, critics say, including the BBC, which repeated the apparently offending words at 7.30am on Sunday. For the sake of editorial integrity of course. Then there’s Sky Sports News, Rupert Murdoch’s rolling channel that has played the clip ad infinitum since Saturday lunchtime. The same broadcaster that thrust the camera into Rooney’s face to start with.
Not that there’s a five-year-old in the country who doesn’t hear Rooney’s words repeatedly in the playground. After all, Rooney is no role model; he certainly shouldn’t be. For the ‘sake of the children’ it is those five-year-old’s parents that ought to perform the role.
Yet, while Rooney’s actions at the Boleyn Ground were crass – embarrassing even – the striker almost immediately apologised. In recognising the potential offence caused, the striker sent a clear message that he was genuinely sorry. It should be more than enough.
The FA is having none of it. Not that the body can even call on precedent to support its cause. The F-word is used repeatedly and often audibly at every match in the country without punishment. The governing body is simply reacting to the greater publicly garnered because it is a United player.
Chaired by a former City board member, declared not fit for purpose by the government and desperate to alter the focus off its faltering team, the FA has seized upon a new cause. Swearing! Forget the nation’s technically inept side. Cast away the billion pound Premier League debt. Turn a blind eye to rampant ticket price inflation. Just don’t say any naughty words.
Those inside the game, save for hypocrite Harry Redknapp and his next employers at the FA, know better of course.
“It doesn’t come across very well, but I think you’ve got to understand the emotion of everything,” former Red Gary Pallister told Sky Sports today.
“He’s not the first player to swear when he scores a goal, I think you see a lot players doing it – when you score a goal and the emotions come out, industrial language is part of that release. It’s unfortunate that he did it to the camera, but he’s apologised and I honestly think that’s enough.”
After all, Rooney has suffered months of abuse from the terraces; much of it predictable, plenty no more acceptable than the player’s own words. Not least at the Boleyn Ground where home supporters treated Rooney to a round of “you’re just a fat fucking Scouser” and “you’re just a fat granny-shagger,” both were audible to attending supporters, including presumably ‘ the children’. Had Sky Sport’s pitch-side mics been attenuated towards the stand, not the players, viewers at home would surely have heard the words too.
And that is a crucial point. Broadcasters, the FA, referees, supporters and ‘the children’ all know that crude language is regularly used during football matches. It is part of the earthy excitement. Yet, all choose to ignore it until live cameras are pointed directly at Rooney and the FA gets another shot at its strange kind of glory.
You fucking what? As Rooney might say.