The question of whether or not John Terry should be stripped of the England captaincy after recent revelations is irrelevant. There are bigger issues at stake in the world of football. If we’re to learn one thing from the wretched saga surrounding Terry it’s that it is not his career and reputation that faces a meltdown – the reputation of football is on a fast track to the sewer and is in need of urgent PR.
Money is the acne on the face of football and with teenage afflictions comes teenage behaviour. Young men with that much loose power stuffed in their wallets are prone to go a little crazy and Terry is no exception. Money and hormones repress morals – every time, without exception.
Top-flight footballers are a breed apart thanks to the astonishing amounts of money they take home; the offspring of a bestial union between money and sport. They should not be held up as exemplars of any sort of moral code. And don’t forget that great footballers make great targets for super-agents who want to make their percentage, for wannabe WAGS with eyes on the dream ticket these players represent, for clubs who require their pound of flesh. Football is as much about milking the cash cows as it is about sport. If not more.
The trouble is that top-flight footballers are getting too much cash, and too little of actual value to help them live with the amounts of money being thrown at them. Clubs and agents smile grimly when something goes wrong, say that lads will be lads and move on to the next golden egg-laying goose who can kick a ball. They rarely stop to consider encouraging an education for their ball-kicking prodigies, or taking the time to instill a code of reasonable conduct in them, or helping them consider investment policies that go beyond the purely selfish. Usually, they just use money and muscle to try and silence the media when things go wrong.
People like John Terry, Wayne Rooney et al are ordinary boys taken from ordinary lives and thrust into an overpaid, over-privileged world where the sky appears to be the limit. They are given no chance to acclimatize but are nonetheless expected to behave as if they’d been raised to virtue by kindly nuns. Who loses out when they can’t do that?
Should footballers be held up as great examples of sportsmanship? There’s no such thing as a true footballing Corinthian anymore – money has seen to that. Thinking that these values can exist in the modern sports arena is ludicrous – modern athletes are part and parcel of the quest to find that dark foreboding pit that is the seventh circle of Celebrity Hell. This type of human being is not at their best off the field, surrounded by super-agents, super-wages and access to super-injunctions when things go wrong.
All Terry can do is to try and communicate contrition, communicate a human side and demonstrate that, over time, he will change – and mean it! What will he learn if he is pursued into quitting by a vengeful media just for the sake of a story? Not much, I’d suggest; the only dignity left in football is in the game itself. Football is barely capable of losing more than it already has.
At the moment, the only winners are the men in charge of the money. The best PR they could get would be from putting in more than they take out of the sport – and I don’t just mean financially.