The Absolute Right To Privacy

The discussion around super injunctions provides the tabloids with an easy ‘get out’ argument. The debate about whether the super-rich should use their money to gain privacy that a mere mortal on the average salary could not enjoy is clearly a valid one. It’s easy to bash the rich. In fact bashing successful people is practically a national sport in the UK. The debate though around the need for injunctions or super injunctions. I am not suggesting that the tabloids be given free rein to report whatever topic they see fit but rather that we re-examine the principle of privacy rather than public interest.
The Public Interest Justification is
 Overused to the detriment of privacy
(Image ©Sean MacEntee)

The public interest argument is one that is parroted all the time when the injunction issue is raised in public debate. Should a politician who is standing on a family friendly ticket be exposed for extra marital dalliances? That is probably a matter of public interest since it shows that he (sic) is not practicing what he is preaching. Even that of course doesn’t mean that their political statement is flawed but we will let that go. The problem is that having established that right to report on the MP, that right seems to then be transferred to any public figure. The same argument cannot be used to apply to a footballer or sportsman apart from in exceptional circumstances perhaps. Tiger Woods could be argued to have made money from sponsorship from his clean cut image for example. The real cases of public interest are few and far between though – not all politicians fall into this category, very few sportsman or celebrities do.

Even where there is public interest it does not give an excuse to report on anything else. Salacious kiss and tell stories do not address the public interest angle or at least only obliquely. Finding out that a politician wore his Chelsea shirt in bed adds nothing to any argument that we must know that a particular stated principle is being breached.
Which leads on to the privacy issue. These arguments all centre round affairs, sexual liasons etc. The real problem is much lower level than that. Through the years, the public have come to expect a public intrusion into celebrities lives. Public intrusion which, in any other walk of life would be a criminal matter. As a example, a photo appeared in one of tabloids last week of an Olympic rower changing after a race. The photo was professionally taken – not just snapped by a passer-by so clearly the photographer had been waiting for this opportunity. If someone stalked me or you in this manner, taking unauthorised candid pictures, is that not a matter for the local constabulary? And yet this event just passes by with a self depreciating comment by the celebrity on Twitter. 
We all have a right to privacy. As set out above, there are very few examples where that privacy should be breached as a matter of public interest. The need for injunctions, super or otherwise should therefore be slight. Unfortunately though, until  it is not seen as perfectly normal for photographers to creep around in bushes taking unauthorised pictures, the need for protection remains.

Sharing The Love of The Game

Have we forgotten the Love of the Game?
(Image © Richard Matthews Richard_Of_England)

I was recently lucky enough to take in a Chicago Cubs baseball game whilst on business in the US. The game was against their ‘local’ rivals St Louis Cardinals who hail from just down the road (by American standards anyway!). My evening started with an hour train ride into central Chicago which was an experience in itself. The carriage which rapidly filled up as we journeyed through the suburbs contained both Cardinals and Cubs fans and it was like being in a cosy village pub. Everyone chatting to each other (even the solo Englishman in the corner), passing around beer and some pretty knowledgeable light hearted banter between the two sets of fans. In the stadium I sat between a group of Cardinals fans and Cubs fans and the banter and chat continued. By the end of the night, fans were exchanging details and buying each other beer. The result – a uncharacteristic drubbing of the Cardinals – was passionately celebrated but didn’t get in the way of a great evening of social interaction. Don’t get me wrong, these were not part time fans. They loved their clubs, the support had  in some cases been passed down from generation to generation as it is in football. Often, they were more knowledgeable in the history, stats, strengths and weaknesses of their players than the average football fan is here. Yes, they definitely love their team. What also struck me though was that they loved Baseball.

It put me in mind of a conversation I had at work last season with  a Chelsea season ticket holder. This is an intelligent man, a man significantly higher up the food chain than the average mortal. He was talking about his disbelief that an opposition fan was sitting next to him during a game. He was angry, no furious even, that this had been allowed to happen.  It had all started, he said, when the guy next to him had the cheek to stand and applaud his team as they were announced. You can imagine how that made him feel he said. It got worse. On the first attack of the game, he shouted the strikers name and issued the standard oooooohhh as the ball was blazed wide. Luckily, said my subject, at that point someone behind him told the alien fan to “shut the f*** up!” and he retook his seat. Unfortunately, when the opposition scored, the fan was unable to contain his excitement and leaped in the air. A stand up confrontation, started (with full admission) by my work colleague led to a steward being summonsed and the fan was ejected. “It was a good job ‘cos I was ready to hit him. Could I believe that this has happened?” I was asked.

I’m afraid I cannot get my head around this sort of manic tribalism. I understand the passion of the football fan. I understand that the majority pick (or are handed down) the support of one club and embrace that for life. What I don’t understand is how two grown adults, intelligent grown adults, cannot sit next to each other and accept that the passion they hold for their team might not be the same as their neighbor. I find it incredible that two people who in theory should have the passionate support of football in common cannot get past the sole focus on their own club. 

I generally sit in the area of the ground where the contents of my sandwich are inspected rather than my ticket and the fans are slightly more mixed. I admit to a thrill when I see opposition supporters sitting around me. It generally means an afternoon of banter, of background and assessment of both teams with the rivalry between the two teams thrown in for good measure.

The occasional event to a certain extent restores my faith in human nature. I noted that in both the Forest and MK Dons playoff finals that, with very few exceptions, the invading and celebrating fans of the opposition teams consoled the defeated players rather than taunted them. The community on Twitter that on the whole  engages in lighthearted and well informed banter makes me see light at the end of the tunnel. It makes me think back to Chicago and reminds me that we do share a love. Not of individual teams but of football itself. 

It’s Not About The Money…

Where the streets are paved wIth gold
(Image © Tophee)

Karl Robinson has had a promising first season with MK Dons. In a season of cost cutting, to reach the playoffs and allow us another glimpse of the promised land was a great achievement. I have to acknowledge that I was firmly against the appointment when it was originally announced. Even though the end result was the same (with a knockout in the play off semi final) the season of 2009/10 was a massive disappointment. A negative style of football led to the club ending bottom of the fair play table by some 48 points (more than half again as the club above!). This from a club that has built a reputation as a family friendly club and which depends on that reputation to attract new supporters. The loss of Paul Ince who had seemed distant and tactically inept was no great surprise but I wasn’t alone in thinking that we needed a clear out of the management team rather than to promote from within.

Robinson though has been a breath of fresh air. His man management skills are self-evident. He and his management team look cohesive and passionate. The players clearly enjoy playing for him and have found the desire that was missing for much of the previous season. His skill in getting the fans onside so quickly was enviable – his trademark final wave to the supporters (win or lose)  is a small gesture but a powerful one and unifies the fans behind the team. Above all though, he has reverted to the football style that we had become accustomed to at the club, keeping the ball at all costs with fluid passing forward and back.

The problem now is one that affects many lower league clubs. One good season and the premier league clubs come sniffing around.  It happened with Ince the first time round and he was lured to Blackburn far too quickly, relatively unproven and untested. The result, sacking from Blackburn, a poor return to the Dons and following his sacking by Notts County this season I would expect a career in the media is the best case scenario.

My point is that Robinson will get offers and offers that will be financially very attractive. He is young, clearly builds relationships fast and already has a solid reputation. My hope is that he will stay another year  (two would be hoping too much). With two years’ experience, he can probably afford to take the premiership job, fail once and still have another chance.  If he goes now and fails, suddenly the year with the MK Dons will seem very short lived.

I’m Not A Real Football Fan

Every time I sit down to watch an MK Dons game, Twitter on my iPhone and Bovril on the wall in front of me, I am confronted on said Twitter by a repeated question. This often takes the form of “Franchise Wa***rs, not real football fans, wonder who they supported before?”

Now I know I should turn the other cheek. It’s easy sport for op

Loyalty to Football Or The Club
(Image © 
Mariusz Cieszewski: PolandMFA)

position fans. I’m not sure I wholy agree with the Wimbledon / Dons transition either (although it’s certainly not as black and white as many make it). It’s not the franchise bit that gets me. It’s the inference that because the ‘accuser’ has only ever supported one club, has followed them home and away, sleet and snow, promotion and relegation etc they are real football fans whilst the rest of us aren’t.

My guess is that MK Dons draw from a diverse range of  football fans. I know many dads who have given up lifelong season tickets at Arsenal, Chelski and Spurs because of two reasons. Firstly, The MK Dons invest a lot into local schools, the kids see them and ultimately drag dad (and mum) along. Before long, the season ticket has gone and the Dons have become the norm. Secondly, the reality of life kicks in. Following your team home and away was great whilst single, childless and without  job comitments. However, time moves on and the difference between leaving at 2:30 and back at 5:30 for a game locally to a full saturday out becomes marked. Suddenly family life is part of the individuals time equation.  I guarantee in the mind of the ‘ Twitter Accusers’ that this in itself means you are not a ‘real football fan’.

Then there’s the other category (which I fall into). And I fully admit, many of my mates just don’t get this! I have always supported my local club. I’ve had season tickets at York City, Hull City, Nottingham Forest, Swindon Town, Rushden & Diamonds and MK Dons. Many of those I have followed passionately – home and away, through relegation and promotion, sleet and snow etc. Guessing though that again, because I have not followed one club from cradle to grave I am not a ‘real football fan’.

In addition to that, particularly in my younger days, I would watch several teams in one week. So I might do York City on a Saturday, Leeds on a Monday, Scarborough Tuesday and Harrogate Town on a Wednesday. In short I couldn’t get enough of live football at whatever level. I’ve watched football on holiday, created holidays so I can watch football even.  Many of those games I would be impartial but others I would take sides. Again, the ‘Twitter Accuser’ indicates that this short term loyalty it means I’m not a ‘real football fan’.

In summary, I’ve probably seen more sides, more grounds and watched football at more grounds than many of the fans that fervantly follow one club. My lack of loyalty means I can often comment more objectively on a football match that I watch.

But hey what do I know? Right now, and because of my family growing up with them, probably forever, I am an MK Dons fan and therefore I know nothing: I am not a ‘real football fan’.

Family Focussed Red Cards

A letter to the MKDons Chairman (No reply received)

Dear Mr. Winkleman,

I am a season ticket holder and have been at the majority of games since the move to Milton Keynes. For the last two years I have taken my son (now aged 7) with me to all of the games. One of the things that really impresses me about the club is the family friendly environment that you have created. Unlike many of my friends, I have renewed my season ticket for next year.

I attended the Dons game on Saturday as part of an organised day out by Tattenhoe Youth FC (whose views my letter does not represent). Amongst other things the club was able to use the opportunity to collect their Charter Status award. I gather that one of the cornerstones of that award is creating a club were respect to the referee, to opposition players and coaching staff is key.

With that in mind, I’m sure you have shared my frustration over the past season to see a family friendly club receive so many yellow and red cards. For three games this season I actually stopped attending, not because of results, but because I was so embarrassed at repeatedly having to explain to my son that he should not repeat what he was seeing on the pitch in terms of the constant backchat to referee. This particularly evident from your captain and centre forward but others as well. According to ‘’, we are at the bottom of the fairplay table by some 48 points (more than half again as the club above us!)

To cap it all, on Saturday, one of your senior players was sent off for fighting after the half-time whistle. As if that is not enough, I look at the reaction of the caretaker manager on the sports websites today who states that he was “pleased with the Dons’ attitude”. Perhaps you could let me know how he can justify that comment to the 70 or so children that were with us on Saturday – I’m certainly struggling to do so.

Yours etc..