A full inquiry into "football's finger yobs" - the so-called shame of Sheffield
It was almost beyond parody. Almost. The Sun’s shocking revelation that a couple of supporters at the recent Sheffield derby stuck two fingers up at opposition fans – entitled, lest we forget, “What hope is there for football?” is, however, worth a small investigation.
Those who believe we shouldn’t expect any better from The Sun and that anything published in it is beyond contempt have a strong argument, but if we are taught to fight fire with fire then maybe we should also fight pointless, ludicrous drivel with pointless, ludicrous drivel. So let’s delve into the murky waters of The Sun’s opinion on flicking the V’s and try to work out how consistent the publication is with regard to this “vile gesture” (their words…)
First up, we have Vince Cable announcing in April this year that he had “no intention of quitting the cabinet”. According to The Sun, this meant he “stuck two fingers up to David Cameron”. A spot of artistic licence, perhaps, but we’ll let them off here.
Next it’s your friend and mine, Alex Ferguson. Lovable old Fergie ignored a charge of something-or-other and The Sun again chose to interpret that as sticking two fingers up, this time at “FA bosses”.
Lots of vile gestures going on here, aren’t there?
Back we go to November 2009 and Louis Walsh’s two-fingered salute on X Factor (no, me neither). We even had a video of this transgression, but the boot didn’t seem to go quite as firmly in on Walsh as it did on Sheffield’s “football yobs”. We had to make do with a brief reference to viewers being “disgusted” with the action.
So who aren’t allowed to carry out two-fingered gestures? Well, this “serial yob” isn’t allowed, nor is this “lout” and neither, metaphorically, are “thugs”. Camp comedian Alan Carr, however, seems to get away with it without being labelled a thug, a yob or a lout.
To complicate matters further, whole islands are permitted to stick two fingers up as long as it’s against recession.
But John Prescott, The Sun’s readers declare, is not awarded the privilege. He should have resigned.
I know what you’re thinking. Where does Danny Dyer fit into the spectrum of right and wrong? Well, he doesn’t get off scot-free but he isn’t exactly labelled a yob or a thug either. He manages to come away with the tags “lairy” and “a little rowdy”.
Of course, a “vile gesture” isn’t a “vile gesture” when it’s used in the correct fashion – for example, a rather large front-page image of said gesture intended for the President of the European Commission. It’s also okay to project a gigantic image of the Prime Minister mocked up as a previous Prime Minister sticking two fingers up onto the side of Big Ben to symbolise a perceived attitude towards democracy.
Also fine are unborn babies (“could be a real wild child” or, bizarrely, showing similar traits to Churchill) and, of course, “our boys” – it goes without saying but Neil, 47, said it anyway: “We are Afghanistan’s first ice cream men, sticking up two fingers to the Taliban”. Of course you are, Neil.
So what hope is there for football?
Well, one hope is that the likes of Kelvin MacKenzie are eliminated from the national media and consigned to the scrapheap where they belong. Another might be that football supporters are not treated by The Sun as second-class citizens over the most trivial matters. Comparing a couple of V-signs to the subject matter that Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp recently discussed – in the case of the former, Hillsborough and Munich – doesn’t seem particularly clever. Thankfully, The Sun wasn’t around when the Munich disaster happened but we all know what stance it took with regard to Hillsborough.
Let’s have less of the moralising and more of the apologising.