I thought I should explain why I brought Alan Davies’ recent controversial comments to the attention of the Twittersphere and – in turn – our esteemed members of the media.
I also thought it worthwhile to answer some of the critics of my article, which has been followed up by the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, and the Mirror among others (although none of them were good enough to mention where they read it first).
Firstly I should stress that I have no personal grudge against Mr Davies. I -- like many bored late-night channel surfers -- have watched him play the role of the dim-but-amusing jester in QI on Dave. He seems the personification of affable. I haven’t watched Jonathan Creek yet but I’m sure I will one day. Actually I won’t but the point is I don’t have a problem with him. Indeed, the reason I downloaded his podcast was because I’m a football fan and thought it would be funny and a good listen – reviews suggested as much.
However, when he started sounding off about Liverpool refusing to play on the anniversary of Hillsborough I was genuinely taken aback. Let me be clear though: I was shocked not by the fact he honestly believes Liverpool should be willing to play on April 15th -- but by the manner in which he made his argument.
Some critics have claimed I used selective quotes and failed to point out that Davies realised the profound horror of Hillsborough. During the podcast he said: “Hillsborough is the most awful thing that’s happened in my life in terms of football -- one of the worst tragedies in English peacetime history.” But he only said this after more coaxing from co-host Ian Stone who said they shouldn’t “slag off” Liverpool’s decision to refrain from competing on April 15th. Of course Hillsborough was awful and a tragedy of historic proportions. The fact Davies said this did not erase the impact of his earlier insensitive rant.
Other critics have slated the way I wrote my piece. Fair do’s. I’m a journalist. I deliberately wrote the piece in a tabloid style to ensure it got traction and was noticed. If I’d written a dry article in the style of the FT this wouldn’t be being talked about and I wanted it to be.
Some people have said Davies’ “vermin” remarks were innocently made. Let be crystal clear: my article does not accuse Davies of racism and anyone who thinks otherwise is not reading what I have written. I accuse him of “breathtaking insensitivity”. Using the word “vermin” as a pejorative term is deeply unpleasant under any circumstances. When used against people associated with a football club like Tottenham, with its close ties to the Jewish community, the term takes on sinister undertones – whether these are intended or not. Even accepting that the last thing on Davies’ mind was that his words might have such an unholy resonance, he was naïve to say the least not to recognise this risk. A simple Google search will illuminate him – and others – of the clear association the word “vermin” has with the worst chapter in modern human history. Click here for an example.
To sum up, I wrote the piece I did because Alan Davies was – as a Gooner such as he might put it – “bang out of order”. He made his comments in a public space and my article ensured he would be judged on them in that arena. You live by the sword…
In a wider context I have a broader concern about football, a sport I love. Much of the discourse surrounding the game and at football matches is boorish, sexist, homophobic and – in some cases – racist. Deeply offensive songs and chants are regarded as “banter” and bad language is everywhere.
The game itself is being bought up by dubious characters from overseas bringing obscene reserves of money we can only hope they have honestly earned. The common man pays through the nose to see multi-millionaire mercenaries who switch clubs faster that Tiger Woods if more money is offered by another team, even an arch rival.
The relationship between fan and club has, in many cases, become an abusive one. The club exploits the fan, takes their money, pays no heed to their views and betrays them without a moment’s hesitation if it brings in more filthy lucre.
If Alan Davies has some outspoken comments to make he should aim his ire at the people who are turning football into a soulless franchise operation rather than make lazy and ill-thought out remarks that serve only to wound people who are already in pain.
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