For the first time in our memory, Brentford football club has made a club statement which not only wholeheartedly condemned openly racist behaviour associated with the club but actively asked members of the public to ‘shop’ the perpetrator with a view to banning them from the club for life.
This may not seem like a remarkable moment in history to most. Maybe not. But what it does mark is a sea change in the attitude and priorities of the club as just four or five years ago this might not have happened. For economics sake – with fans rattling buckets outside Griffin Park – it would probably have been better for the club to turn a blind eye. Taking our moral head off and putting our business head on we can totally understand why this might happen at any struggling football club. Ignorance is bliss.
With the club now on a much better financial footing, Brentford FC are now able to make decisions based on where they see the club going in the long term as opposed to scrabbling for survival from day to day and the recent statement was quite possibly less about catching the actual perpetrator and more of an indication that Brentford FC are not interested in taking money from customers who openly express racist views either in or associated with the football club.
Many people have asked us to explain how this whole situation blew up from banter on a twitterline to headline news on the BBC website. During the Scunthorpe game on Saturday 13th Oct we were manning the Beesotted twitter account (@beesotted) trying to keep the world up to speed with the latest developments at Glandford Park. One tweeter @johnjo46 was off on one of his usual Saturday afternoon tweet rants. He would often switch between abusing Uwe to Paul Hayes to Clayton Donaldson then back again. Freedom of speech and all that, most people would just leave him to rant by himself. However, in the 2nd half of the game things took a bit of a turn. Johnjo46 had switched his rant to Donaldson who had earlier missed a penalty.
‘If only you clinton had made that challenge last week and not Farid #ifcarlsbergdidfootball ‘
referring to Farid Al Agaui’s challenge on the keeper the previous week which saw him stretchered off and out of action to months .. except he called Clayton ‘Clinton’ by mistake. Beesotted then questioned him ‘Clinton?’ (Which in effect was more of a ‘call yourself a real fan … don’t know the players names and wish your top scorer a long term injury’ in one word) … whereas his prompt reply was …
“Clinton Clayton C*nt Co*n take ur pick.”
Beesotted then retweeted his reply to its 1k followers replying how pathetic the racial comment was and then suggesting that with his antiquated views, he must come to games by horse and cart. At that stage Beesotted’s twitter timeline exploded with angry Brentford fans incensed at what they had seen. Johnjo46 by this stage had realised he had caused an outrage and apologised profusely professing ‘I love Brentford and everyone associated this is a sick prank’ and claiming he was hacked. Anyone seeing his timeline over the weeks will find that hard to believe as his criticism often blows over into unbridled near-violent hatred for a number of people at the club.
An hour or so later the word had got out to the players on the coach home and Paul Hayes and Leon Legge posted asking fans to clarify the rumour they heard .. that Clayton had been racially abused on twitter. A number of fans relayed the events of the afternoon back to the players and Paul Hayes replied to Beesotted ‘It’s the lowest of the lows! No need at all. The lads are disgusted by it.’
A few hours later Brentford issued their statement and the story made huge impact including BBC news and Sky Sports news.
The interesting thing about this whole affair is the debate it’s now generated:
By Brentford threatening to ban something he or she says on twitter does this impact upon their right to free speech? Is it political correctness gone mad? Why are we concentrating on persecuting some trumped up idiot for this when people have been seen in the news to publically abuse our soldiers and society and get away scot free? Is it hypocritical that footballers get away with it but the fans get persecuted? Will banning him actually help the issue or individuals in any way? Why a life ban for one post whilst Noades tried to kill the club but continues to be invited?
Whether some or all of the above arguments are valid or not is totally irrelevant and we won’t even drawn into arguing for or against any of them as that’s not the issue here. The issue is simple. We have a situation where an incident has sparked a reaction and as a result the club has put out a strong message. First of all, racist abuse is an offence punishable by law and anyone who decides to publically air their views via social media might do well to seek the advice of a lawyer first.
Secondly, reading between the lines, it could be said that the club is making an even stronger message – ‘If you display openly racist behaviour in or around the football club then we don’t want your money. We prefer to keep on-side the majority of our fans who are totally against this type of activity. And if you don’t like it, you don’t have to come’. Think of it as a west end night club with a ‘no jeans’ dress policy. Some people may not like it. But if they don’t, they don’t have to enter.
And who knows, maybe such an openly no holes barred statement may attract more fans to Griffin Park who may still feel intimidated by the thought of going to live football (love it or hate it’s a fact that there are plenty of people with a football fear) and this is the thing that may tip it for them in Brentford’s favour. Having signed up to the Kick it Out campaign and also having an excellent community scheme, Brentford needs to tie these values into a message about what the club is all about as a unit as opposed to loads of different factions. The one thing we will comment on is that Brentford made commendable swift action when one of their players was unacceptably racially abused. If they want to maintain a strong no-tolerance anti-racism message, it will be good to know that they will also deal with any rare racist incidents if they were to ever occur on the terraces equally as efficiently. Giving the offence a similar high profile would really help drive the message home.
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