For those who love the sport, football is an escape from reality; a chance to put real life on hold and get lost in the game. My dad went with his dad to local matches during his childhood, and me and my siblings now do the same with him. It quickly became a family tradition. However, of late, the popular sport is attracting the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Recently, the Raith Rovers of Kirkcaldy found themselves embroiled in scandal after they signed “proven goalscorer” David Goodwillie to play for their team. Unfortunately, Goodwillie is also a court-ruled rapist. Although not convicted in a criminal trial, he lost a civil case after his victim sought compensation.
There was a swift reaction of rage, most notably from celebrated, best-selling author Val McDermid, who ended her lifelong support and sponsorship of the club. In a tweet, she called the move “disgusting and despicable” continuing that she will be “tearing up [her] season ticket.”
I’m with Val – signing David Goodwillie in the first place was equivalent to saying, “rape is okay, as long as you’ve got some great talent to fall back on.” You’ve got to wonder who is making the signing decisions. It is a shocking image to project; bound to deeply upset committed fans and followers of the club such as McDermid.
Raith Rovers management have now rescinded their decision, stating that, “following a meeting of the board, [Goodwillie] will not be selected by Raith Rovers”. Despite this outrage-provoked backtrack, the damage has already been done – Raith Rovers have shown the public that talent trumps character, even in the case of a court-ruled rapist.
This is most evident in the club’s decision to drop Goodwillie based on the backlash, not his rape and character.
Where is cancel culture when you need it? For all its faults, it does ensure that individuals such as Goodwillie cannot retain their aura of invincibility. The lack of accountability falling upon Goodwillie is a stark reminder that many elite sportsmen believe they are untouchable.
You don’t need to look very far to find more examples. Recently, Mason Greenwood of Manchester United has been arrested on suspicion of assault, sexual assault and making threats to kill. Although dropped by Nike, he remains at Manchester United, albeit suspended indefinitely.
It is so disappointing to see the lack of morality in the hierarchy of football clubs. This is not the game that children should be growing up with – we cannot lose sight of how important the sport is to families and individuals. It creates a sense of community and belonging, and should not be tainted by the despicable actions of some of its players.
It is unacceptable to tolerate players who commit rape, assault or any crime, as these players form the sporting idols of so many. It is impossible to support any team that disregards these acts for the sake of talent.
I applaud Val McDermid for her swift response to Raith Rovers’ signing of Goodwillie – it is an example to be followed if we want to preserve the blissful escape of sport. If clubs continue to sign rapists and preserve the careers of those who commit crimes, I can’t see the popularity of football enduring for much longer.
Image courtesy of Colin Pyle