Rainbow Laces and Homophobia in Football

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After the success of last year’s Stonewall Rainbow Laces campaign, I took a bit of a step back from this year’s activity so that it became less about one person’s involvement and more about football’s commitment as an industry. It was great to see so many clubs and so many players get involved, and I think that’s made it more impactful, and helped us reach more people. It shows that football cares about its supporters and key issues in society, we’ve helped to shine a light on something that affects huge numbers of fans around the world.

Increased involvement in the Premier League

I’m really proud of what QPR did with last season’s campaign, but the majority of Premier League clubs were slow to get involved. This year though, many more Premier League clubs have supported the campaign, and Arsenal have been leading the charge. They worked with Stonewall to create a pretty funny promotional film, and they somehow managed to get Samuel L Jackson, Eve and Lewis Hamilton to turn up for a bit of publicity.

LGBT Supporters’ Groups and Teams

Arsenal have also led the way in helping to celebrate the diversity of their fans by setting up The Gay Gooners – their official LGBT supporters group. It’s been around for just over a year and they were the first club to have an official presence at London’s annual Gay Pride parade. Arsenal staff also got involved in a game against Stonewall FC, one of an increasing number of gay and gay-friendly clubs participating in the London leagues. West Ham have also just set up a similar group, and the number of gay-friendly teams and leagues across the UK is on the rise too. Thanks in no small part to the work of the Gay Football Supporters’ Network.

A gay spokesman for the campaign

We all know that openly gay footballers are about as rare as hen’s teeth, so it was good to see one of the only high profile players to have come out publicly getting involved in the campaign. Thomas Hitzlesperger did a great job as a spokesman: doing the rounds with all the newspapers and media outlets, and giving the campaign the added relevance and integrity that a straight player could never have done. It’s worth stating though that he had to wait until he was retired before he came out, and the only active player I can think of to have come out was Robbie Rogers – who then promptly retired. So while there are big positives to be taken from the success of the campaign and the fact that players from the Arsenal first team all the way down to hungover lads playing Sunday League are supporting the campaign, and that people in the stands are debating the issue, there is still a lot to do. Some of the comments on this blog I wrote a while back prove that!

Casual homophobia on the terraces

Over the years a lot of work has been done within the game to get rid of racism, and we’ve made great strides. 30 years ago racial abuse from the terraces happened every week, but now you can’t imagine anyone using the n-word, chucking bananas on the pitch or making monkey chants at a ground in this country. Not even at Millwall! That sort of behaviour is just no longer accepted by the authorities, and most importantly, it’s not accepted by the fans. But casual verbal homophobia is still rife in the stands. Pull out of a tackle and you’re a ‘poof’. Overplay an injury and you’re told to stop ‘acting like a fucking queer’. And I’ll be honest: it isn’t just the fans. Players use the same type of language on the pitch and on the training ground. It’s this off-the-cuff linguistic intolerance and thoughtlessness that makes the football industry in general, and football stadiums specifically, so intimidating for LGBT fans. I can’t imagine a gay couple feeling so comfortable at the acceptance of the football community that they’d be happy to wander down Wembley Way hand in hand, can you?

Stonewall Fans Survey

A few years back Stonewall conducted a fan survey that looked at anti-gay abuse and the game’s failure to tackle it. It came back with some interesting findings:

• Three in five lesbian, gay or bi-sexual fans think football is anti-gay
• 63% of fans think that fear of homophobic abuse from the stands is part of the reason that there are no openly gay players in English football
• 70% of fans have heard anti-gay abuse on the terraces in the last five years
• 49% of lesbian, bi-sexual and gay fans would be more likely to attend matches if their club tackled anti-gay abuse

It’s certainly a big issue, and something that needs to be tackled in the game. As always I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this, so leave a comment below if you’ve got something to say and vote on the poll too. And if you fancy being part of the solution, you can download the Kick It Out app.

 

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Competition: Win a pair of Nike Tiempo Legend’s!

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With the international break in full swing and pretty much every England fan bored to tears, I’m sure you’re gonna miss the Premier League just as much as I am. So I’m giving away a brand new pair of Nike Tiempo Legend’s to give you all few moments of vaguely football-related entertainment over the weekend.

All you have to do is ‘Like’ my Facebook page (if you haven’t already) and tell me your size in the window below by Tuesday 11:59pm. If you’re using a mobile, just click Enter Competition.

PS – I won’t be accepting entries within the comments box so ensure you submit your size and Facebook ‘Like’ my page via the embedded window.

Win of pair of Nike Tiempo Legend’s!

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Suarez, scandal, and serving time

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Italy v Uruguay - FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 - Group D

The superior light held up against Luis Suarez flickered unsavourily yet again last night. He’s a fantastic footballer and certainly up there with the best of them. But despite his talent, and the fact he’s a player that most others could only dream of playing with, there’s no defending his actions last night. You can’t go around biting people, and you definitely shouldn’t make a habit of it.

Winning mentality

But what I would say is this: what Suarez lacks in decorum/self-control he makes up for with passion. Players who are desperate to win will use whatever means possible to get one over on their opponents, and it doesn’t always come from the most rational of places. I should know; I’ve been in that position a few times and each time I’ve felt the full force of the law, and rightly so.

As a previous connoisseur of the dark arts of madness, I can understand where Suarez is coming from, so I’m a bit more sympathetic to his cause than most. Personally, I don’t think his actions should merit a lengthy international ban, but it’s looking like he’s going to receive just that. Although FIFA aren’t under any obligation to consider Suarez’s record it’s quite possible that they will, and what with last night’s incident playing out on football’s centre-stage, a slap on the wrists and a ten-match ban probably won’t be enough to satisfy the critics. I’m guessing he might get two years for what he did to Chiellini, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Stricter punishment?

All of this begs the questions: how does Suarez’s latest incident differ from other forms of assault that go on both on and off the pitch? Cantona was sentenced to two weeks in prison (later reduced to 120 hours of community service) after kung-fu kicking a Palace supporter. Duncan Ferguson got two weeks in prison for head-butting an opponent in ’95, and I got given a six-month ban and a stint in Strangeways after that regrettable incident in Liverpool city centre. So I guess the question I’m asking is: where do you draw the line, and what’s the fairest way of punishing footballers on and off the pitch?

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Social media, protest and the pacification of the favelas

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Screen-Shot-2014-06-13-at-15.57.00

I really enjoyed reporting for Eurosport in Rio last week, but there was no getting away from the feeling that the national spirit is divided over there. While all of the Brazilians I spoke to said they wanted Brazil to win the World Cup, the huge sums of money spent on stadiums, the constant allegations of FIFA corruption, and the almost paramilitary way the government’s gone about pacifying the favelas has led to protests organised and publicised through social media. In fact, as I was sat on my balcony looking out over the Copacabana after the Brazil Croatia game the other night (it’s a hard life eh?) I saw a protest happening on the beach right in front of me with loads of police cars and crowds chanting ‘FIFA go home’.

Social protests

What with social media being so prominent in these protests, it was interesting to learn that free wifi had been a big part of Rio’s ‘pacification’ operation.  As well as trying to wipe out organised crime, the government promised to improve everyday living conditions for people living in the favelas by providing them with free wireless internet.  Santa Marta was the first to get it, and since then it’s been extended as far as Pavão-Pavãozinho, Cidade de Deus and the once notorious Rocinha, which is right behind the England team’s hotel.  Now something like nine out of 10 residents have a smartphone, social media has become a big part of people’s lives, and it’s been instrumental in the anti-government, anti-World Cup and anti-FIFA protests. In fact over the last couple of years, Brazil has become the second most-represented nation on Facebook after the USA. Amazing when you think that a third of the population survive on around $1 a day, just half of the national minimum wage in Brazil.

Social abuses

There have been quite a few articles in the British press about the way social media’s been used and abused in the favelas. I’ve read a couple of them and some of them are hilarious: previously ‘anonymous’ gang leaders getting caught because they’ve put their real name and contact details on their Facebook profile, or police suspects ruining their alibis by posting photos of themselves at crime scenes with gold-plated guns and newly-acquired wads of cash.

Social uses

But what I found really inspiring were the stories of people from the favelas using social media to give their community a voice that they would never be given by the mainstream media. With all the tension caused by pacification, the internet has become the only outlet for the people of Rio to tell the world what’s really going on. Although there have obviously been some positive results from the government’s pacification initiative, it’s had a lot of problems too. And the government has been keen to keep these problems quiet with the whole world’s media watching.

Giving people a voice

If you have a quick Google you’ll find stories about local journalists being threatened by police, peaceful protests organised by young kids being spun as the work of drug traffickers, and media cover-ups over innocents killed in military raids. So people have started fighting back to get their voices heard on social media.  Most of the favelas now have their own Facebook pages which they use to report on the kind of things the government would rather keep secret, like police brutality and the attempts to suppress local journalists. Then there are the online newspapers like Voz das Comunidades, started by a young lad called Rene Silva on a borrowed laptop in his grandparents’ kitchen. It was a brave move by Silva but it’s definitely paid off – since the favelas got online it’s gone from a three to a 30-man operation, and it’s done such a good job at representing the people that Silva’s become a local hero and national celebrity.

‘I think all these advances in internet technology have made free speech more democratic,’ Silva’s said. ‘We don’t depend on the big media outlets anymore in order to know what is happening in the world.’

For me, the way that people have documented pacification and real life in the favelas shows just how powerful social media can be: it can give people a voice, enable them to come together and share news as a community, and most importantly, it can give them a means to take action on their own terms.

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A few thoughts on last night’s Question Time…

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There was a fair bit of coverage in the run up to my appearance on last night’s Question Time wasn’t there?  Me and Piers Morgan having a bit of banter with each other on Twitter was a big cause of that, but I think another part of it was because there was someone on the panel from a non party political background. Someone without a PR script to follow. Someone who would just say what they actually think. Obviously, that comes with some pitfalls. I’m not a trained public speaker, and if I’m honest I was more nervous in the minutes before my appearance last night than I was standing in the tunnel at Wembley for the play-off final. So here are three of points of clarification…

Four ugly girls

Louise-Bours

 

Those ‘pre-match nerves’ probably account for me getting off to a jittery start, and making that comment about four ugly girls. I’ve apologised for that and people have said what they’ve got to say.

What I was trying to get at was that if the voting public are given a choice of four unappealing possibilities, there is no great victory in being the least unappealing. That is what UKIP are to me. And I see the large share of the votes they received in the European elections was just an attempt by British voters to get those unappealing possibilities to tidy themselves up a little bit. After all only 1 in 10 voted for UKIP. Not as overwhelming as everyone’s claiming.

The Chilcot Inquiry

 

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Tricky one this, and for me it has echoes of the Hillsborough enquiry, but if two world leader’s are going to negotiate the terms for sending British people to their deaths on foreign shores, those conversations should be made available for scrutiny. If we are going to do justice to the dead and the families of the dead, we must have full disclosure – giving us ‘the gist’ isn’t enough.

Piers Morgan is alright

 

Piers-Morgan

Had a good time with him over dinner. Actually agreed on a fair few things. #tallyho

You can see the whole thing here…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b045gbld/question-time-29052014

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Is it time that football fans were heard?

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Scorem.co.uk

I’ve read many articles, heard many ex-servants and engaged with plenty of footy-lovers that suggest, “football has changed”. Whether it’s bemoaning the business of football, or tickets, the influx of foreign players or the demise of Team England, you bet it, I’ve heard it. And the fact of the matter is, they’re right.

Look at what’s changed in the past 10 years, never mind 20!:

  • Man City finished 16th 03-04 season
  • The Championship, as we now know it, had only just began
  • Average annual Premier League wage in 2004 = £650,000, 2013 = £1.5m
  • Arsenal’s most expensive season ticket 2004 = £1,300, 2013 = £1,995

Plenty of positives

I don’t really see this as a negative though, change is inevitable and if anything, it’s certainly made the Premier League more exciting as a result – just consider the current title race. However, what I do see as negative is when people don’t make themselves heard, to get off the fence and have an opinion. So this got me thinking; why isn’t there a platform for football fan opinion? These thoughts surfaced sometime last year and as result, Scorem.co.uk was born.

I teamed up with friends and First 10 Digital – we work together – and sat down to discuss how we could create a conversational platform to fill the void left by football’s rapid expansion. Scorem’s concept could-well have gotten lost amongst the vast offering of footy apps and statistical platforms currently available. But we stripped it right back and launched with one main focus: to offer real fans, instant opinion – it’s essentially a social network for footy fans. It’s unfortunate that fans have become secondary to the game as result of the vast sums injected. So with this in mind, our sole objective is to get your opinions on our beautiful game, and let you drive the discussions with your polls.

Get involved!

We’re keeping it simple, right now it’s A/V polling, a bit of fun. Make no mistake about it though, we’ve got some big ideas to give you all a voice about your team and the game in general.

You’ve probably seen me tweet polls over the past couple of weeks, it’s perfect for dividing opinion – as I’ve already found out! I’ll keep you posted with updates but for the time being, dive in there. All feedback’s appreciated (there’s a feedback button at the bottom), play nice though as it’s only the beta version at the mo.

Follow the simple registration instructions here if you haven’t signed up already – I’ll see you over there!

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Enivable courage: the NFL’s first gay footballer

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michael-sam

Those of you who followed my Rainbow Lace’s updates know homosexuality in football is an issue that needs addressing, immediately. So when Missouri’s top American football player, Michael Sam, came out as gay this week, I knew I’d feel strongly on the subject.

Narrow-minded

Sam’s news means he could be the first openly gay football player to play in the NFL. If they draft him. According to NFL’s executives and coaches, his coming-out was a “risky move” to make pre-draft, despite him being the third or fifth top pick for the league. An NFL player personnel assistant said “I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet…at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game…It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.” (According to Sports Illustrated)

Really? It wasn’t so long ago the same view would have been said about a black player wanting to play sports, and that’s all okay now, but being gay is not? And not only this, but being gay means you’re not a “real” man? It’s a worrying, narrowed view of looking at the development of sport today, and by the NFL’s reaction, this view is also harmful to sport players and its fans everywhere.

Familiar story

But the U.S is not alone in its accepting of homosexuality in sport. If you’ve read my blogs on the matter before, you’ll be all too aware of the both Justin Fashanu and Robbie Rogers’ worries regarding the acceptance of being gay within the game. Only these two players have come-out during their careers and to detrimental affect. It wasn’t until retirement that Thomas Hitzlsperger announced his sexuality – another poignant reminder of sexuality much closer to home

So it doesn’t surprise me that the NFL have reacted the way they have to Sam’s announcement, however it does surprise me knowing the type of players the sport industry, including its fans are willing to accept:

  • Cheating and performance drug users
  • Cheating partners and husbands
  • Aggressive players prone to getting arrested for being irrational
  • Players who take drugs, abuse alcohol…you name it!

But a gay player isn’t accepted? What has being homosexual got to do with how he performs? He’s still the best defensive college player of the last year, being gay doesn’t change that at all. Fans seem to be on the same standing and most are backing him 100% and that speaks volume – Sam’s will treasure this. Dale Hansen, a sportscaster from Texas, gives a great speech on the news and sport needs more people like this to stand up for gay rights.

Courageous

There are of course, viewpoints on a similar path to that of the NFL: that footy is a man’s-man game. I can see where the coaches are coming from, that the locker room is a sacred place easily upset, and an openly gay player may create that upset, but at the same time, that’s life – there’s a ton of stuff that could cause upset in that environment every week – I should know.

My fingers are crossed for Michael Sam, I think what he’s done takes serious guts, I love that he’s timed it before the draft, like he’s stood up and making a serious point. I hope we see a big NFL stand up alongside him and that this will make other homosexual players confident enough to come out in the future.

 

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Q & A session #3

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Joey Barton Q & A #3

Here’s the third – and what I believe to be the most insightful and relevant – version of the Q & A session to date. I delve deeper than ever before into the issues surrounding England future development, players’ wages and the benefits of playing abroad.

As ever with these Q & A blogs, I’d like to thank those for submitting the questions that made it possible, Carwyn, David, Adam and Geoffinho – thanks again.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the topics below, in particularly, those surrounding the state of our national team.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-z1c2KsVFI

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Censoring Twitter would completely contradict its cause

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After Stan Collymore deleted his Twitter account this week following a barrage of racist tweets in relation to Suarez’s ‘dive’ on Sunday, questions, again, begin to surface on whether or not the 140-character social platform should be censored?

The ex-Villa, Liverpool and Forest striker, has gone on record claiming Twitter is ‘not doing enough to combat racist/homophobic/sexist hate messages, all of which are illegal in the UK.’ I can share some sympathy for Collymore, because as you’re probably aware I’m no stranger to the ‘troll’, but for me, deleting the account isn’t the answer. Shouldn’t a troll victim, avoid responding and propelling the tweets further into the public sphere and instead shared privately with the police and Twitter – restricting the trolls from the nectar they sought – a reaction.  It depends if you feel like a victim, I suppose, but if you do then don’t encourage it!

Unfortunately for Collymore, the likelihood of bringing his attackers to justice was made more difficult by fuelling them further; I can however empathise with him. The media – in particular The Sun – was a catalyst for the abuse and I find it disgraceful. As Collymore rightly puts it before re-joining Twitter; “the ‘15-year-old story…had no relevance to being racially abused”. But the media will forever dish the dirt for their own benefit, selling the ‘stories’ matters more to them.

A sad case

Caroline Criado-Perez’s case provides further insight that Collymore may struggle to bring his alleged abusers to justice. Criado-Perez was threatened with rape and murder, after campaigning for Jane Austen to feature on the new £10 note. Despite months trying to get Twitter to close the accounts of her abusers, it was in fact a Newsnight producer who tracked down one of the accounts that led to charging just two of the 80 involved.

Many would argue there’s no place for these infectious comments, full stop. But inevitably a minority will stretch the boundaries of what’s ethical and socially acceptable for their own personal esteem. Social media contributors are encouraged to abide the rulebook. Or that’s what we’re made to believe. Because according to Twitter:

Direct, targeted abuse and specific threats of violence are against our rules…we also have a clear process for working with the police…our priority is that users are able to express themselves, within acceptable limits and, of course, within the law.

The conflict of censoring

Arguably, in both the cases I’ve discussed, Twitter hasn’t appeared too keen to assist the authorities. So what’s next, censorship? Never. If the likes of Twitter, Facebook and you could even argue the Government, began controlling what’s being said across social networks, you’re likely to run into a tirade of difficulties:

  • It contradicts freedom of speech worldwide. The countries that currently engage in censorship are precisely the ones that need it. This has never been more apparent than the Arab Spring that began in 2010
  • It sends views that certain messages are acceptable versus others – Twitter can be seen as bias towards particular views. This should be for its users to converse and argue against
  • It shows lack a of confidence towards Twitter’s open forum by protecting users from freedom of expression
  • It quashes healthy debate as it removes arguments based on Twitter’s recommendations and beliefs

You could make a case that Twitter is a business and not a government entity, and for that reason, can censor whatever it sees fit. Perhaps that’s true, but censoring Twitter would be like visiting McDonalds and having to choose between a lettuce leaf and a tomato – by banishing one of the key ingredient’s to Twitter’s success you’re effectively destroying what makes it so popular. Users will lose confidence in their ability to share unregulated comments and ultimately, take their conversations elsewhere.

Ignoring the haters

Twitter does implement takedown notices from Hollywood and the recording industry, in the United States. Obviously removing these tweets for infringing copyright isn’t the same as blacking out calls for government protest or upheaval, but it’s censorship nonetheless, albeit on a commercial level. Shouldn’t a similar logic apply to those abused victims on Twitter too? I think it depends on your perspective. I’ve already said that I don’t class myself a victim of trolls. As tweeted on Wednesday, I choose not to accept the derogatory comments and just put them down to a lack of intelligence on that person, it’s playground bo***cks. If an individual chooses to publically showcase their narrow-minded and shameful comments they are setting themselves up for humiliation, if anything. I find it slightly humorous. That said, I respect and appreciate some can, and do find it hugely offensive. We’re all different.

For me, it’s not worth getting too hung up on. As a public figure that divides opinion and whose past has been well documented, I’m inevitably going to attract unsavoury and often threatening comments and I wouldn’t want that to change. It’s a part of me.

Accepting it

You can’t pick and choose the advantages of Twitter, without accepting the negatives. This is life in and outside of social networks. Censoring Twitter would only benefit the few that take those comments to heart. My methods work for me, in my world.

Caroline Criado-Perez’s case is a particularly unsavoury one, but it doesn’t make me question Twitter’s open platform. We can’t face abusive and violent voices by simply shutting the curtains, knowing that they are still there. We need healthy and productive debate, to understand and plan for a future that brings on a wiser generation. Less hate and more debate!

Have you considered the likelihood of your tweets being censored? Would you continue to use Twitter? Let me now your thoughts below.

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Q & A session #2

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Joey Q & A #2

As promised, here’s the second instalment of the Q & A session filmed in December. In this edit, I discuss; player loyalty, my most memorable and difficult moments during my career and also the players I admired playing with the most.

Thanks again to Craig, Pigeon Milk, Luke Travers, James and N.McDonald for taking time to submit your questions and making the video possible. If your question hasn’t yet featured in either video, don’t fret, there’s a couple more coming over the next few weeks.

Let me hear your thoughts on the topics discussed, below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkACFU3JfTs

 

 

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Q & A session #1 – I answer your questions

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Joey Q & A 1

Here’s the latest instalment from the Q & A session conducted last month in which I answer your questions on my favourite three players of all time, alternative career paths and just how fit us footballers are.

A special thanks to Phil, Curtisdivers and Dean for submitting their questions. Keep an eye out for the next video coming soon.

As ever, don’t be shy and let me know your thoughts on the points discussed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SzD8FuYovM

 

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Q & A session: Your question submissions

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Joey barton Q & A

Over the next few months, I’m going to create a series of videos and blogs surrounding my life as a professional footballer. Not only do I hope to break the stereotypes association with footballers, I’ll be giving you guys the opportunity to get involved too.

Our professional lives are  documented more and more thanks to the likes of in-house media channels such as QPR TV and OM TV – who’ve really set the bar in terms of daily content about your club. Whilst these are great for gaining insights around the club, interviews and information leading up to games, there’s little content surrounding the individual players and I intend to gives you access to this.

I’m currently pulling together ideas on how to best document this, but before all that, I have a proposal for you. I want this content to be about your learning and understanding of us as professionals, so my first video will be a Q & A session in which I answer your questions. I’ll setup an interview and collect a series of your questions to help build a better understanding of being a footballer.

As the idea is still in its infancy I don’t have an exact date, but if you’d like to be considered please follow these instructions:

  • In the comment section below suggest a question you’d like to ask me regarding my life as a footballer. Please keep them clean!
  • State your name, location and age (not essential, but it’s nice to picture a person behind the question)
  • Keep checking back for details on the Q & A session

With your input, I hope we can compile a decent list of questions that’ll form the basis of the session. I’ll keep entries open until 14th October. Good luck.

 

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Rainbow Laces update

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joey rainbow

It’s been just under two weeks since the Rainbow Laces campaign began and what a fantastic response we’ve had.

I’ve been inundated with Tweets and images over the weekend ranging from professional players, managers, TV pundits and an overwhelming number of you lacing up and embracing the campaign across your respected Saturday and Sunday leagues.

A mixed bag

However, it’d be foolish of me to highlight only the positives. If you’ve been following the campaign, you’ll likely have ran into numerous media outlets suggesting the majority of Premier League clubs snubbed the idea. But whilst those clubs that turned a blind eye to the campaign, for fear of supporting a good-deed funded by a betting company, it’s worth asking the question: What actions have they taken to improve attitudes within the modern game?

The answer is not many.

Stonewall, the charity behind Rainbow Laces, along with Paddy Power, helped bring the campaign to life. Without the funding and presence of Paddy Power, the campaign would’ve had little ground to stand on. When asked if I’d be interested in sharing the Right Behind Gay Footballers message – which has caused a huge stir itself – it was a no-brainer. Sending out a few Tweets here and there was the least I could do to support the cause. So I was disappointed to hear that Everton was the only Premier League team supporting the campaign, although a few left the decision to players’, the bigger clubs showed little interest in tackling issue hands on.

Unsavoury comments?

There were other criticisms too. Football vs Homophobia’s comments deemed the use of language and slogans inappropriate, but these were deliberately controversial to fuel discussion. And it certainly had the desired affect, to which I admire. Some individuals across my Facebook page claiming it ‘disgusting’, but the majority understanding serious and controversial topics need approaching light-heartedly.

Stonewall explained: “We teamed up with Paddy Power for this campaign precisely because they talked the language of players and fans. The slogan is risqué and tongue in cheek but we are proud that it is engaging with fans and players and that they are taking a positive stand.”

Despite the criticisms of some, we can still take away huge positives from the campaign. Here are a few personal highlights.

 

Norwich Laces

Norwich City – The first team to wear the laces

Pards - laces

Alan Pardew – Great to see more than just players supporting the campaign

Gary Linekar – Showing off his laces during Saturday’s MOTD

Gary Linekar – Showing off his laces during Saturday’s MOTD

David James – Rainbow Lace and boot combo

David James – Rainbow Lace and boot combo

The numbers

In the two weeks the campaign’s been live, it’s received approximately 72,000 mentions online. Not only that, all the friends and followers of people mentioning #RGBF, would’ve read those messages. In fact, the campaign generated over 320,000,000 exposures, staggering numbers really. Obviously, none of this would’ve been possible if it hadn’t been for those pictured above, you guys across Twitter and a number of other high-profiled individuals; Stephen Fry, Ed Miliband, Ricky Hatton, Oliver Giroud to name just a few.

Stonewall Deputy Chief Executive Laura Doughty said “We’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the fantastic support shown by players, fans, politicians, TV presenters, sports journalists and thousands of others for the #RBGF campaign. The last week has seen all levels of the game- from local amateur teams to Premier League players and managers – lace up and show their support for gay players and fans. We know, however, that there is still much to do and will continue to work with clubs and football authorities to challenge homophobia in the game.”

What next?

Whilst the inclusion of every Premier League team would’ve helped propel the campaign further, everyone involved with the campaign can be satisfied they’ve helped spread the message. By no means do I envisage this the end for the campaign, it’s simply the beginning. I didn’t expect a surge of gay footballers to come forward following the weekend’s actions, but with an estimated 1% of our population either gay or lesbian and approximately 5,000 players that make up the professional leagues – offering support to those reluctant to come out is vital.

I’d like to thank everyone involved with the campaign so far, keep up the good work and keep wearing those laces!

As ever with my blogs, I ask for your comments below. Did you get involved with the campaign? If you were running the campaign, what would you do differently? Whatever your opinion, let me know below.

 

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The Masters: My predictions after round one

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The masters

The Maters kicked off yesterday which means I’ll be firmly glued to the TV for the next three days and I urge you all to do the same following last year’s memorable tournament. Let’s just hope for an equally as exciting major this time around.

After a dramatic victory, Bubba Watson, the 2012 champion currently sits at 250-1 with some bookies, falling from an already generous 35-1 yesterday after his worst round in five Masters. However, I think feel Bubba has the character to bounce back, his courageous gameplay last year epitomised the diversity of the competition and pinpointed why naming a winner is so difficult.

With so many players looking to seize the crown from Bubba’s reign, I’ve outlined two lists, both concentrating on player form both approaching the tournament and form during the first round.

The first list highlights players who’ve gone under the radar. These won’t quite make the final cut, but are worth looking out for. And the second concentrates on potential winners.

Ones to watch

Marc Leishman

Leishman is currently joint leading at six-under. He’s set a good standard for the following three rounds having birdied five over the back nine. But I just can’t see him keeping this up this emphatic pace.

DUSTIN JOHNSON

The big hitting American is just behind Leishman and is looking in great shape. He’s many peoples favourite, but just like Leishman I can’t see him keeping form throughout the tournament.

Brandt Snedeker

I don’t see him winning, but after leading the Open at half way last year and finishing tied third in the Masters back in 2008 he’s one to look out for. He almost lost it yesterday but somehow salvaged a two-under from a first round he’d like to forget. Although he didn’t make the cut in previous year he has vouched he’s back to “100%”. Those optimists amongst you might fancy a punt.

Bo van Pelt

He’s the ultimate underdog and with that comes little pressure. He’s in form and shot a ridiculous 64 in the final round of the 2012 Masters. I don’t see him battling it out with the likes of Tiger, but well worth a watch.

Tianlang Guan

This 14-year old kid finished one-over on one of the World’s toughest golf courses, unbelievable. He’s a bright prospect for the future and his birdie on the 18th was a fitting tribute to his performance yesterday. One for the future.

Winner

Rory McIlroy

Had a bit of a rollercoaster game yesterday with a few nervy mistakes. However, he’s just come into form and although it might be a little late, he’s got the quality to climb the leaderboard. A massive day for him today, he needs to address those mistakes, and fast.

Tiger Woods

I read an interesting statistic yesterday that five of the last 10 winners have been left-handed. There’s three this year; Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson. Apart from McIlroy and Garcia I don’t really see another right-hander beating Woods. In a toss up between Woods, Watson, Mickelson, Garcia and McIlroy, I’d choose Woods. He has plenty to do still after a steady start yesterday.

Sergio Garcia

He’s always in with a shout and even more so this year. Hit a bogey-free round yesterday to finish joint leader with Leishman and looks to be hitting the ball better than ever. He’ll be up there come Sunday.

Lee Westwood

Lee’s still chasing his first major and will need to improve on last year’s putting performance, after it cost him dearly. He’s currently sitting at two-under even after bogeying the first. If Lee can fight the pressure he’s in with a chance.

Justin Rose

Justin came into the tournament in outstanding form, and for that reason I’m tipping him to finish near the top.

Ian Poulter

Had an awful first day finishing four over. But his heroics during the Ryder Cup are an indication of his determined character, let’s hope it’s big enough to pull him out of this pit. I expect him to pull things around in the second round.

Phil Mickelson

You can never rule Mickelson out and for that reason I tip him as a potential winner. He played probably the most entertaining round yesterday with a blistering back nine. He eventually finished one-under.

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Margaret Thatcher: a legacy fueled by greed

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Thatcher

That’s it, she’s gone. And just like when in power, controversy surrounding The Iron Woman is as ever prominent. For those of you who’ve endured my recent Twitter bashing will know all too well; I will not be shedding tears for the loss. It’s not that I seek to disrespect the dead, but with her life ended, it is time to reflect, and it’s her own doing that this reflection contains deep hatred and resentment.

Decisions of mass destruction

Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister saw her make a decision, a decision between the economy and the people. As the Government raked in taxes, privatised companies and closed mines, the economy grew whilst the people saw their homes, their jobs, their livelihoods stamped on by one woman’s self-obsessed greed. Thatcher personifies capitalist ruthlessness, and backbone or not, there is no silver lining to that fact.

Communities destroyed

It takes little effort to notice the way she single-handedly abolished the entire community of the working class. Today just to drive through an old mining town is all you need to see. Windows boarded up, streets empty, workingmen’s clubs abandoned. This wasn’t the doing of a women building Britain for a better future, she in fact paralysed a country socially reliant on these communities. She “tore the heart out of the mining communities of the North” said David Hopper, the general secretary of Durhan Miners’ Association, “although millionaires like those in David Cameron’s Cabinet certainly did alright”. Greed was the cornerstone of Thatcher’s leadership. Her lust for money, her desire for power, her stubbornness.

This was all too evident in her dealing of Governmental businesses; tossing responsibility of public paid investments to the highest bidder. So little regard for how it would affect the quality says so much of Thatcher’s carelessness. Carelessness that’s still prominent today; I often travel by train in the UK and don’t envy those commuters amongst you, enduring delayed, overpriced services, day in, day out. But you’ve Thatcher to thank for that.

The Funeral

When it comes to the burial, the proposal that an individual who destroyed a state would be buried by it’s own resources is ludicrous. If her actions were replicated in any other country, we would condemn them as a tyrant, demand that they step down, are extradited. Yet in the UK, the elite go on giving destructive people like Thatcher a completely unjustified respect, using money ordinary people have earned and neglecting the fact that the Thatcher’s sit on a comfortable sixty-six million. I say justice would be to bury out of her own pocket, and to allow those who lost their livelihoods to be given what they deserved two decades ago.

The cover up

And how can we forget the cover up. Another shining example of her ruthless neglect was her part to play – or indeed the part she didn’t play – in the Hillsborough disaster. The tragedy on that day, the loss of life and the corruption involved in its cover-up remains a disgrace to this day. It was carried out by an evil, twisted woman, willing to tarnish an entire city’s reputation and scar the lives of hundreds of families.  This is symbolic of Thatcher’s regard for the people of the north. Just yesterday, both Dave Whelan and John Madejski twisted the knife even further into the backs of those associated with Hillsborough; favouring a minute silence at all games this weekend (a weekend that coincides with the 24th anniversary of Hillsborough). Again, a stark reminder of the insensitivity drilled into her minions.

I can stretch only so far as to accept she was determined, but what use does determination serve if it’s to follow-through with her warped vision?  Obama claimed she had “broken the glass ceiling for other women”, I can only hope that she is no role model for anyone else in the future.

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Alastair Campbell Guest Blog: Is Joey Barton a Total Scum Bag?

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Alastair campbell/Joey Barton

This week’s guest blog is from Alastair Campbell. Follow and  message him here @campbellclaret

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So Joey Barton is a total scumbag, is he not? That would I suspect be the view of most football fans and perhaps also people he has played with, fought with, argued with, not to mention the managers he has driven to distraction. Oh, yes, and he went to jail for assault and affray, did he not?

Until recently, I had only ever ‘met’ him via twitter, a place where a lot of footballers these days seem to spend more time than they do on the training ground. But it was because of those virtual meetings on the social media that I got to meet him in person. I was in France finishing a book, about two hours north of Marseille, where Barton is currently enjoying a loan spell from QPR. He invited me to a match, at home to Valenciennes, and dinner afterwards, and said I could bring as many friends and family as I liked.

Let me first of all say, to those diehard Clarets who think that we should only ever go to Burnley matches, that on the day in question, we were supposed to play Huddersfield but it was postponed as they were still involved in the FA Cup. Also, I should say that as we have been going to the same part of France on holiday for 30 years, Marseille has been my French team for as long as I can remember. I saw Chris Waddle play for them several times, and the last time I had a post match dinner with a player, the match was against Toulouse, and the player was Trevor Steven. You see, I find Burnley connections everywhere. When I had dinner with Trevor, I took Peter Mandelson (not the biggest football fan in the world) and partly as a result, because he was so impressed by the use of loud music to build up the atmosphere, (they still use Van Halem’s Jump when the players come out) we had a rethink of our use of music at election campaign rallies.

This time I took my son Calum, a Blackburn-born émigré called Craig who runs cycling holidays near Mont Ventoux, and two friends from Puymeras, the village we have been visiting for many years – Zizi the local bar owner, and Julien, who makes wine and olive oil. Both are Marseille fanatics. France does not have the range of clubs that we do, so their fan base stretches for miles and miles, and these two have been making the journey to the Velodrome stadium all their lives. To say Zizi was excited when I asked if he wanted to come to the game as Barton’s guest, and then have dinner in the players’ lounge, is an understatement. I know a lot of people in football, especially managers, and sometimes it is possible to forget and also to underestimate just how much something like that can mean to someone who has followed a club all their lives.

‘I said to my wife this morning this is the best day since our marriage,’ said Julien on the drive down. We had a bouillabaisse lunch a few miles out of the town, got to the ground early, collected our tickets and passes for ‘le salon du President’, and headed in. The free food and drink, the memorabilia on the walls, all helped make the day for my French friends. The 94th minute winner didn’t half help too, just when it looked like it was going to be a fairly forgettable 0 0 draw.

But it was the after match experience that really made it special, and all that was down to one of football’s favourite bad boys. Zizi, who has grown up kids of his own, had the look of a child who realises that Santa has after all delivered what he asked for. As the players started to drift through from the dressing rooms along the corridor, he was initially too shy just to go up and start talking to them. But once I introduced him to Barton, who incidentally had been one of the two best players on the pitch (the other being Valbuena), the Englishman made sure my French friend met all the players he wanted to, not least to tell them how desperate he was for them to beat PSG in their next match.

We had dinner, during which we discussed football, politics, culture, social media, diet, language (yes he does still speak English with a French accent when he is talking to foreigners), and he had some wonderful and unprintable stories about Neil Warnock and Mark Hughes among others. Zizi, who speaks no English at all, ate and drank away, constantly telling me this was like living a dream as player after player, and the club president, came over to talk to us.

We were the last to leave, and then some, because as we got up to go, Barton asked Zizi and Julien if they wanted to see the dressing rooms. More kids on Christmas Day looks. Zizi took a pee. ‘Je n’aurais jamais cru possible que je pisserais un jour ou Drogba l’avait fait.’ (I never believed it possible I would one day piss where Drogba used to). This was football joy of an intense level. He then sat alongside Barton and Julien and posed for photos in the dressing room seats, (think Bob Lord stand directors’ box in the white seat days) before Barton took them out onto the pitch and gave them a little tour of the ground.

Ok, the guy has a bad image and he is very skilfully using social media to change it. And maybe he thought that as someone who uses social media a fair bit too, I would say a few nice things about him. But the point is he didn’t have to do any of it, and he certainly didn’t have to push the boat out as far as he did for two working class guys from the village of Puymeras who honestly could not believe what was happening to them. They walked around the pitch. They messed around in the goalmouths. They took little bits of turf and stuck them in their pockets. And Julian admitted he would have to tell his wife it was actually better than their wedding day.

By the time we finally left, there were only two cars left in the car park. Ours, and Barton’s Land Rover. The match had ended hours ago. There was just a gaggle of Marseille fans waiting at the gate. We drove through them and headed north. Behind us, Barton stopped and got out to talk to them and pose for pictures.

He seems to be loving it out there. But in so many ways, he was not what I expected. And if ever he calls in at Zizi’s bar, not only will he see pictures of their day out plastered all over the place, but he certainly won’t have to pay for a drink.

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Gazza: Is this special funds for a special player?

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paul-gascogine

Churchill said about Russia in a radio broadcast in 1939, “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key”

If you substitute the word Russia for Paul Gascoigne you will not be far wrong. But the phrase “but perhaps there is a key” is a debatable one, this instance.

If dealing with the disease of alcoholism or mental illness, which are often cohabiters’ of the person concerned, there is no simple key, which will unlock the devastatingly destructive behaviours and allow the individual to recover. It is without doubt a disease of denial, something that tells you whilst you are doing it that it is the answer, the crutch, the only thing that maintains some resemblance of balanced mental health.

An intolerable battle

I just thought that if I didn’t drink then things would be ok, and admittedly that is the start. But if you take away the drug which at a level helped, it has to be replaced with an alternative. Otherwise, like me, you’ll walk around like a bomb waiting to fuse. A dry drunk. A drunk who doesn’t drink but writhes and seethes, battles with true sober feelings and emotions, a person on the edge because as destructive as it was, the drug helped to keep some of the madness in the head at bay.

Unmedicated with alcohol, the volcano starts to erupt, gently at first and then it becomes an enduring flow of unstoppable lava.

It took me many years of getting support and help, much of it provided by The PFA, for me to realise that I could not beat this opponent. I am a winner, highly competitive, very proud and have battled the world since my teenage years. Nothing could beat me if I worked and focused hard enough. Nothing that is, but alcohol.

Acknowledging the issue

I first started working with Peter Kay when I was twenty-two and I was in trouble. I did not feel the problem was alcohol. It was fucking life. Peter never lost faith in me, suggesting but not telling me. Getting me to use my brain and read, engage in debate about achievement and the psychology of men. But the day that things changed for me was as a result of several more “anger” incidents where alcohol had been the catalyst. It was only when I accepted my condition, my need for support and the horrendous realisation that I had to ask for help and could not do it alone. Only then did this scared, frightened but arrogant man become teachable.

Wrongful assumptions

Paul Gascoigne is currently at the jumping off place. He cannot live with a drink but cannot see life without it.

Fact. The PFA have funded nearly half a dozen treatments and detox for Paul over the years. They have been paying his rent for several years, quietly and without fanfare. They’ve provided the very best psychotherapists and psychiatrists. He went to the same clinic as me, The Sporting Chance, whilst being mentored and supported by the then Chief Exec Peter Kay. He left a month later drug and alcohol free.

He has been diagnosed with everything down the years from bi polar to post traumatic stress disorder. At one stage he was believed to have been on 13 different drugs, many of which would have left him comatose.

Maybe the loud voices calling for financial support towards Paul should learn a little more before berating those organisations within football for apparently not supporting sufficiently. I am informed, because I took the trouble to learn and find out that most top professionals in the field would not have advocated further treatment at this stage. Arizona is a nice place to be this time of the year, but what has changed? What will change?

Egotistical movements

Several players have publicly given to the PG fund merely to appease their conscience, if, tragically Paul did not make it. If nothing changes then nothing fucking changes. If Paul wants help then that is a different story, but the George Best story is too similar. Paul is in love with GAZZA. In The SCC, I know that people where not allowed to call him Gazza and he not allowed to refer to himself by the name. Both seem to have also been addicted to fame.

I have been told that Paul, only accepted to go to treatment this time if the country he would rehab in, was of a good climate, so as he could get a ‘good tan’. I was staggered when I was told this.

The treatment centre in Arizona will be delighted with the £30,000 that will be coming their way via the very public money raised, but what on earth are the PFA to do when a lesser known player comes forward looking for help? It sets a precedent. Is the PFA going to keep signing these cheques because Gary Mabbut goes on Sky Sports news?

Are the newspapers going to fund rehab for everyone they have every written about?

Are the players who so public ally stepped forward with cash offerings, going to do so the next time a player has an issue?

Remember too, the PFA helped fund The Sporting Chance when Tony Adams opened it in 2000.

I am not the biggest fan of Gordon Taylor and in the last few months, have been critical of him personally. The one thing I am not able to criticise however is the organisation itself.

The GT issue with me, is just that between me and him. To be fair to Gordon the welfare of his members is paramount to him, he seeks advice from experts like Peter Kay to ascertain the best way forward for each individual. I am not talking about giving up on Paul, luckily for me a few people never gave up on me for which I am eternally grateful. Without any doubt, I would not be playing professionally today, enjoying life, living sober with a good partner, becoming a better man and father.

But tough love is a better approach; let Paul start to take actions himself with the hands of support around him. Let’s not rely on special funds because he was a special player it sets a dangerous, unsustainable precedent.

Offer Paul a choice. If he agrees full support, full support should be offered. If not, stop paying his rent and funding his lifestyle.

 

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Reflecting on my upbringing

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Reflecting on my upbringing

Here’s a short film into my upbringing in Huyton, the challenges I faced and my driven spirit on the pitch. The film is presented in French along with French subtitles, but for those English speakers amongst you, you’ll roughly understand what’s happening!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIGBjZHOR5o

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Objectif Match – Here he comes

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Joey-barton-marseille

Just last week, a member of l’OM TV spent a day following me around, gaining an insight into my day-to-day movements.

The guys at l’OM TV do a great job, creating content for the fans, capturing interviews and footage. The kind of stuff the fans wouldn’t know about were it not for the media crew. The video’s not all about me, so providing you have a reasonable grasp of French you’ll hear from Élie Baup and Loïc Rémy too. I’m still working on my French so there are subtitles in place for the French viewers amongst you.

British viewers – apologies for the lack of English subtitles.

As ever let me know your thoughts, were there any surprises in the video?

http://youtu.be/FZA78mRnBZU
 

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My training experience with Ricky Hatton

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Hatton_barton

Looking ahead to Ricky Hatton’s fight tonight it brings back some good memories from earlier in my career.

I spent some time training in Ricky’s camp ahead of his fight vs Floyd Mayweather. It was in the gym in Manchester when I was working on my fitness ahead of recovering from a broken foot. Ricky was about to head over to Vegas to continue his training. Ricky was at the top of his game at the time and looking at the weigh in for tonight it is great to see Ricky back at his fighting weight.

The training was incredibly hard, at the time I wanted to get into the ring for a spar with Ricky but the club would not let me. To be honest I was just interested to see how hard the man punched and to feel one of them, pretty typical of my mindset at the time! As I am sure he could have done me some damage.

I haven’t caught up with Ricky for a while but wish him all the best for the fight and hope he comes out on top.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1x2fi3K4BA

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