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9th October 2012

By JOSHUA GRIFFITHS

This week, the FA charged Ashley Cole with bringing the game into disrepute because of an offensive tweet aimed at the organisation. This may lead to an unprecedented fine and possibly other sanctions against the player.

In Nineteen Eighty Four, a novel by George Orwell, a dystopian future is portrayed, in which everything you do is watched, what you are able to do is restricted and there are severe consequences for anyone who aims to undermine the ‘Party’. This book is satirical, and carries with it warnings about an organisation’s ability to restrict freedoms of thought and expression. This to me, sounds a bit like the modern day FA who will quickly mop up dissenters with a hefty fine or possibly worse, merely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression.

Speaking of which, has anyone ever heard of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? If not, you should go and have a look at it. If you, the reader, are a human (most are), then its probably relevant. Here is a snippet from Article 19:

‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’

These rights are, in many countries, enshrined in law. People have taken on governments and organisations with this list of rights and in many cases won. So why do these not apply to the FA?

Mr Cole has expressed his views through a ‘media’ which is very public. His views are quite puerile and his wording might border on the offensive. Perhaps he should have moderated his language a tad to avoid offending any of his underage followers. But that said, if they are underage and go to school in this country, they will hear far worse than that on a daily basis.

Essentially his public declaration is a rejection of the FA and their assertation that his evidence in the recent John Terry/Anton Ferdinand racism trial was unreliable. When you strip it down to that level, is it really that bad? I mean, David Cameron is the leader of the ruling party in these fair isles, but if I were to criticise him, using any language in my vocabulary, I wouldn’t expect to be punished for it.

The FA are a largely unelected organisation, who wield power over all professional footballers who work in this country. They also make and break decisions on footballing matters which go down to a grass-roots level. They are not beyond scrutiny, but sometimes they act like they are. In this country you are allowed to speak out against your employer. Some of the great history of this nation is centred around that very act.

Yet they act like they are above all of this; an omnipotent specter which hangs around football like a damp fart, they need answer to no one! How long will it be until a footballer, who openly dissents against the FA goes missing in the night? Is sent off to Siberia to the gulags? Finds his horses head in bed with him? This is a farcical state of affairs, more like cold war Russia or a Hollywood film, not modern day liberal Britain.

Mr Cole’s only punishment should be the punishment that he has been receiving for a long while. That of ‘sliding’ public opinion. His behaviour towards his now ex-wife, his defence of a man who used racist language and now his awful tirade on Twitter should only further his reputation as an immensely unlikable fellow. Is there any player more widely disliked in the country? This is punishment enough. I can’t quite believe I am defending a player who I find it excruciatingly hard to like!

It brings to my mind a quote attributed in part to Voltaire, which I believe is relevant to Mr Cole’s Twitter outburst: ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’

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