Monday, 15 October 2012

Drunk-Drivers United

Once again, the morning's UK news included a headline about a top-flight football player being caught drink driving. Ryan Tunnicliffe, who plays for Manchester United, was arrested after a crash on Saturday afternoon involving his Range Rover. In a momentary rage, I tweeted something about footballers having big money, big cars and small brains. Then, I remembered that this is not the first time that a story such as this had broken recently. 

So I dug into the archives. Or, if you prefer, Google. 

September - Guly Du Prado, who plays for Southampton. Charged with and admitted drink driving. Given a small fine and a short driving ban. 

June - Michael Johnson of Manchester City. Arrested on suspicion of drink driving. Convicted in September and given a slightly larger fine and a three-year driving ban. 

April - Jermaine Pennant, a Stoke City player. Handed a suspended sentence and a derisory fine, as well as a three year ban. 

January - Reading FC player Mathieu Manset, fined and banned after failing an initial and then refusing to be retested. 

Four footballers, guilty as charged, all this year. And those are after only a preliminary and brief search. That, along with the controversy surrounding Luke McCormick who killed two children in 2008 whilst driving drunk and recently released from jail, is a fairly damning indictment of the individuals themselves, but also, in my opinion, of the FA itself. The governing body of footballers in the UK have had some real problems on their hands recently - allegations of racism on the pitch as well as off it, in amongst them. 

However, the issue of drink driving doesn't seem to make headlines within the organisation. It isn't a new issue. Finding four in just this year doesn't even begin to look back at the long, miserable association that football in the UK has had with alcohol.

Perhaps it's time that the FA looked deep into its soul, assuming it has one hidden somewhere near its bank accounts, and asked itself what exactly is it giving these footballers that they can't handle.

Perhaps the courts need to realise that fining a player the equivalent of a couple of hours' pay isn't enough of a threat. 

Perhaps the police, the courts and the FA need to team up to deal with what is a very public problem, even if it is committed by private individuals. 

Whether they like it or not, and I presume they do, these individuals spend a lot of time in the public eye. That gives them extra responsibility, an extra burden on their shoulders. One that, I hope, their incredulous salaries helps to lighten the load. I don't begrudge them their salaries. If that's the going rate for a top-class player in their field, then good luck to them. 

Am I jealous? Maybe. I'd love not to have to juggle my priorities at the end of each month, worrying about whether I rob Peter to pay Paul or vice versa. But as well as being jealous, I'm not stupid. It's a simple rule, whether you're a multi-millionaire footballer or a struggling paramedic:

Drinking and driving do not mix. 

As a paramedic, if I was caught drink driving, my career would be over. And rightly so. 

I wonder how many of these all-entitled footballers would continue to act this way, if their career was also under the very same threat? 


Anonymous said...

they're spoilt, irresponsible kids. the fines are irrelevant. the driving bans are irrelevant (if you're earning so much, you can easily employ a driver).

not sure what the answer is though.

Anonymous said...

I started reading this, and did think what the HPC fitness to practice board would have to say.

Would be nice if their professional body held them to some kind of professional standard, with meaningful sanctions for failure. These are people looked at to be role models, ffs.

MSgt B said...

We had (and still have, somewhat) similar problems in American football.

The league got involved and started banning offenders from playing, and fining them in addition to whatever penalties the courts laid down.

It has helped a great deal. Take away not just their money and license, but their ability to compete on the field.
A player that keeps getting suspended repeatedly finds that coaches will not want him on their roster.

Jumblerant said...

I have two questions here;

1. Are the punishments they received on a par with what 'Jo Smith' would get?

2. If someone is a player at a professional level for football / golf / scrabble, do we need to hold them to a higher moral standard? Surely there is no direct connection to playing sports and keeping the law?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure anyone is expecting they are sanctioned harder by a criminal court than anyone else caught drink driving.

What would be good to see is the governing body of these VERY public professionals acting in a way that would discourage said professionals from commiting the crime in the first place.

FrankC said...

If the courts had the ability to make the fine equivalent to a year's salary, these children might learn a useful lesson.

TOTWTYTR said...

This is fairly common in the US as well. "Celebrities", athletes, actors, and even politicians get arrested now and then.

A friend of mine has no sympathy for them at all. He posits that they have enough money that they can be able to hire a car to drive them around. Then again, they have enough money that they can stay home and invite their friends over for parties. And have cars drive their friends home too.

Too much money, not enough brains, and no one dares to tell them "No."

InsomniacMedic said...

MSgtB - This proves (kinda) my theory that the governing body holds some sway. It'd be nice to see it happen!
Jumblerant - I don't think there should be a system Joe Smith receives a different punishment, but I do think that once you're in the public eye, there is increased gravitas to any action you take. Is that fair on them? Perhaps not.
However, it wouldn't be the first time that a judicial system dealt more harshly with something that is seen as becoming an all too common blight on society.
FrankC - that'd be good - but it'd have to be the same for everyone. And anyone unemployed would therefore be let off......
TOTWTYTR - Nail hits head. No-one has the balls (pun unintentional, but useful) to say no to these overgrown adolescents.

This is something in which I believe the FA could take a strong stance to try to stamp it out. Would be interesting to see what effect it has if a footballer suddenly has no contract...

Thanks all for the comments!

Eileen said...

They are role models (god help us) so need to get a sense of responsibility instead of entitlement. But anyone caught drink driving should be locked up with films of what drink driving can lead to as compulsory viewing. And attend hospitals and the funerals and see the agony of those left behind. Until what they have done/could have done sinks in.
Jo Smith often isn't punished either.