Column: Accountability and criticism are scary for clubs, but fans asking awkward questions can help avoid scandals

Where did it all go so wrong for the beautiful game?

Wednesday, 7th December 2016, 12:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 1:36 pm
Chesterfield v Scunthorpe United. Fans Gallery.
Chesterfield v Scunthorpe United. Fans Gallery.

This sport we love, that seemed so simple when we played it in the playground as kids, has become a murky business.

Greed is probably the root cause of many of football’s ills, big pots of money turning heads, attracting nefarious characters to clubs the world over.

In recent days we’ve seen the emergence of another evil that evidently plagued the game for years in secret, brave men revealing the depraved acts done to them when they were young and vulnerable.

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Men like former Chesterfield defender Mark Williams, mustering the courage to tell their stories and encourage others not to suffer alone in silence.

There’s no doubt that other sports too will have their sex abuse scandals, that wherever large groups of young people gathered, sick creatures lurked under a cover of trust and authority.

Other sports have had and will continue to have their corruption scandals.

Football isn’t alone in harbouring greedy individuals hellbent on lining their pockets and wringing every last penny out of our passions, our hobbies, the athletic pursuits that give us so much pleasure both as participants and spectators.

But football lurches from scandal to scandal, one embarrassment after another.

There appears to be a culture of simply accepting that ‘these things happen’ in football, covering them up and hoping no one ever finds out.

Accountability is scary for clubs because the backlash and criticism can be so fierce when something goes wrong, but criticism is better than – and can prevent – legal repercussions or sanctions by governing bodies.

Football will one day learn its lesson – be sure your sins will find you out.

Fans who ask difficult, awkward questions should be embraced if clubs are keen to both exist and appear above reproach.

Supporters are not the enemy.

Clubs with an open door policy can maintain the trust of the fans and enjoy the benefits – steady attendances, support and assistance in tough times.

This is why Chesterfield should be grateful for the keen eyed Spireites who, since the dark days of Darren Brown, have watched over club affairs like hawks.

Fans like Mark Barton who exposed ‘rafflegate’ love their club too much to sit on suspicions.

Town have since taken steps toward a more accountable approach, meeting fans, answering tough questions in a live broadcast.

It’s vital that work continues to avoid future scandals and red faces.