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Trashing of St James' is sign of football's crimes.

Byline: Dave Kidd

THE removal of 11 letters and one apostrophe.

That was all it took to sum up the supreme arrogance of football's owners and administrators.

Their utter contempt for hardpressed supporters who scrape together scant disposable income each month, and invest so much emotion over a lifetime, simply for the great escape of following their team.

When a Mike Ashley henchman took his crowbar to the words 'St James' Park' on Thursday, he did much more than vandalise the cathedral which dominates Newcastle's skyline and the club which represents a proud region.

His actions symbolised a sneering sense of untouchability which stretches from Glasgow to the south coast, leaving supporters of Rangers and Portsmouth fretting over the very existence of their clubs.

It comes to a pretty pass when that well-loved figure the Taxman is openly applauded for challenging the outlaw mentality which has seen millions in tax unpaid and an erect middle finger aimed at wider society.

Corrupt The supposed guardians of the game, the FA and league chiefs north and south of the border, are complicit in all of this. They tossed the words 'fit and proper person' in our direction, then allowed any old arms trafficker or fraudster to mismanage clubs.

The result, at Pompey, has been the financial serial killing of a club by a succession of owners, ranging from the corrupt to the incompetent to one who was literally non-existent.

It is all an insult to the intelligence of supporters. Football's default setting. Through-the-looking-glass, what's-black-is-white doublespeak.

Star players, through pliant PR men and paranoid club blazers, are presented to us as if Hello! magazine had merged with Pravda.

Luis Suarez is innocent, Carlos Tevez is a victimised 'dog', John Terry is an inspirational leader of men and Santa Claus is coming to town. In the past week alone, I've had some interesting words spoken to me by one England footballer erased by an agent and seen another interview agreed by a perfectly happy England player kiboshed by his club.

That's my funeral, and no concern of yours, but sometimes this approach is exposed as so much old hooey, and people realise football is populated by a disproportionate number of downright toerags.

Then the worst thing of all happens and the FA launch an 'initiative'.

Footballers are getting a bad press? Let's have a respect campaign. Let's line them all up and get them to shake hands with each other. Oh, nobody wants to shake hands with the England captain? OK, let's call the whole thing off then and sack the England captain.

Without consulting the England manager we handed a new pounds 12million two-year deal before he'd even gone to the World Cup. Then feign surprise when he walks.

This isn't leadership. It's blind panic. And football needs leadership, now more than ever.

For just when the game thought it was sanitised and respectable, it has found itself infected by a virulent strain of racism. On the field, on the terraces and online, the sewers are overflowing.

It is a toxic situation, which is unsettling the foreign owners, the shirt sponsors and the TV executives who peddle the English football 'brand' worldwide.

Yet managers refuse to accept FA verdicts, chairmen tell abused players they should just 'get on with it', clubs refuse to clamp down properly on offensive chanting.

Black And the only response is empty rhetoric.

Around a quarter of professional footballers in the English game are black and yet the over-achieving Chris Hughton and Chris Powell remain the only two black managers.

Still nobody sees a correlation and nobody is inclined to legislate.

If they cannot get a handle on such major issues, the game's rulers are hardly likely to speak out against the removal of 11 letters and an apostrophe.

In Newcastle, on Thursday night, somebody sprayed the stadium's true name back on to the wall of the 'Sports Direct Arena' - now supposedly little more than a vast advertisement for a recession-proof 'pile 'em high and flog 'em cheap' sportswear empire.

The graffiti artist now faces prosecution - while football's true vandals continue to sneer and thrive.
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Title Annotation:Sport; Opinion, Columns
Publication:The People (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Feb 19, 2012
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