by Tom Exelby

In a major national newspaper recently one (idiotic) current affairs commentator paralleled “heroic” Olympians with “degenerate football stars.” The article was not regrettably a lazy one off but the reflection of the disdain in which football is held by many in the media. Here I launch a staunch defence of the game I love.

The Olympics, which were seemingly unanimously enjoyed, has provided a stick for the anti-football brigade to beat the game with. Olympians have been branded dedicated and  talented an inspiration to those of us who take the easy route in life who find it easier to bob along than to strive for perfection. And of course Olympians are an inspiration they are dedicated but so too are England’s footballers. Often mocked as loutish and overpaid the truth is that the path to the premier league is just as difficult (and probably more so) than to that of a gold medal in kayaking or shooting. Ask 100 young boys what they would like to be when they are older and at least half will say a footballer, I would suggest that a grand total of zero would be dreaming of a rowing gold.

My aim here is not to attack the achievements of our Olympians but to attack those who regard footballers as having brains in their feet, born with the premier league their destiny. They ignore the hours and hours footballers have spent perfecting their craft. Preferring to focus in the disparity in pay between footballers and other elite sportsmen, a strange tactic considering that footballers not only earn their clubs huge amounts of money thus justifying their pay but they also help to sell TV subscriptions and newspapers and in doing so contribute to the wages of their detractors.

One journalist compared Wayne Rooneys yearly wage with the budget for funding our paralympic team (50 million pound each apparently). The fact that Rooney is paid by a private company and not the public purse and lottery was lost on the reporter, who would also benefit from knowing  the following:  Football contributed £725 million to the exchequer last year and is a booming business even in economically difficult times, the premier league is a globally successful export and is set to increase its contribution to the taxman this season. The fact that this money isn’t spent on funding sports which do not enflame enough interest to pay their own way is not footballs fault.

23 years ago Liverpool fans were slandered and lied about. Their name dragged through the mud to cover up the mistakes of others. The powerful at the time thought they could expose the public’s perception of football fans as little more than animals. The JFT96 movement fought long and hard for justice and this week came a step closer to that, with the reports admission that Liverpool fans where not to blame in any way. There are however people, uneducated in the matter that believe still despite all the evidence to the contrary that Liverpool fans were at fault. As they believe that Manchester united fans deserved to be beaten by police in Rome in 2007. They think like this not because they are foolish people but because they have been fed exaggerations and untruths about football fans for so long they believe them. The same people would never believe that fans at a tennis match deserve to be beaten by police.

Football is not completely without its faults. As in life in general you will find idiots at football matches in the stands and on the pitch. I genuinely believe however that football is given a hard time. It is our national game and should be celebrated not attacked at every opportunity by people who know too little.