by Ayyaz Malik

Football is blessed with a unique gift – a gift where it can unite a nation and how it stands up for social justice. For example it has many regulatory bodies that are trying to eradicate the evil disease that is not only in football but society itself – racism. Campaigns such as Respect which is backed by Europe’s governing body Uefa in addition to the domestic Kick It Out do the sport an immense service.

Thankfully racism appears to be on the wane in football but recent events hint at the existence of a ‘dark side’. Reports have emerged that a leading contender for the vacant Crystal Palace job Malkay Mackay is to be investigated for sending texts messages to former head of recruitment at Cardiff Iain Moody. Moody was recently appointed sporting director of Palace – but has since resigned.

It has also been brought to the public eye that former Cardiff manager Mackay had sent messages of a homophobic nature, anti-semetic nature, racist nature and of a sexist nature. Although the 42 year old Scot has denied the allegations, the evidence seems quite damning.

The sexist remarks involve a Oxford- Educated sports lawyer called Carly Barnes, it has been revealed. Moody and Mackay it has been alleged made inappropriate comments concerning the 39 year old. Carly Barnes currently represents Malta’s two most prominent football players Michael Mifsud of Coventry City FC and Justin Harber of Sheffield United. The comments made against her are entirely unjustified, the 39 year old academically is successful and professional.

With these appalling acts coming to the public eye along with the much raked-over past sexual discriminations of Richard Keys and Andy Gray (the Sky Sports presenters) and the head of football Sepp Blatter’s rather inappropriate remarks about women shorts the question hangs over football – has it crawled back into the ‘dark ages’ or did it never truly emerge from there in the first place?

Organisations like the BBC deserve to be commended on many levels; great credit must go to them for employing female football presenters on ‘male programmes’ such as Match Of The Day ( that is not intended to be a sexist comment, historically male presenters and pundits have appeared on the show).

The organisation deserves further credit for employing Jacqui Oatley a female commentator, sadly the commentators first appearance on the mic was a sideshow and the fact that she is a women proved more interesting for journalists. Nevertheless Oatley gave a accomplished display behind the mic, and the rest as they say was history.

Football in a harsh reality is a male dominated sport maybe due to a few stigmas that are attached around women – and also a few ridiculous comments made by head of football Sepp Blatter. The Fifa president rather inappropriately suggested that women should wear ‘tighter shorts’ to ‘increase viewers’ of the women’s game.

Comments like that show that women’s football – or should I say rather football’s attitude towards women playing it – needs to change. Women in football is a ‘strange’ issue because football in certain instances is very welcoming to women. High profile clubs such as Chelsea have a female in the back room staff, football clubs are appointing women coaches – but then issues like the Malkay Mackay saga happen, the Andy Gray and Richard Keys episode as well (both men made a sexist comments about a co presenter) with thankfully both duly sacked.

In 2006 the then Luton Town manager Mike Newell made a highly inappropriate remark towards assistant referee Amy Rayner: “She shouldn’t be here, I know that sounds sexist but I am sexist. This is Championship football. This is not park football. What are women doing here? It is tokenism – for the politically correct idiots.”

This outburst lead Newell to be charged, and as much as organisations like the BBC are doing all they can to change sexist stereotype, unfortunately the harsh reality is that it’s not going anytime soon.

As for racism, unfortunately this has come back to the fore. Following Luis Suarez’s racial abuse of Patrice Evra (the Uruguayan was banned for 8 games), John Terry racially abusing Anton Ferdinand (the Chelsea defender received a 4 game ban and a £220,000 fine), along with another incident which is not as well known when Middlesborough’s Ahmed Mido endured Islamophobic taunts from supporters the most recent furore involving Mackay has a depressingly familiar feel to it. The scandal revealed that during one exchange the former Watford boss called his Malaysian employer Vincent Tan a ‘C***k’. And people wonder why Asians don’t get involved in sport?

Football needs a reality check, and although it’s a ‘few mindless individuals’ and not a majority, those individuals are never the less ruining the image of the ‘beautiful game’. For all of us not just the few.