Scandals flare in British football. Who cares?
FOR the livelier newspapers it is a winning mix—sex, drugs, sport and national self-flagellation. This week even the Times bemoaned “Another day of shame for football” on its front page.
The past fortnight has certainly been stuffed with bad news. Several stars are alleged to have been involved in the gang rape of a 17-year-old at a top-class hotel in London. The tabloids have been salivating over stories about orgies after matches. A player from another top club has been arrested on a different sexual-assault charge.
And as the English national team prepared for a crucial match against Turkey on October 11th, Rio Ferdinand—the world's most expensive defender—was dropped for having failed to take a random drugs test. His colleagues reacted by threatening to strike, thus confirming the popular image that they are over-paid brats who think that normal rules should not apply to them.
So what? Like professional athletes in the United States, top English soccer players are hugely well paid, seriously under-educated and have time on their hands. No wonder some of them get into trouble.
But is there something in Britain's hard-drinking, laddish culture that makes the country's footballers particularly likely to run into trouble? Some contrast such feckless and loutish behaviour with the allegedly more disciplined and professional attitudes of their continental European counterparts. It is certainly true that foreign players who have fetched up in Britain have expressed amazement at the alcohol-fuelled culture they find there.
But hang on. Highly paid footballers outside Britain lead fairly colourful lives too. If the current rape cases lead to prosecutions, some of the defendants may turn out not to be Brits. And the two most iconic footballers in England—David Beckham and Michael Owen—are both famously uxorious and clean-living characters. Now, if either of those should run into trouble, there really would be a national crisis.