Sol Campbell: Abuse breaches our human rights

Rovers fans at Hartlepool.Do footballers have the same rights in the stadium that they have in the street? Sol Campbell argues so, as he told the BBC’s Today programme today:

If this happened on the street, you would be arrested. This is the 21st century and this is a human rights situation where sportsmen and managers are trying to do their job professionally and people are abusing them verbally. It has gone too far.

It’s not exactly clear what Campbell is suggesting should be done, when he says “another way” is needed to control fans. Laws, after all, do still apply to fans in the stadium, though arresting half of White Hart Lane when he next returns there would hardly be practical.

The bigger point is that the kind of vicious abuse Campbell receives for leaving Tottenham is culturally accepted by football fans — just as racism once was (not that this is the same at all, but changing this would be even harder).

What do you think? Where should the abuse line be drawn?

Image courtesy of i y e r s on Flickr.

13 thoughts on “Sol Campbell: Abuse breaches our human rights

  1. Dave's Football Blog

    Y’know, if they’re throwing things at him or making racist taunts, that’s one thing, but if they’re just singing mean songs about he’s a traitor to his club and he’s a lousy player and Avram Grant banged his mother, he should get over it. Abuse from the fans comes with the job these days. That’s why they pay guys like Campbell the big bucks in the first place.

  2. roswitha

    There’s no moral argument against Campbell’s position. Yes, vicious abuse bordering on hate speech [and let's not even pretend like the 'Judas' chant is just a friendly barracking] is unacceptable. So is racism, sexism and homophobia. But how do you weed them out of the mob culture of the football crowd? I mean, what’s the practical application of a ban on this kind of thing? Surely people perpetuate it in football stadiums *because* they are forbidden from doing so outside in polite society, at least to an extent?

  3. Thomas Dunmore Post author

    Just read the The Guardian’s Fiver’s take on this, which gently reminds us most professional footballers might also want to glance in the mirror when they’re on the pitch:

    Campbell plans to meet with the FA in the near future, but before then he might be well served to take advice from members of the one profession that suffers not just verbal abuse, but direct physical intimidation from people just like himself every time they go to work: referees.

  4. dougie brimson

    Exactly. I actually took part in the BBC radio debate referred to and made to points which seemed obvious to me yet which no one had picked up.

    First, Sol and his fellow pro’s are happy to wallow in the adulation and hero worship (sic) which pours off the terraces onto them so they have no real right to complain when they encounter a less than warm and friendly crowd. It’s called taking the rough with the smooth.

    Secondly, he has absolutely no right to bleat when week in and week out he and his fellow professionals routinely hurl foul abuse directly into the faces of officials (and each other!) and are seen doing so on millions of TV screens.

    The bottom line is that yes, there are things which are said, chanted ot sung by fans which are unacceptable and there are laws to deal with them but the abuse of players is nothing new and was going on long before young Mr Campbell got involved in the game. So if he doesn’t like it or can’t handle it, why not jack it in and do something else?

  5. Brian

    Just to make a sketch of what will probably be an unpopular libertarian position: Since when did Sol Campbell, or anyone else, obtain a “human right” not to have his feelings hurt? Presuming a basic right to free speech, how are you going to draw the line to determine where that right ends and Sol Campbell’s right not to be hurt by what you say to him begins?

    I couldn’t agree more that what comes out of the stands at large sporting events is frequently disgusting, but I can’t quite see why vulgarity ought to be a punishable offense. And what happens if Emile Heskey starts to feel very upset about the Guardian MBM reporters’ tendency to use his name as the caption under a picture of a horse? Is there such an absolute moral difference between that kind of satirical mockery and what a fan might yell in a match? I know I’ve written things about players on my (generally appreciative and positive) blog that could be classified as “verbal abuse” if you squint at them the right way. And frankly I hope to keep doing so.

    Earlier this year the state of Washington considered passing a law that would ban booing at all high-school sporting events. You could follow the moral reasoning, but Jesus, what a gray damper on the atmosphere of sport.

  6. Zorg

    Up to “a point”, footballers should put up and shut up. Surely if there’s any justification for the disproportionate salaries these guys earn it’s the public service they performas a sink for the everyday frustration of oiks like me.

    “The point” I guess is the point at which any tirade becomes offensive to those listening on… supporters with kids and so forth. But the link you draw to racism is a pertinent one… racist chanting relented, ultimately, because society’s attitudes changed, not because of legislation or policing. And with footballers, particularly at the top level, further from us than ever before, any general drift in attitude isn’t going to happen any time soon.

    I’d have more sympathy with the claims of Campbell and others if they didn’t turn the referee into a pantomime bad guy every time they get a decision given against them, by pressurising, cajoling and playing the crowd. Surely referees are far more in need of, and deserving of, protection than the players?

  7. Beneven

    As a life long Spurs fan, I’ll admit that I have heard some rather nasty things said about Mr. Campbell–but I have never heard him abused racially. I do find it curious that it seems perfectly acceptable for players to curse at each other on the pitch and berate the officials using all sorts of foul language and even what sometimes appears to be physical intimidation, but if a fan shouts something nasty that is stepping over the line. How many times have we seen Gallas curse at an official or Terry scream and snatch a card from an official’s hand? Surely this kind of behavior is as unacceptable, and as routine, as that described by Mr. Campbell.

  8. dougie brimson

    I suspect that given the coverage being given to events at the Manchester United players christmas pi55 up -I mean party- earlier this week and the explosion of anti-player vitriol that has been unleashed in the English tabloids today, any sympathy young Sol might have obtained for the plight of he and his fellow professionals has evapourated so he might well be keeping quiet for the next week or two.

    I also suspect that certain United players will be on the recieving end of a fresh and extremely inventive stream of less than savoury abuse from the terraces over the festive season.

  9. Bubba

    First, the fact that Sol claims it is a “human rights” matter means that what he is saying should not be taken seriously.

    Second, this is Sol Campbell making these comments. The very same player who one day walked off the pitch for Arsenal at half-time, went straight through the dressing room to the car park and drove home. This man has issues and I think fan abuse is the least important of them.

    Third, this is Sol Campbell making these comments. The same player who first lied to Spurs and went to their arch rivals. Then lied to Arsenal to get them to release him from his contract (said he was going overseas) and the very next day he signs for Pompey. Don’t you think there are some people who deserve to come in for ridicule from fans?

    Fourth, what’s next? Is it going to make Sol cry to get booed? Will fans not be allowed to boo? Will that be now considered a human rights violation because it hurts Sol’s feelings?

    This is total rubbish. I think Sol Campbell is compensated well enough to endure a bit of stick every now and then.

  10. Cap Ap

    I can’t even begin to get across how ludicrous a complaint this is from Mr. Campbell. Don’t get me wrong; racist, homophobic, or any kind of hatespeech should not be tolerated on the terraces but the man is a professional athelete who is paid millions of dollars (or pounds, as the case may be) to play a game. Suck it up, Sol…or, if you can’t handle the good with the bad, give up the job and go work in an office for 20,000/a year.

    If I ever go see a game where Sol Campbell plays I will mercilessly heckle him just because of this claptrap.

  11. Brad

    I think it’s safe to say that no one who has commented above has been subject to the abuse that Sol Campbell has. We’re not talking about booing and heckling. We’re talking about racist taunting which continues despite “Stamp out racism,” we’re talkking about fans berating players who change clubs along the lines of Figo’s transfer from Barca to Real, and we’re talking about homophobic abuse such as what Le Saux suffered and which he thinks harmed his career. The purpose of this abuse might be to intimidate players and impair the quality of the game, or maybe just to bully a person from the safety of the anonymity of a crowd. There has to be a limit and right now there is none. When this abuse happens, the clubs lose potential fans attending the games, such as families. So clubs have an interest in this too. I think players need to be encouraged to continue the discussion and some type of resolution reached.

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