If recent allegations around Harvey Weinstein, disgraced former England women’s manager Mark Sampson, and the recent appointment of Malky Mackay as interim Scotland manager tell us anything, it is that power can be manipulated to serve the ends of those who wield it.
Not only is that a troubling conclusion to come to, but it is high time we sat up and took notice of the gross abuses of power that have been brought so starkly to light in recent weeks. It is an admission that for too long has meant that those in high places, with the ability to tighten their grip knowing they are safeguarded by their power and reputations, have seemingly got away with despicable acts which would be regarded, at a minimum, as a breach of conduct for anyone outside their sphere.
We all have a collective responsibility to call this out wherever it appears and whatever form it takes. What those three aforementioned individuals have in common is their savage misuse of power in their respective fields that has intimidated, bullied and harassed their victims, often into silence, and by using their leverage to impose their warped views on others. That is unacceptable in no uncertain terms.
Weinstein’s reign of terror gets more sickening with every new revelation. Sampson not only breached the terms of his job through his mistreatment of two England women footballers, but worryingly was appointed to the post despite questionable conduct from his time with Bristol Academy. And the appointment of Mackay, the SFA’s Performance Director, who became de facto caretaker following the dismissal of Gordon Strachan, leaves a foul taste in the mouth.
How is it that we are able to overlook such vile acts that compromise the very positions and responsibilities these individuals were said to hold? How can it be deemed permissible that Mackay is let anywhere near a top level job following the leak of an exchange of racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic text messages that were allegedly sent when the Scot was the then manager of Cardiff City in 2014?
Naturally, one may come to the conclusion that the past is exactly that. What went before should be consigned to history because everyone is deserving of a second chance. Redemption, however, can only happen if we acknowledge that there is no room for manoeuvre in the first place.
That type of behaviour, trivialised if reduced to something of insignificance, risks sending out a dangerous message that those in similar positions can fall foul of just and appropriate conduct and yet get away with it. Their reputations with the public may be damaged but for those at the top, something of a recurring theme here, that amounts to little.
Football, however, has long fallen foul of abiding by what is right and condemning what is not. From Glenn Hoddle’s ability to squeeze himself, albeit briefly, back into management following his ignominious sacking by England for comments he made in the late 1990s about disabled people, to Sam Allardyce’s ability to get a top flight job just months after being sacked by England for misconduct, there is a serious accountability problem.
Mackay, while admitting his actions were unbecoming of someone in his position, was allowed to walk back into the game without any sanctions imposed and, while he remains an outsider for the Scotland job, holds significant authority within the SFA.
If football wants to continue to send out the right sort of messages to the next generation of fans, who look up to the figures of today as inspiration for tomorrow, then we cannot pretend that there isn’t a problem. But more than that, society as a whole needs to do more to call out these gross hypocrisies. Our football associations, for example, rightly back anti-racism campaigns while simultaneously letting it slide internally; they slam Fifa for their failings without so much as recognising their own problems. We cannot afford to be idle while examples of abuses of power are happening right before us.
The situation is rotten and these bodies disingenuous and, quite frankly, enough is enough.
Image courtesy of Jon Candy