This is our truth, tell us yours
Sport isn’t something we often cover on here, but sometimes something happens that leaves you with that slack-jawed look of amazement that it is next to impossible not to comment. Yes, it’s the “I was only pushing him away with my head” touch-line activities of the Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew that have brought football into the cigar dungeon.
As the footage on Match of the Day makes clear it was a deliberate headbutt, and it seems the club are not disputing this as it has been announced that Pardew is being fined £100,000. One of the guiding principles Carter and I share is that of universality. It lies behind our beliefs about sex work, that denying one group of workers rights and protections granted other workers is wrong. It informs our thinking about consent and BDSM. The whole Dim Dom tendecy to treat subs without respect, or as interchangable pieces of meat,
So, universality, it matters, and looking at the events at Hull today it is hard not to wonder why something that would lead to arrest in the street doesnt in a football ground full of policemen. If you harm someone, no matter where it happens or what your motivation, you should face the same consequences as anyone else who causes harm.
One of the hardest things for so many of us is to accept that good intentions are meaningless when it comes to harm. People can see it when I point out it doesn’t matter why you support the Swedish Model, it still hurts sex workers, but it can be a struggle to apply it to our own behaviour. The cry of that wasn’t what I intended is one far too often heard to excuse harmful behaviour.
The other side of the good intentions coin is coming to understand we are not wizards. You might think that is obvious but many seem to think they have a magical control over the emotions of others, that they can make them cry, or angry, or uncomfortable. People imbue themselves and others with this magical ability and decide who or what is harmful or abusive based on it. No doubt Pardew is muttering over his coffee this morning that the player should not have pushed him, he made him angry.
Expressing anger, like any other emotion, is a choice. How much we recognise it is a choice depends on our level of self-awareness, but it doesn’t change the fact only we control our emotions, no one else. Or that we have no control over the emotions of others. If I make another person feel uncomfortable that is about how they respond to me, if they chose not to tell me why they feel that way, again their choice.
This may seem harsh, it is not, it is in fact one of the basic principles of counselling, and of respecting others as unique individuals with autonomy and agency. It is stepping from seeing everyone as a bit player in your universe, and seeing them instead as the center of their own universe. Universality, the principle everyone is as important as I am, everyone’s pain matters as much as mine, everyone’s feelings matter.
As for Pardew, the fact he has not been arrested, and wont be, speaks to the hold football has over the UK. It’s not that he is a role model, as some might say, it’s the fact he should be treated the same as the fan in the Gallowgate end who headbutts someone on a friday night after 12 pints.
In which our esteemed legal correspondent holds forth
Twitter was fun last night with individuals trading anecdotes and examples of where individuals have been arrested and prosecuted for offences, and where they haven’t. The issue of intent arose, quite amusingly, as did the question of whether Pardew had not already been sufficiently punished by his employers.
Let#s start with my favourite reference point in the absence of a copy of Archbold; the CPS online manual for prosecutors. S.39 Common Assault seems appropriate as a starting point, with the option of assault by beating given the rock solid evidence that there was a blow struck.
The principle that assault in the course of a lawful game is only excused if it is within the rules of the lawful game is well established; in Duncan Ferguson’s case he went to prison for six months, even though his ‘victim’ gave evidence in his defence.
Now, we’re all adults here, and we know that if you’re involved in football you operate in a different moral universe, but the facts, that Pardew assaulted Meyler, and had no lawful excuse for doing so, are clear cut.
So what are the public policy reasons for not applying the letter of the law to Pardew? Efficiency? So we stop policing all low level assaults? Try it out in your own mind. Imagine you’re at a football match in your local park. A man on the sideline interferes with the game, is pushed away by a layer, then butts the player. Is that an issue for the police?
I don’t expect Pardew to be prosecuted, but he should be questioned, and a file prepared. The alternative is that we send out the clear message, for all to see, that the law is situational, not fixed, and we imply that the status of the individual committing the offence is a relevant factor. Or to put it another way, one law for them, one law for us. The fact that, as a Marxist, I believe that to be the case doesn’t stop me arguing that it shouldn’t be the case.