Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Paddy Pantsdown Rides Again

Novelty underwear: officially worse than racism. Or, at least, more expensive. Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner broke the cardinal rule of international football the moment he scored his goal, lowered his shorts and revealed 'PADDY POWER' emblazoned across his V-Zone. Endorsing a betting shop just above your crotch? "That'll be £80,000, please," screeched Uefa, in disgust.

It didn't even look cool. It looked like something Nicklas Bendtner's mum might have sewn in, if Nicklas Bendtner's name had been Paddy Power rather than Nicklas Bendtner. Which I admit, in Denmark, would be unlikely, so he probably shouldn't use that as his defence if he's hoping to dodge the fine.

But for moral guidance in our understanding of this incident we must turn, inevitably, to Man Utd defender and England wallflower Rio Ferdinand. He took to Twitter: "Uefa are you for real???£80,000 fine for Bendtner for underwear advertising....all of the racism fines together don't even add up to that?!"

Good point well made, Rio. He goes further: "If racism made money for Uefa like advertising does do you think Uefa would take it as serious?" 

I think Ferdinand means "if clamping down on racism made money for Uefa", but unwittingly he's hit on an interesting problem, which is that racism already does make money for Uefa. Fining teams for their fans' racist chanting makes money for Uefa, and clearly doesn't do enough to dissuade it. Meanwhile, large numbers of racist fans travelling to matches, bringing with them racist banners and racist songs and enjoying being horrible racists together, make money for Uefa. Racism is quite a big part of the reason why some groups of people enjoy football, unfortunately.

Obviously to stop this, Uefa need to keep showing a zero-tolerance attitude to racism from every corner of football. They need to stamp it out with a much heavier boot than the one they use for sponsorship infringement. A sport entirely without racism will have much greater reach than one riddled with it, so as well as being ideal from all non-monetary points of view, it'll reap its own financial rewards. But with this latest ugly PR move, the organisation is at risk of looking laissez-faire.

Anyway, the forgotten victim of all this is, of course, Paddy Ashdown (Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon to you and me), as the whole fiasco calls uncomfortably to mind a certain Sun headline of yore. Maybe Bendtner was in fact using his undies to construct an arch political commentary on a matter close to his heart and the hearts of Lib Dems everywhere. So what if it happened in 1992? Obviously to some, it's still raw.

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