Sunday, 14 October 2012
Diving, some thoughts on Lance Armstrong and Jimmy Saville and what may or not be Sport Criminology
Feeling guilty that I’ve not updated recently so this a bit of an omnibus posting.
Rosie Meek argues persuasively of the possibilities of sport in encouraging desistance amongst prisoners. In a personal anecdote to me she recalled that outside teams found prison teams to be the least dirty. I’m still not sure her work, excellent though it is, fits into my idea of sport criminology. I see it as top quality criminological evaluation of prison projects in which sport is the variable under study. The variable could be art, comedy, opera, cold showers or the treadmill and crank. So my interest would not be whether sport could prevent crime or encourage desistance from crime but the extent and depth of crime within that sport.
That is my emphasis here is on crimes as understood in the wider world or within the world of that sport. Obviously the current case of Lance Armstrong offers much opportunity for discussion under both or any definition of crime, but it is already widely covered and has yet to come to a conclusion. One ignored area in this tale is the power of money - the business of cycle racing. I will return to this in a future post.
Less ignored has been a claim that ‘things were different then’ in cycling or that the atmosphere of pop music - in which young women could be sexually exploited - was also ‘different then’. And some link the cases of failure to spot the crimes of Armstrong and Savile. That hyperlink is to an explicitly christian website which fails to note the many equivalent scandals of the church. They even quote Thomas Cranmer saying, ‘What the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies.’ Quite.
But enough bashing of bible-bashers and back to sport, crime and the business of football. You might see ‘diving’ or ‘going down easily’ as cheating, a form of positive deviance (usually use of performance enhancing drugs or debilitating over-training) or Mertonian innovation (I often use cheating in sport to illustrate this - the acceptance of the legitimate ‘ends’ of the game but not the ‘means’) but here I’m going to try and step into the game.
A football spectator who has paid enough for an opera ticket may be made so cross by the cheating of the opposition that he finds himself arrested for his reaction. If you’ve paid ‘good money’ to bribe a player or official you may also be pretty cross and vow to have someone’s legs broken. These too may be ancillary to sport criminology. So finally to crime in sport. The crime of diving for a foul or preferably a penalty.
In the real, rather than the sportsworld, crime is usually dealt with by attacking it (the war on ...’) or redefining it; or just handwringing or even resort to biological or medical metaphor - cancer in this instance. Another tactic to is to blame the crime on foreigners, so step forward Luis Suarez. Since the crime of diving is now thought to be at record levels - have we the stats? are we being nostalgic? - how about some realworld solutions?
Should we return to football’s earlier rougher incarnations and decriminalise the foul and reinstate ‘hacking’ (kicks on the shin not checking the phones of celebrities for signs of sex offending). Or, like the crime techno-fix of CCTV, insist the players have gyroscopes fitted with real time telemetry judging how easily they went down and the identity of the nearest players from their embedded RFIDs. Or, given the epistemological problems of being sure between the foul and the dive might we be less punitive. Not a penalty shot or free kick but 10 minutes in the sin bin, perhaps? Or given changes in boot and ball technology move the penalty spot back.
And another thing that might not be sport criminology but does involve ‘harm’ within sport business, so a concern for zemiology, is the sponsorship of Newcastle United by Wonga. This causes specific offence to the Muslim players and a more generalised offence to me. My sports sponsorship Catch 22 is that no company with the cash or desire to sponsor your team could ever be morally fit to do so.