Friday, 24 September 2010

The Return Of Marlon King

FTW often has its less proud moments. It’s the type of blog which will occasionally wake up covered in chocolate spread wondering why all the cool blogs weren’t drinking as much. It’s the blog that did that awful thing with the pin cushion at the Christmas party. Therefore as an expert in feeling ashamed, FTW has been musing on Coventry City’s decision to sign known pro-feminist striker Marlon King.

For those who don’t know the history King has 14 offences on his rap sheet including theft, drink driving and most famously sexual assault and assault causing actual bodily harm on a young woman in 2008. He is currently on the sex offenders register. Like many people FTW was slightly sickened to discover that King stepped out of jail and within weeks had landed a contract believed to be around £10,000 per week. But is the moral outrage justified? Our entire penal system is based on the idea that a person can be reformed and once they have come out of jail, in theory, they have paid for their crime.

Part of the anger is based around the fact that a man assaults another person and waltzes out of jail into a £10,000 a week job. The underlying assumption is that footballers in this country are essentially bulletproof. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done previously, if you can play you’ll get the big bucks. It suggests that football clubs lack any morals whatsoever, as they’ll happily take a violent repeat offender if he gets the goals. The argument often given is that footballers are role models, an idea FTW has always been deeply uncomfortable with. These young men did not sign up to be role models, they signed up to play football for money. If they hold themselves to a high moral standard on and off the pitch then fantastic, but no part of their contract demands them to behave in all aspects of their lives. I don’t hold King to be a role model and I sure as hell hope that no other football fan does either. But King served his 18 months in prison. He has paid for what he did.

Many people in Coventry have been upset by the arrival of King. The Coventry Telegraph reported that season tickets have been returned as a result of the move. The rationale is that Coventry City is part of the community and does a lot of good work within the community, work undermined by having a sex offender on the books. By signing King, the club shows that it values goals and on the pitch success more than promoting an anti-domestic violence stance.

Having had initially the same reaction of disgust to King’s return to football as others, FTW has found itself in an awkward position. On the one hand King is (supposedly) rehabilitated and should be given another chance at a new club to prove himself. Against that is the argument about the message it sends about any club willing to sign a striker on the sex offenders register. King’s return to football raises a host of ethical and social questions to which there are no black and white answers.

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