17 April 2015


Last week my work was interrupted by a phone call. The voice whispered down the line: ‘listen to Women’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 (whcih you can by clicking HERE)’. It wasn’t the most scary of phone calls I’ve received, to be honest, but it did leave me somewhat perplexed.

20 minutes later, it all made sense. It turns out that ‘Brighton and Hove Albion football club have been giving its players training in issues around sexual consent’. Radio 4 told me that the club is one of the first football teams to provide assistance around this issue, notably in the wake of ‘voyeurgate’ (though it wasn’t referred to as that). The club’s head of education and welfare is a woman called Sue Parris who spoke rather well about why we are doing this and how hard it can be for kids in professional football set-ups to grow up in an atmosphere surely plagued by the likes of Kemy Agustien. The Women’s Hour slot also heard from Chike Kandi - one of our youth teamers (previously of Chelsea, of course) - about the lessons.

Two things for me really stood out in hearing this, and both were a little surprising. Firstly, it is wonderful to see that we are addressing the problems that arose from our embarrassing 2013 court case, and looking to lead other clubs in this decent and strangely quite honourable move. Secondly, it is wonderful to see the club acting in a professional way - what with being interviewed on a national, highbrow radio station. Could the Withers-esque PR department finally be at an end?

On the first point, that shameful court case was the first real time in my life where I have hung my head in shame about the Albion (well, aside from losing to P****e, and perhaps a few choice games this season). Luckily for those Albion players (well, youth team players anyhow), they had each other as witnesses, and they had a decent well paid lawyer funded by the club, no doubt. The club could have looked even worse had the kids been proven guilty. But the whole case was one where, for perhaps the first time in my life, I didn’t shout to strangers about my blue and white blood.

I have never really spoken or thought about it since - or reflected on it for TSLR. In fact, I have spent the previous two years simply pretending it didn’t happen. Regardless of the verdict, the victim felt sufficiently upset to take her case to the high court, and she probably hasn’t had the luxury to spend the last two years simply forgetting about it. So to hear the club actively addressing this issue to prevent future incidences does make me slightly happier. This is not to say we didn’t make a mistake - only we appear to have begun to learn from it.

Secondly, one of the many jokes down the Falmer years has been that you can take the club out of Withdean, but you can’t take Withdean out of the club. We have lamented Albion’s backroom staff for years, from forgetting to install ticket office windows at the new ground to laughable customer service. But it actually appears to me that the club has at least begun to sort out its PR difficulties of the past. This was on actual national radio, and we were actually promoting a good initiative. I mean, all they have to do now is open the Club Museum to the public, and we can start using the word professional.

For one of the only times this season, well played the Albion.

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