Election debate: Should footballers air their political views?

If footballers entered the political debate would they connect with the electorate or be ridiculed for their opinions? Laura Jones asks whether players should show us more of their political personalities.

Last week Nigel Farage tried to encourage my feminine vote by putting forward the notion of scrapping the ‘tampon tax’. Currently sanitary products are classed as a ‘non-essential luxury’ item. As any woman will tell you, describing anything that’s related to your period as ‘luxury’ is stretching the meaning of the word.

It’s a well-intentioned manifesto pledge but putting that in the context of the whole UKIP ethos, it’ll be a cold day in hell before I vote for them. However, raising the issue creates a debate. Debate, if it’s constructive, is healthy and should be encouraged.

When Queens Park Rangers midfielder Karl Henry aired his views about voting Conservative in the forthcoming election, he was immediately, and in some circumstances, ferociously attacked for daring to cross over the football threshold into political territory.

In recent years, footballers have become these untouchable entities that are shielded by their agents and club’s PR department. They’re media trained to not say things that harm the club’s brand and share price. This perpetuates the feeling that footballers are vacuous, unintelligent and unable to form a cohesive thought for themselves. Well, how do we know if the players are discouraged from speaking out? They may be all of these things but the law of averages suggests that there must be more than one or two who have an opinion about the British constitution.

Ex-players seem to have more freedom to say what they think. After the seven way leaders’ debate, Gary Lineker gave a full and frank opinion about Nigel Farage. While Stan Collymore formed part of the Henry lynching mob by suggesting he was a class traitor for voting for a right-wing party. Sol Campbell has come forward to say he is against Labour’s proposed ‘mansion tax’ and wouldn’t be adverse to standing as the Conservative London mayoral candidate.

Who you vote for is ultimately selfish. You want the party in power that is nearest to your beliefs, ideals and for the majority of people, the party that won’t see you out of pocket. Footballers have as much to lose from party politics as the fans who pay to watch them. They also have a lot to gain from looking into how politics has affected them in their lives and careers. For example, how funding for local parks and community football teams encourage grassroots players.

So should we be encouraging more footballers to discuss wider topics that they have an opinion on? If politicians want to reach large swathes of the population in the same way that Simon Cowell can get mass audiences to vote, then footballers have a ready-made following.

Joey Barton and Clarke Carlisle have both been on Question Time but have been ridiculed for their participation. There’s an automatic response that they should stick to thinking with their feet. If they have something to say is it so wrong to discourage them from starting debates? Not everyone is going to agree, especially if the stance is about protecting their accumulated wealth. Society is divided by class, wealth and prejudice. I may not agree with Henry’s politics but I’ll defend his right to air his views. If he is voting Conservative because he believes in their policies, then that is his democratic choice.

Getting the electorate engaged in politics is hard enough without discouraging those with a voice from speaking. So if Harry Kane wants to talk about the tampon tax, I’m up for listening to his opinion.

Read more from Laura Jones here!


1 Comment on Election debate: Should footballers air their political views?

  1. The issue for me isn’t that Henry is airing which party he’ll vote for, obviously in a free democracy that’s his choice. But “if you do well for yourself, we’ll take it all from you and give it to those who haven’t” is a very unpleasant idea. He’s very lucky that the job he does makes him rich. For the majority of people it doesn’t. Him being upset at the very thought of helping others who aren’t so lucky means he deserves criticism (and I stress “criticism”, not “abuse”).

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