More important than unlicensed and unregistered player managers? Safe playing surfaces? Clubs who veer between being ok and being on the brink? Players mental and social welfare? Dodgy academies ripping parents and kids off to the tune of thousands of dollars? All these things more important than bloggers and facebookers calling a shite player a shite player, or participating in the at times heady vaudeville that is football fandom?
The likely initial reaction of any sane, experienced user of the internet who realises that the web is not a new domain full of demons and saboteurs, but rather just an extension of the old one, will be either a quiet chuckle or stunned bewilderment. I mean, these are the things that football fans did all the time before the internet. Impersonations, fanzines and generally taking the piss is what makes the majority of football fans hang on grimly as their permanently financially stricken, relegation threatened sides full of haircut obsessed nancy boys with suspicious nightclub habits go from bad to whatever it is they've decided to dish out this week, able to keep severe depression and the thoughts of a cold and indifferent universe at bay.
It reminded me of this piece by Ian Plenderleith, published in the British football magazine When Saturday Comes all the way back in 2007. Once more, it shows an example of those in power faced with what they perceive as a new threat to their commercial integrity and intellectual property and identity rights - getting it completely wrong. The people who partake in this injoke laden theatre, and the people the authorities want to destroy or at least heavily curtail, are the most dedicated, rusted on, knowledgeable fans out there - who are thinking up this stuff even when they're not online. As Plenderleith suggests, will the clubs be sending the fuzz or the subpoena wielding lawyers down to local pubs or onto the terraces to clamp down on some git saying, 'gee, I thought Adam Van Dommelle's play was a bit stagnant last week'?
Casual football fans, whose experience of the game is from the nicer seats, whether at home or at the ground, and whose information on the team or league comes pretty much solely from acceptable mainstream sources, will scarcely come into contact with the ribald counterculture antics of the people apparently targeted by the measures suggested by the PFA. So why so much angst? Are we going to scare the children away? Is our childish namecalling so much a threat to your benevolent reality? Here's a tip guys. Yes, there's big money, and livelihoods, and legacies involved - but at its core, it's a bunch of people kicking a ball around, mostly poorly. So sue me.