Racist slur surely the gruesome finale in grim catalogue of errors at Wigan Athletic

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To be frank, the last month has been a poor one for both the FA and English football. After a month that saw the FA blamed in Hans-Joachim Eckert’s blotched report into the Qatar World Cup and national spotlight on Sheffield United’s response to the release of Ched Evans from prison less than three years after being convicted of rape, things reached a new low for the country’s national sport on Thursday.

Dave Whelan

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has put the name of the club for whom he has done so much into serious disrepute – first, with the appointment of Malky Mackay as the club’s new manager, and secondly, with his appalling comments in an interview with David Conn.

Whelan, who three years ago suggested that racially abused players “should just get on with it”, appeared to back his new manager in unbelievable fashion. Of course, much of this latest controversy has come about due to Mackay’s ongoing FA investigation into a series of racist, anti-semitic, sexist and homophobic text messages sent from him to former Cardiff City sporting director Iain Moody.

The question then, as asked by Cardiff owner Vincent Tan, is why has Whelan shown total disregard for the investigation and appointed the Scot?

Indeed, the Malaysian, so often vilified and ridiculed when Mackay was sacked, has come out of the episode with flying colours. He sacked Moody and Mackay at different times and both times was chastised. There appeared to be no legitimate reason for the sackings. Now, the world can see why.

Perhaps, here lies the difference between the two owners. Whereas Tan saw the text messages as a sackable offence, Whelan declared: “I think they are making a mountain out of a molehill. I didn’t consider he had done a lot wrong and I wanted him in the job as soon as possible.”

Malky Mackay

Among the damning messages were insults including “Go on, fat Phil. Nothing like a Jew that sees money slipping through his fingers”, in reference to Phil Smith, a Jewish football agent. Whelan though, dismissed the controversy, declaring that Mackay had simply made a “little mistake.” He, himself, went further, apparently backing up Mackay with the claim that “It’s telling the truth. Jewish people love money.”

Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Simon Johnson, a former FA and Premier League executive, hit back angrily, describing the comments as “disgraceful anti-Semitic language.” However, this same language is labelled by the former JJB Sports owner as “little problems” and “not a lot.”

It is precisely this ignorance and vile insolence that has allowed discrimination in football to strap itself – almost leech-like – to the sport in recent years. Whelan speaks as a man from a different age. His attitude stinks. However, it is difficult to blame Whelan for appointing the Scot. He is a successful manager with a track record for taking sides into the Premier League. The money at stake in the upper echelons of the league system means that finding the best available men for the job is a necessary evil. The sad fact is that had Wigan not appointed Mackay, someone else would have done. In the same vain, Ched Evans will find himself a team because goals win games and Evans is a proven goalscorer. Plymouth Argyle captain Luke McCormick and Lee Hughes, the Forest Green Rovers striker, have both been able to rebuild their careers after serving jail terms for causing death by dangerous driving. As unpleasant and unjust it is, football has become such a results-driven moneymaking machine that these crimes have become of secondary importance to chairmen and managers alike.

As a man in authority and with the chance to follow Crystal Palace and Cardiff in taking a strong stance against Mackay and his abhorrent views, Whelan bottled it. Appointing Mackay is a PR disaster – a fact shown by the withdrawal of Ipro Sport and Premier Range from sponsorship deals with the club. Worse still are Whelan’s own heinous claims that stem from his attempt to defend his new employee.

In the real world away from football, both men would have lost their jobs. The fact that both remain in lucrative positions shows just how far football has erred and what a filthy and contemptible business it has become.

Whelan’s actions over the last week have created this situation. He should step down and take Mackay with him – not for Wigan Athletic’s sake, but for future and credibility of football in this country.

Photographs: wikipedia, commons.wikimedia

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