Offside, 27 January

Rodney Marsh falls foul of victim culture.

Rob Lyons

Topics Politics

Rodney Marsh has a big mouth. That’s one reason why managers were always suspicious of him, and why he makes a good pundit on Sky Sports.

Or rather, made, because Rodney is out of a job now. Admittedly, he’ll be living it up in Florida rather than struggling to make ends meet on a sink estate somewhere, but today he’ll be sick as a parrot.

Sick, like the joke he made on the Sky Sports phone-in the other night – well, according to his bosses at Sky. However, in the interests of journalistic integrity, here it is to enjoy again: ‘Beckham turned down a move to Newcastle United after hearing of the trouble with the Toon Army in Asia.’ Now, if you don’t understand the joke, the Toon Army are the Newcastle fans and their name sounds a bit like ‘tsunami’. The essence of the joke is that David Beckham is too dim to know the difference between ‘tsunami’ and ‘Toon Army’.

So Marsh was sacked over a David Beckham joke. Okay, he was actually sacked for referring to the tsunami in a way that was less than reverent, clearly forgetting the Eleventh Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not offend anyone, or even do something that might possibly, just maybe, offend someone somewhere.’ But let’s remember that the Sky Sports phone-in is not watched by the Mary Whitehouse brigade. It’s watched by football fans, who would have understood the joke. Except perhaps the ones who are as dim as Becks.

Marsh tried the usual grovelling apology, as much use in this situation as a club chairman giving the manager his unqualified support – you just know someone’s going to be getting a P45 sooner rather than later.

The problem for the likes of Rodney Marsh, and the last man to fall into this trap, Ron Atkinson, is that they’re from a bygone era when people could say moderately offensive things in the spirit of speaking their mind. Admittedly, Atkinson’s comments were actually insulting. Although he thought he was off-air, the use of the term ‘nigger’ is always likely to cause offence, whereas it is hard to see what anybody could really object to in Marsh’s weak pun. But what they have in common is that they just don’t get the modern etiquette.

Well, boys, welcome to the victim culture. It is one of the multifarious ways in which the powers-that-be regulate what we do, say and even think. The argument is that victims are too weak to defend themselves, so someone else, the government in the last resort, must defend them instead. Once this idea is accepted, and a few hapless offenders are hung out to dry, the rest of us learn the lesson to censor ourselves. Rodney and Ron slipped up, and their bosses had to censor them instead.

The government didn’t invent the victim culture, but it has certainly promoted it, and taken advantage of it as a means to shore up the status quo. If we’re unable to say anything that might offend someone, then our culture becomes anodyne and stagnant. Which is just how those who run society would like to keep it.

The dismissal of Rodney Marsh is no more a loss to the world of football analysis than that of Big Ron. A quick search of the Sky Sports website shows that in recent weeks, Marsh has predicted wins for Liverpool over Man United (wrong), Man City over West Brom (wrong) and Liverpool over Southampton (wrong).

But that’s not his job, as he freely admits. His job is to take the place of the opinionated, funny bloke down-the-pub sounding off about football. But even that’s not his job anymore.

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Topics Politics


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