So, EURO 2012 is upon us and as is routine, it has been preceded as much by talk of potential off-field activities as it has by those we hope for on the pitch.
I don’t even know where to start with any of this because as most of you who will be reading this will know, it has, in the main, been bullshit. Indeed, I’ve had journalists from both Ukraine and Poland contact me almost apoplectic with rage about some of the things being said or inferred about their country these last few weeks.
It’s not like we don’t know that both countries have hooligan and racist elements (as does every country on the planet) or that when tournaments come around, everyone from hotel owners to prostitutes will be seeking to make a pound or two. That’s certainly not unique to Eastern Europe as anyone in Eastern London will know!
Yet the level of scaremongering here has been appalling and worst of all was Sol Campbells assertion that black and Asian fans risk coming home in body bags.
Now we all know Sol is a sensitive soul and that he’s never been adverse to kicking up a public fuss when fans have had the temerity to call him a nasty name or two but this was a step too far for all kinds of reasons (although I suspect it had more to do with his desire for a post-playing career on the anti-racism/media gravy train which continues to chug along quite nicely).
The problem of course, is that when it comes to issues such as racism (and football fans generally) the media and the anti-racist groups can say pretty much what they like sure in the knowledge that they will remain unchallenged. Fear has always been both the anti-racists biggest ally and their most powerful weapon for the tag of racist is one which is easily applied and difficult if not impossible to remove. Ask Ron Atkinson.
Yes, of course, racism is abhorrent in every way shape or form but having come so far in the battle to defeat the racists, the time has surely come when the population of this multi-cultural country ours of has the right to actually begin to question some of the things being said but we will only ever be able to do that once we can actually speak up free of fear. Because until we can do that, then we run the risk of allowing things to be said which are not only counter-productive but potentially extremely dangerous and that is what we have here.
The reaction to the Panorama documentary in both Poland and Ukraine has been one of extreme irritation but more importantly, those minority groups seeking to make names for themselves will now be well aware that the game and the world will be watching and if they want to make a statement, they already have everyone’s attention.
Thanks for that Sol.
Since I released my backlist online at the back end of last year, The Crew has spent an unbroken 30 weeks at #1 on the Amazon UK sports (free) chart, the Amazon US soccer chart and the iTunes soccer (free) chart whilst Top Dog has been in the top 3 (mostly at #1) on the Amazon UK (paid) football chart. In addition, all of my other titles are selling well on Amazon and if you look at the iTunes soccer charts, most weeks the top 50 will feature at least 7 (usually 8) of mine.
Now, whatever way you look at it, that is not too shabby a record and to say that I am both delighted and humbled by the fact that it is mine gives new meaning to the word understatement.
Somehow, writing has become my career and that is entirely down to my readers who for some reason seem to like my books so not for the first time I would like to thank everyone who has ever read or downloaded any of them and let you all know that I value every single one of you.
However, there is a specific reason why I mention this here and it is not simply to be boastful. You see the other day I was accused by a very well known sportsman of being a ‘wannabe’ writer.
Now I will admit that I had been winding this bloke up a little and it became fairly obvious from the childish way he began using his ‘award-winning’ autobiography as some kind of weapon that he was unused to hearing anything other than sycophancy. But whilst I laughed it (and him) off, it did get me thinking about the literary establishment in general and more specifically, my position within it.
Many years ago, I wrote that those of us who wrote in the so-called ‘hoolie-lit’ genre were not just regarded by the literary establishment as being at the bottom of the literary ladder, but as the rubber bungs on the feet. Sad to say that nothing has changed.
I, for example, despite the fact that I’ve been pumping out work for 16 odd years and have sold a fair amount of books, have yet to receive a single invite to any literary festival or event. I’ve never even been asked to attend the British Sports Book Awards despite the fact that I would guess I outsell pretty much every author there.
Now, it would be foolish to say this doesn’t irritate me at times because it does. However, what I find more irritating is that with increasing numbers of the ‘hoolie-lit’ books being put online and making their way into the charts, by refusing to acknowledge those of us who write about football culture it infers that those people who buy our books don’t really matter. That is incredibly disrespectful.
The only reason publishing exists at all is because people like to read be it in book or electronic form and it doesn’t matter if they’re reading Dan Brown or Chris Brown, every single person who spends money on a book is as important as the last. Lose sight of that and the whole thing will come crashing down.
Personally, I have always kept my focus on my readers but then again, I’ve always tried to understand my market and aimed to give it what it wants. Therefore chart positions have always been more important than invitations because it means books are selling and readers are happy.
Sadly, not everyone seems to think like that preferring instead to court only the opinions of those who can get their names into the papers. On which note, the ‘award-winning’ autobiography by the household name I mentioned previously isn’t even in the top 100 sports books and can currently be found in a remaindered store somewhere near you.
Which kind of says it all.