Why Do We Allow Immorality In Football?

For the current football fan, the development of “modern football” is perhaps the most significant concern. Fans despair of the oligarchic turn of the beautiful game, are hurt by the transition the once working class game has taken towards corporation and the development of an intensely lucrative new business industry.

Possibly it is time to consider another element that football lacks. In a philosophical world, encoded with multiple ethical systems founded by some of the world’s greatest thinkers, it is undoubtedly obscure that the football pitch dons an invincibility cloak protecting its assets from the real world of morality.

It is unrealistic to believe that Socrates, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill would approve of the undeniable extrapolation of morality from the football industry. This is an industry which fails to distinguish between on pitch ability and condemnable acts off the pitch.

Too much money?

Why this happens is unanswerable. Perhaps the allegiance a fan feels towards a club is responsible for the defence of the indefensible. Racism, blatant cheating and even violence – these things are deemed as immoral by many human beings, governing bodies and societies as a whole. Yet footballers seem to push social boundaries on all of these things.

Footballers are not immune from consequent punishment shown by the FA who frequently dish out fines and match bans. The problems with these punishments is the normalisation of them, the acceptance by footballers that if they do a bad thing they’ll miss three games and pay £70,000, which in reality they can afford without financial concern.

Immorality in football is, at the least, accepted by fans, if not condoned. Football fans struggle to separate the quality of a footballer on a pitch from the ugly characteristics he has shown in the real world.

An example of this can come in the form of John Terry and the World Cup. In recent weeks, radio stations and pundits have discussed whether John Terry ought to be included in the team for the World Cup. If football ability is the only thing being taken into consideration, then maybe yes, inclusion could benefit the squad.

But if one looks at this case from a different perspective, from the position that this man has displayed racist behaviour, then perhaps John Terry should not be included in the England squad. If a teacher, or a doctor, or a supermarket assistant went into work and racially abused another member of their industry, it is unlikely that their job would remain intact.

So why does John Terry even still have a chance of making the England squad after he racially abused Anton Ferdinand? As mentioned before, the inability to separate football talent from decadent character by both fans and owners of football clubs is partly responsible. Secondly, the fact that the football industry has never set a precedent for morality has to take some blame.

The roots of immorality in football are deeper than racism alone, which occurs quite frequently. Other branches of immorality come in the form of blatant cheating and match fixing.

Discussing the problem of cheating is fairly simple. The reason why so many footballers get away with cheating is because it tends to provide an advantage to go ahead and win the game, or win a penalty, and in turn benefit the fans paying to watch the match.

It is rare to find a footballer who will admit that they committed a handball, or that they dived in order to be awarded a winning penalty. If footballers did admit to this kind of behaviour, it is likely that they would be ostracised by their team mates and fans for not taking the opportunity to cheat and win the game.

For example, when Lee Williamson took a red card for Blackburn Rovers to prevent their biggest rivals Burnley from taking the lead, his behaviour was more than condoned, it was praised. He was called a legend, a hero, and a great on the grounds that he had protected Blackburn’s history of an undefeated 34 years against Burnley.

But if we examine this behaviour in more detail, the message that football is delivering is that it is categorically okay to cheat in order to protect history. It is not just Lee Williamson who is guilty of this behaviour, it happens all over the country, and for fans it is agonisingly difficult to condemn cheating when a player has just preserved history through that very method.

Match fixing is just another of many examples, and while most people are in unanimous agreement that this is incontestably immoral, it has nonetheless been going on for years. Arrests were made, but little has been mentioned since those arrests.

Football as an industry, and the FA as a governing body, must take responsibility for the profoundly corrupt behaviours that take place on and around the football pitch. It is inconceivable how this kind of behaviour is reprimanded in other workplaces, yet football remains immune to the consequences of it.

Owners and managers of clubs ought to take responsibility too. When Luis Suarez was in the midst of allegations of racism against Patrice Evra, it is perplexing that his colleagues sported shirts in support of the player.

Perhaps though, fans simply do not care of the immorality of the sport. Perhaps it is not a priority of concern. Yet one can’t help but question the ironical hypocrisy of fans complaining about the immorality of modern football while condoning immoral behaviour such as cheating and racism by supporting those guilty of committing these behaviours.

In conclusion, football is in need of a serious reality check. It is unjust that football should be protected against the consequences of decadence while the supporters in the crowds would surely be castigated in their respective work places for demonstrating similar behaviours. On the other hand, managers, owners, team-mates and supporters ought to readdress their moral attitudes and apply the philosophies they follow in normal day-to-day life to football instead of simply turning a blind eye.


  1. Why is immorality symptom of "modern football"?
    The only match fixing convictions took place in the 60s.
    Diving - watch a video of Francis Lee in the 60s/70s
    You can't even begin to compare the racism on show in the 70s to nowadays.
    Sexism? Women's football was deemed illegal by the FA until 1971, let alone allowed in the boardroom.
    Treatment of supporters/Oligarchic turn? How about the insanitary unsafe conditions pre 1989 in part due to the complete absence of any supporters from club's decision making.
    You can't understand the present if you don't know your history.

  2. why do we buy football shirts?because they're so cool!