The Athletic FC: Hate crime and ’10 seconds of stupidity’, plus Man Utd’s Game of Thrones

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We’re talking about hate crimes in football today. Sadly, they’re on the rise. Also on the way:

👁️ Toni Kroos’ dead-eye pass

🇫🇷 French fans fighting multi-club ownership

🪑 Manchester United’s Game of Thrones

🦋 Barcola, PSG and a butterfly effect

Banned Fan Regrets

Every year, the UK government publishes data on football-related arrests and banning orders in England and Wales.

The latest statistics cover the 2022-23 season, a total of 3,204 matches. They show incidents of hate crimes were reported at 370 of those games. That’s 12 per cent. Which is pretty shocking.

Inevitably, some fans who are openly racist, homophobic or guilty of other forms of bigotry get caught. They face consequences: social and criminal. But in punishing offenders, the game tries not to close the door to rehabilitation — which is where Kick It Out comes in.

Kick It Out is a UK charity set up to challenge discrimination in football. It runs educational workshops as a form of restorative justice, a method of dealing with hate-crime incidents without going through the courts.

Danny Taylor has written about the scheme today, speaking to Sheffield United fan Tony (not his real name), who was reported for homophobically abusing Nottingham Forest and USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner.

Tony calls his behaviour ‘10 seconds of stupidity’. His experience should be food for thought.

When supporting your team goes too far

Tony’s remark was overheard by a couple of supporters in front of him. He was subsequently banned from attending Sheffield United’s games.

The only reason he avoided court was because those fans did not want to pursue a legal path. Instead, he attended a Kick It Out meeting that sought to address his offence and get to the bottom of it.

Was Tony simply homophobic? Why did he say what he said? These are some of the comments from Danny’s piece, from Tony and Andy Bush, who is Kick It Out’s fan education and engagement manager:

🗣️“He couldn’t settle on any reason that sat comfortably with him. He wished he could turn back the clock.” – Andy Bush

🗣️“There were two people in front of me who turned around and said ‘You shouldn’t be shouting that’. I said ‘I know, I’m sorry’. I knew I was in trouble.” – Tony

🗣️“My gut feeling, having looked into his eyes, was that he was really sorry. The out-of-court restorative approach was the right solution.” – Andy Bush

Does education work?

Hate-crime incidents at football are on the rise, but Kick It Out’s programme is having a positive effect. It has held 200 sessions like Tony’s over three years and recorded one case of reoffending.

There’s a hard balance to strike in areas like this. The game has to be seen to be addressing bigotry properly, but it was striking to read Andy say he objects to lifetime bans as a penalty for offenders — “because there’s no coming back from it.”

I guess it comes down to believing in second chances. Sometimes education beats punishment.

Kroos Control: Real show class… but Bayern still in it

The problem with Real Madrid, and the reason they’re all-but-odds-on to win the Champions League, is that they can destroy you from any area of the pitch.

If Vinicius Junior isn’t countering a team into submission — and what a clutch player he is, by the way — then Toni Kroos is threading the needle with a pass like the one below in last night’s 2-2 draw at Bayern Munich. Filthy.

Real will take this result quite happily. The semi-final heads back to the Bernabeu for the second leg and it’s heavily in their favour. But by no means was it a bad evening for Bayern.

The Germans were 2-1 up going into the last seven minutes. Harry Kane repelled Jude Bellingham’s mind games to score a penalty. Thomas Tuchel got a grip of the tie by swapping his wingers and sending Raphael Guerreiro on from the bench at half-time. They’re in with a shout.

I (half) joked in a previous TAFC about whether there was any way back for Tuchel at Bayern. It’s most likely he leaves in the summer regardless, but it’s ironic to see him hitting more right notes just as he’s shaping to depart.

Ugly models? French fans vent over multi-club ownership

France is the domain of multi-club ownership models. Half of Ligue 1’s 18 teams are part of such a group.

0501 FrenchClubsMap 1

Strasbourg have Chelsea’s owners behind them. The City Football Group, Manchester City’s stable, control Troyes in Ligue 2. Manchester United’s minority shareholder, INEOS, is running things at Nice. On it goes.

Speak to the fans of those clubs, as Oliver Kay did, and you’ll be hit with some blowback. They don’t think those models are good for their clubs or that their teams are a priority. As the saying goes, all animals are equal. Some animals are just more equal than others.

Manchester United’s musical chairs

Speaking of INEOS, structural changes continue apace at Manchester United as Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Co take charge of the football and business sides of the club.

Interim CEO Patrick Stewart and chief financial officer Cliff Baty are stepping down. Good job there’s a new interim-interim CEO on hand. The club have been in Game-of-Thrones mode since they gave ex-CEO Richard Arnold his stadium seat as a leaving gift. Keep up if you can.

Butterfly effect leads to Barcola’s big game

GettyImages 1850832034 scaled e1714403622776

You can’t beat a good chain reaction. One man kicks a bin in anger and as a result, another whose career was stalling becomes a potential successor to Kylian Mbappe. If you’re a fan of Terry Pratchett, think of it as the Quantum Weather Butterfly Effect.

True, it was slightly more nuanced for Bradley Barcola, the Paris Saint-Germain winger who goes by the nickname ‘The Grasshopper’ and plays in his first Champions League semi-final tonight.

Eighteen months ago, he was in Lyon’s reserves. Then forward Karl Toko Ekambi fell out with Lyon’s crowd, was caught on camera booting a rubbish bin, and never played for the club again.

That was Barcola’s break and his impact was such that PSG paid £38million ($47m) for him. The 21-year-old has since been occupying Mbappe’s old position on the left. You can’t really replace Mbappe, but Barcola could be one of his heirs.

📺 Borussia Dortmund vs PSG, 3pm ET / 8pm UK; Paramount+, TNT Sports 1.

📲 LIVE blog

Costing Chelsea: How much is their squad worth now?

Convention has it that a player is worth whatever someone pays for them. That’s Chelsea under their current ownership: spending big on footballers whose true value is debatable. Generally, though, increasing amounts of science are being applied to transfers, not least by the CIES Football Observatory research group in Switzerland.

The Athletic asked CIES to analyse Chelsea’s vast expenditure and track their investments. Here’s a couple of the interesting findings:

  • Cole Palmer from Manchester City was bang on the button. His market value has soared to £100m ($125m).
  • Marc Cucurella’s valuation? Bombed from £60m ($70m) to £15.8m ($19.7m). So, too, Romeo Lavia’s £53m ($66.2m) to £10.4m ($13m) Sore ones, those.

(Top photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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