How many of you could pick Jean-Marc Bosman out of a line up of one? Without the thoughtfully provided pictorial aide below, I'm guessing not many. Yet his name is now as synonymous with the game as Pele, Maradona and Kenny Irons.
In amongst the gnashing of teeth and collective hand-ringing that is currently accompanying the inevitable, yet prolonged, deaths of Portsmouth, Chester and the like, a court ruling came into being that has potentially huge implications for the future of football.
|Marcus Hallows (red) and Dany White|
There was no footage of the incident, other than photos taken before and afterwards. Eye witness testimony was divided. "Experts" in the guise of Gary Mabbutt argued that the tackle they hadn't seen was "reckless", whilst the likes of ex-ref Jeff Winter claimed the tackle they hadn't seen "was commonplace at all levels of football".
Thankfully, due in no small part to the actions of the first aid staff at the ground, Mr Hallows survived, and made a full recovery. However, he has never kicked a ball in anger since. He holds both Ashton United, and Dan White, responsible for this. Follow this link for a local news report, in stunning technicolour.
|Marcus Hallows in his hospital bed|
There is much that sticks in the claw about this ruling. Gary Mabbut's
testimony for the prosecution. That it seems likely to spell the end
for one of Manchester's oldest football clubs. The ramifications for the game I love. But over and above all this is something that it would be easy to lose sight. By taking a fellow player to court, Hallows has breached an unwritten code.
You may not always like the people you share a pitch with, even those you share a dressing room with. But, to coin a cliche, when you cross that white line, you are all in it together. Yes, those given to hyperbole like to describe a game of football as "more important than life and death", but we all know such people are an leave from the asylum. Football is, at it's heart, a game, a pasttime. One which many of us put too much store in, and one which raises passions like no other. But one which we love because it is imperfect.
The implications for the game are widespread. A legal precedent has been set whereby any injury can result in players or clubs being taken to court, and the financial implications could bankrupt both club and player. In addition, officials decisions are now subject to over-rule "after the fact" Above and beyond instances such as this, it now means that any ruling from a match official is open to reinterpretation. Don't like the last minute penalty? Take it court.Think your man was wrongly sent off? Get your lawyers on the line.
There is a petiton which, if you have read this far, I would urge you to sign, which calls for the review, and over-turning, of this ruling. Not just for the future of Ashton United and Dan White. But for the future of the game, for all of us. Even Marcus Hallows.
I have been able to watch Dan White play football fairly regularly since that challenge. He has rightly earned the nickname of "Gentleman Dan" wherever he has played. He was voted RUFC Supporters Player of the Season last season. I have never met Marcus Hallows.
*anyone claiming that all BTFM posts could be filed under this category will be forced to watch this video on repeat for 24 hours.