Often Partisan

Dangerous Liaisons

There was some debate yesterday on the www.smallheathalliance.com website about a picture of Geoff Horsfield, holding a hand-written sign at a Darts match. The sign made reference to Aston Villa striker Gabby Agbonlahor and a terrace chant that casts aspersions on Agbonlahor’s mother’s person. I thought I’d put some thoughts down on paper about it and the wider question of “banter”, jokes and being in the media spotlight.

Whilst the banner was crude, I thought myself it was harmless. It was obvious that someone had asked Horsfield to pose with it, and indeed that was affirmed by someone present when the photo was taken. When I’m not sure what I think about something, I try to look at the reverse of the situation, and think about how I’d react to that – and then base my opinion taking that into consideration. To pick a hypothetical example out of thin air, if Stan Collymore (who is known not to like Birmingham City particularly) held a banner casting aspersions against a Blues player or a member of their family, I’d think it was crude but I don’t think it would offend me. I’d just think “well, it’s no more than I’d expect from that person.” Thus I think it’s fair to say that it’s not for Villa fans to be offended by the picture of Horsfield with the banner, but I would question his thought processes in allowing himself to be photographed holding it.

The photo was taken in March, when Horsfield was still playing, and even now he’s assistant manager at Port Vale; thus he is still actively involved with the game and maybe it could be seen as unprofessional to be shown in a photo like this. To put it into context, right now former referee Hugh Dallas, who now works for the SFA in Scotland is in hot water because of a forwarded email. I’ve seen the email in question (in that it’s been forwarded to me by someone else, it was doing the rounds during the Papal visit) and it’s a topical joke; although it could be seen as offensive it’s no worse than you’d hear in the pub of an evening. However, for clicking that fateful forward button Hugh Dallas is now contemplating his future; for a man whose past includes celebrating the 2002 World Cup win with the Brazil side, it must be a fairly sticky situation to be in.

I think it’s no coincidence that the correspondent who was present when the Horsfield picture was taken affirms that the other players in attendance, (who were connected with Birmingham City) refused to have their pictures taken with the sign. In the modern media age it’s very difficult for anyone in the public eye to be seen with anything that could possibly construed as offensive. Sure, it was a terrace chant scribbled on a bit of card, but it just takes one story written by a tabloid journo looking for a scoop and it’s a media shitstorm – something I think every club is keen to avoid if they can help it.

In short, whilst I think it’s ace that players past and present, are happy to meet with fans and have pictures taken I think we as fans have to respect them, and maybe keep photos private that could potentially cause them grief. If we admire them for their endeavours on the pitch is it too much to ask to think about how our actions could affect their lives off it?

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