Is modern football capable of making ethical decisions, or is the dollar all that matters?
Just after midnight on February 1st, football journalist Fabrizio Romano reported Jerome Boateng had arrived in Salerno in Italy to undergo a medical for Italian Serie A side Salernitana, shy of 3 years after the German defender was found guilty of assaulting his ex-girlfriend.
When I read this, it reminded me of a similar situation. Another footballer, Mason Greenwood, had audio leaked in 2022 where he could be clearly heard assaulting his partner. Despite this, he is currently playing in the top tier of Spanish football for Getafe, being “housed in a luxury villa near the club’s training ground” according to Football Espana.
The Greenwood case, along with the recent transfer of Boateng got me thinking. Can football clubs be ethical in this day and age or is it just about profit?
In 2021, the FIFA Ethics and Regulations Watch organisation named premier league club Fulham as the most ethical club at the time. According to the Fulham FC website, this was based on data in areas such as diversity, inclusion and social responsibilities.
The club also has a supporters group called “Fulham For All” which is pretty self explanatory. The group positively impacts “Fulham’s EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) work across the communities surrounding the Club and Foundation.”
East of England is Germany, where, to compete in the top two tiers of German football, clubs must abide by the ‘50+1’ rule where fans, instead of investors, essentially have the final say in how their club is run. This prevents situations where clubs lose support because an outside investor makes a controversial decision that the fans don’t support.
German football also has low ticket prices, making top tier football matches accessible to anyone. Additionally, during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the German National Team took a bold stance. Before a team photo, every player put their hands over his mouth in support of human rights and the LGBTQ+ community.
These two situations are the main ones that I can recall. Sure, Fulham and the German national team are not ethically perfect, no one is. But the point is they’re trying to make football more inclusive for everyone. It is the world’s game, after all.
I feel like I don’t even need to dive deep into the bad side of clubs ignoring ethical concerns and chasing profit instead as there are so many instances of it – starting with Manchester City.
In the same report where FIFA recognised Fulham as the most ethical Premier League club, Manchester City was ranked the lowest club in terms of ethics. This was largely based on their owner, who has strong links with Abu Dhabi. Due to these links, the club ranked low in relation to “LGBT issues” and “women’s rights” as well as losing environmental points due to their sponsorship with the Etihad airline.
Further examples of clubs on the bad side of ethics include Manchester United’s handling of Mason Greenwood, as mentioned earlier, and Bayern Munich’s stance on Jerome Boateng. The German club allowed Boateng to train with them and even considered signing him after he was found guilty in court. Additionally, many people boycotted the FIFA World Cup 2022 due to it taking place in Qatar, a country infamous for reported violations of human rights.
Fulham and the German national team are only a few examples of football clubs and countries taking a stand for social issues and making the game more inclusive for everyone. The Premier League has also shown signs of social responsibility, promoting awareness campaigns including ‘rainbow laces’. Unfortunately, these stories have been largely overshadowed by irresponsible and despicable acts like those of Greenwood and Boateng.
In my opinion, clubs and countries should be doing better to be more socially responsible. It is proven with real examples that it’s not hard to be ethical and moral while also gaining profit, but I’m sure many teams would incorrectly argue otherwise. Maybe they would argue that the maximum amount of profit can’t be achieved while simultaneously being ethical, which in turn brings up an important question:
Does making the maximum amount of profit wave away a team’s social responsibility? A team’s actions has a substantial impact on their local community.
Football has a responsibility to be ethical and responsible. It is a sport that prides itself on being the world’s game but we must ask ourselves, is it really for everyone at the moment? I’m not completely sure.