New book; ‘More than Cricket and Football: International Sport and the Challenge of Celebrity’
This book has just been published and explores different personalities in sport who have also generated media reputations outside their home countries.
The book can be ordered from the publishers by clicking on the link below;
It is principally a sociological anthology with contributors from many different parts of the world. It includes a chapter by me about the maverick football player Rodney Marsh, who I interviewed for this chapter. I declare an interest because he was one of the star players for Queens Park Rangers (QPR), the London soccer club I support. He also played for Fulham, Manchester City and the England team before playing in the USA for several teams, including Tampa Bay Rowdies. He even played against the legendary Pele. He went on to become a coach in the USA with Tampa Bay Rowdies and elsewhere before developing a career as a media pundit, principally for the British network Sky Sports. However, he was sacked from this network in 2005 after making a joke on TV which was considered to be in poor taste. This was a travesty of free speech because Marsh was billed as a controversial speaker and was merely fulfilling his expected role. Nevertheless, such actions are indicative of Marsh’s refusal to tame his words or actions for the footballing or media authorities. Indeed, he became known as one of the maverick footballers of the 1970s and 1980s and had a close friendship with the most famous footballing maverick, George Best. Marsh also laid the ground for maverick QPR star Stan Bowles, who I also interviewed as published here;
In addition, the chapter situates the phenomenon of maverick footballers in the longer historical evolution of how sporting character has evolved. In particular, the maverick footballers are contrasted with the emergence of role model footballers in the 1990s and 2000s, best illustrated by David Beckham who became the darling of football, media and political elites. Moreover, Beckham epitomised the tendency towards self-censorship to cultural expectations about respectability. As the mavericks have had their comments tamed, we have witnessed an increasing tendency towards censoring and punishing sports personalities who to speak out or behave in a manner considered to be in bad taste. One of the most recent examples of this is Louis Smith. Olympic silver medallist Louis Smith has been suspended for two months by British Gymnastics over a controversial video leaked online that showed him mocking Islam;
This is the latest unjust restriction on a sports person for something unrelated to sporting performance. I hope this chapter and the rest of the book will provide a reminder of upholding the importance of free speech for sports people and that they should not be judged by their words or behaviour but by their sporting performances. In this respect, the chapter offers a challenge to the idea that famous sports people should be expected to be role models.
I would like to thank Rob Ballantyne, my unofficial godfather, who first took me to watch QPR when I was seven years old and I continue to enjoy his company at QPR matches currently. There have been many highs and lows in following QPR but I am thankful to Rob for experiencing these and having been fortunate enough to have interviewed the two greatest maverick QPR players, Bowles and Marsh. Without Rob, this would have never happened.
Finally, thanks also to Editors Joel Nathan Rosen and Maureen M. Smith, who both worked very hard to improve the text.
N.B. The book can also be ordered as a hardback or Kindle format from Amazon using the link below;