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Drunk-Drivers United

Posted Oct 15 2012 3:44am
Once again, the morning's UK news included a headline about a top-flight football player being caught drink driving. Ryan Tunnicliffe , who plays for Manchester United, was arrested after a crash on Saturday afternoon involving his Range Rover. In a momentary rage, I tweeted something about footballers having big money, big cars and small brains. Then, I remembered that this is not the first time that a story such as this had broken recently. 

So I dug into the archives. Or, if you prefer, Google. 

September - Guly Du Prado, who plays for Southampton. Charged with and admitted drink driving. Given a small fine and a short driving ban. 
June - Michael Johnson of Manchester City. Arrested on suspicion of drink driving. Convicted in September and given a slightly larger fine and a three-year driving ban. 
April  - Jermaine Pennant, a Stoke City player. Handed a suspended sentence and a derisory fine, as well as a three year ban. 
January - Reading FC player Mathieu Manset, fined and banned after failing an initial and then refusing to be retested. 
Four footballers, guilty as charged, all this year. And those are after only a preliminary and brief search. That, along with the controversy surrounding Luke McCormick who killed two children in 2008 whilst driving drunk and recently released from jail, is a fairly damning indictment of the individuals themselves, but also, in my opinion, of the FA itself. The governing body of footballers in the UK have had some real problems on their hands recently - allegations of racism on the pitch as well as off it, in amongst them. 
However, the issue of drink driving doesn't seem to make headlines within the organisation. It isn't a new issue. Finding four in just this year doesn't even begin to look back at the long, miserable association that football in the UK has had with alcohol.
Perhaps it's time that the FA looked deep into its soul, assuming it has one hidden somewhere near its bank accounts, and asked itself what exactly is it giving these footballers that they can't handle.
Perhaps the courts need to realise that fining a player the equivalent of a couple of hours' pay isn't enough of a threat. 
Perhaps the police, the courts and the FA need to team up to deal with what is a very public problem, even if it is committed by private individuals. 
Whether they like it or not, and I presume they do, these individuals spend a lot of time in the public eye. That gives them extra responsibility, an extra burden on their shoulders. One that, I hope, their incredulous salaries helps to lighten the load. I don't begrudge them their salaries. If that's the going rate for a top-class player in their field, then good luck to them. 
Am I jealous? Maybe. I'd love not to have to juggle my priorities at the end of each month, worrying about whether I rob Peter to pay Paul or vice versa. But as well as being jealous, I'm not stupid. It's a simple rule, whether you're a multi-millionaire footballer or a struggling paramedic:
Drinking and driving do not mix. 
As a paramedic, if I was caught drink driving, my career would be over. And rightly so. 
I wonder how many of these all-entitled footballers would continue to act this way, if their career was also under the very same threat? 
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