Column: Good, bad and ugly of the beautiful game

Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster
Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster
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There are some positive football stories around.

Recently five-year-old Bradley Lowery has captured the hearts of players and fans alike.

This young, terminally ill Sunderland fan has been a mascot at several Premier League grounds and is soon to appear at an England game. He was recently pictured lying on a hospital bed together with his striker hero, Jermain Defoe.

I was also heartened by the story that came out of Morecambe FC between manager Jim Bentley and the fans.

Jim was visibly moved on the television footage of the fans paying a heavy fine imposed by the football authorities. In response the manager provided beer and a pie for fans at a recent home game.

Add to all this the community programmes which footballers get involved with and you can begin to think that the criticism levelled at top footballers is unjustified.

Maybe it is not just a millionaire’s playground in the Premier League after all.

Then last year we had the miracle of Leicester City. Their title win was one of the greatest upsets of organised sport. They challenged the culture previously dominated by the richest clubs.

Their courage, unity, determination and generosity of spirit endeared them to the whole nation. Yet just when we thought Leicester were peddling a different narrative it turns out it’s the same old story of impatient and ungrateful owners as well as some disloyal players.

Leicester were the underdogs everyone rooted for, but it turns out they are the same old idol with feet of clay.

The fairytale created by Claudio Ranieri has been crushed by premiership pragmatism and corporate greed. Yes, Mr Mourinho, “some principles are going away”. What happened to loyalty?

Football is forgetting that character matters; that integrity matters. Any system is only really healthy when the people running it are people you can trust to do the right thing.