Desmond Kane

What the Mackay affair says about modern football

Desmond Kane

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Just what will football clubs and fans turn a blind eye to in the pursuit of happiness? It is a hoary old question, but one that has been given a fresh hue over the past few days.

Some clubs will overlook any misconduct if an individual is enjoying copious amounts of success. The curious case of Malky Mackay and the depressing allegations that suddenly envelope him appear to throw up as many questions as answers.

A day after he should have been beginning work as manager of Crystal Palace, Mackay is fighting for his future employment prospects in the sport that has provided him with a substantial reputation as a coach running Watford and Cardiff.

This is a figure who has earned plaudits from Liverpool's Brendan Rodgers and Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United, but his reputation could lie in tatters if allegations of racism, sexism and homophobia made against him by his former employers in Cardiff City - and particularly the club's somewhat scorned Malaysian owner Vincent Tan - prove to be true.

Tan has submitted a dossier of evidence accusing Mackay of indulging in some old-fashioned football machismo during his days at Cardiff, amid various other offences that relate to spending transfer funds like a drunken sailor.


Mackay's friend Iain Moody - Cardiff's former head of recruitment and Palace's soon-to-be-ex director of football - is also accused of bringing the game into disrepute in a series of text messages between the two men.

Accusations against Mackay and Moody are apparently contained within electronic paper trails of texts and emails recovered by investigators handed a search order from the High Court looking into the legality of eight transfers worth an estimated £50m conducted on Mackay's watch.

You can read more about the original story here, but it is safe to assume Palace no longer fancied moving for Mackay to succeed Tony Pulis when they learned of the evidence being wheeled over to Wembley.

Mackay has since all-but admitted at least the racially insensitive portions of the allegations - a bizarre statement released by the LMA said that the former defender took responsibility for "a couple of one-liners" for which he apologised. The sexism and homophobia, he insists, were not his doing.


At the centre of Tan's ire against Mackay is reportedly a series of transfers and subsequent payments to agents, some of which Tan is withholding while investigations continue. It is a contentious issue, but it is difficult not to question's Tan's motives as much as Mackay's alleged misdemeanours.

Cardiff are apparently required to report any matters to the authorities which may constitute ‘aggravated misconduct’, but one wonders why this came to light on the same day Mackay was in discussions with Palace?

In a weird twist to the tale, Cardiff are already pursuing a separate legal action against the London club after a team-sheet was somehow leaked to Palace hours before a Premier League match last season.

Palace cannot be blamed for avoiding sinking further into the morally bankrupt morass. But some fans would have been content with Mackay - texts and all - if he could have safeguarded their club's status in the Premier League. This is how modern football works.

It is highly unlikely that Tan was unaware of Mackay's 'general attitudes' during the three years they worked together. He appointed Mackay in June 2011 when Cardiff were in the Championship. Mackay led the club to promotion last year before he was dismissed eight months ago.

Would these allegations have surfaced if Mackay and Tan's relationship had remained strong? Cardiff went down, but it seems like Tan is determined to bring the Scotsman crashing to the ground by haunting him with the past.

One senses this has all been carried out to besmirch Mackay's reputation rather than any moral crusade. Money lost is at the centre of Tan's fury. And the murky workings of who earned what are, you suspect, more important than what Mackay gets up to his private moments.

The question is: should Mackay's private correspondence be made public? Are these texts in the public interest?

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It is not being ridiculous to suggest football is rampant with such outdated attitudes. It lends itself to such a culture because it is a sport that continues to played by uneducated school leavers who do nothing more than kick a ball around.

Many Premier League millionaires are infected with misogynistic attitudes from a young age before they are lavished with inordinate sums of money while being afforded false hero worship. Like fast cars, women seem to be viewed as objects to be acquired. It tends to make many think they are untouchable.

This a sport that rewards a man guilty of racist behaviour, who likes biting opponents during matches, with millions of pounds and a Barcelona jersey. Who cares about his conduct when he can get your side 30 goals a season?

Marlon King is doing time for dangerous driving. He has holidayed at her majesty's before. He was kicked out of Wigan in 2009 for sexual assault yet it did not prevent Coventry or Birmingham from offering him refuge. Probably because he was good for a dozen goals in the Champo.

It is fans who contribute to the ego of footballers, managers and owners. While all this Mackay business has been coming to the fore, the uncomfortable case of the young forward Ched Evans continues to rumble on in the background.


Sheffield United are considering re-signing Evans after he completes his sentence later this year for raping a woman. Despite a petition garnering 60,000 signatures against such a move, one bloke speaking on behalf of Sheffield United's fans appeared to suggest that everything in the world is fine regarding Evans because he 'did the crime, and has done his time'.

He could be found on radio the other day bemoaning the fact that the Blades would have won promotion to the Champo last year if Evans had not been banged up for rape in 2012. You couldn't make it up.

"He has served his time, he has served his sentence and we would have him back," said a guy called Alan Smith of a Sheffield United Supporters Club. "Good players like that have got to carry on playing and if not for Sheffield United it would be for someone else, and we would regret that."

Before rushing to burn Mackay at the stake, can anyone out there seriously say they have never smirked at a non-PC joke? It is also worth asking if the FA are the natural guardians of justice after recently failing to deal with sexism that went right to the top of the Premier League.

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Football Association board member Heather Rabbatts accused the Premier League of having a "closed culture of sexism". But the Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore kept his job despite sending sexist emails that would have seen a cabinet minister or banker fall on his sword. Football seems to make up the rules as it goes along.

"Sexism is still we know a major problem across the entirety of the game and this debate has underlined that," said Rabbatts.

"It is incumbent on the FA as well as the Premier League about how we tackle that."

Football is a cesspit. There is no moral high ground in the national sport. It is worth remembering that before passing judgement on men like Mackay's shortcomings.

- Desmond Kane

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