by Brian Scovell
“This is a triumph for commonsense…and the game will need commonsense in the few dark, dirty months ahead”
Brian Clough won his case before an FA court yesterday. He was cleared of bringing the game into disrepute for criticising the FA’s suspended fine of £3.000 on Leeds United.
As he gave a Press conference only six feet from where League president Len Shipman, secretary Alan Hardaker, and former FA secretary Denis Follows were holding a meeting. Clough said “This is a triumph for common sense… and the game will need commonsense in the few dark, dirty months ahead.”
The charge arose from an article Clough wrote in a Sunday newspaper in which he said the men who ran football had befuddled minds and were guilty of ‘woolly thinking .‘
An FA councillor took exception to his views and the Disciplinary Committee asked him to appear to answer a charge of bringing the game into disrepute.
“’I didn’t bring the game into disrepute at all. We had a great exchange of views with the five honest men who were in there” Clough said after the hearing.
“It was a superb discussion. I listened to them and they listened to me. If we had had that kind of talk in the last six months at Derby Peter Taylor and I would still be there.”
“’It was a triumph for free speech in the game. I was not surprised at the result of the case. It was an important principle with me and I wouldn’t back down. There have been things that have brought the name into disrepute but what I said on that occasion was not one of them.’ I shall carry on as I have always done saying what I think. Managers, chairmen and other people in the game should be allowed to have their say.”
Clough said that during the 70-minute hearing, he was congratulated for having such a fine disciplinary record in his nine years of management. Undoubtedly that weighs more with the commission than any reservations they may have had about his big mouth.
Yesterday’s verdict is one of the most progressive decisions ever taken by the FA. It means they are at last willing to accept that people in the game should be able to express honestly held opinions and not be punished for them.
For too long: English football has stifled outspoken opinions and anyone who steps outside the narrow confines is looked on the way Russians view dissidents.
Referees, for example, are supposed to be seen but not heard and their views are rarely expressed. Clough’s acquittal yesterday should lead to more honesty and straight talking. As he said recently, “Of course I am a man who holds opinions and uses his platforms to express them. I may not be right every time but I have stimulated the thinking of people in this country. If I take stick constantly, then let me shovel a bit out too. I want to blow this ‘disrepute’ business sky high.”
He did just that at Lancaster Gate yesterday after noon.