Eric Bristow is a willing wally in the football sex abuse panic
The hideous story of sexual abuse in football rides high on the news cycle. The grim testimony from victims of an evil has taken on a life of its own. It’s become a good way to prove the country’s morals. In directionless times it’s useful to have a cause to rally round. We don’t know what we are but we know what we’re not: paedophiles.
Barry Bennell, a convicted paedophile, has been billed as football’s Jimmy Savile. He’s not. Bennell has been tried and found guilty. Sir Jimmy Savile died a national treasure, feted by the great and good. What both men do share is an eagerness to portray them as part of institutional failure. For Savile it’s the BBC, the NHS and children’s homes (but not the police, the Royal family and politicians); for Bennell it’s the FA and the nation’s favourite sport.
Everyone involved in football is now a suspect. If you are not suspicious of adults you are a fool or worse. Trust is for victims.
So the NSPCC opens a hotline, the police trawl for corruption and Karen Bradley, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, says people “must come forward… Come and give your story, you will be listened to, you will be believed”. The media plays along, looking for someone on the wrong side of the panic to update the story. And today it finds Eric Bristow, aka ‘The Crafty Cockney’, five times World darts Champion in the 1980s, an MBE holder and last seen eating kangaroo gonads on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! with Limahl from Kajagoogoo.
As such his views are, er, entirely relevant to the horrific crime child sex abuse. And – irony of ironies for a man who walks to the oche to Rabbit by Chas and Dave (“With your incessant talkin’, You’re becoming a pest”) – Bristow’s chat has attracted ire.
The BBC says Bristow has been “condemned on social media” for suggesting football abuse victims are not “proper men” – and asking why they did not “sort out” their abusers “when they got older and fitter”. Not only on social media (see BBC). The Mail sees fit to repeat Bristow’s tweets for those readers not following the man: “Might be a looney but if some football coach was touching me when i was a kid as i (sic) got older i would have went back and sorted that poof out. Dart players tough guys footballers wimps. Bet the rugby boys are ok ha ha.”
He went on: “U got to sought him out when u get older or dont look in the mirror glad i am a dart player proper men. Trouble is nowadays u cant tell the truth what do u feel out there tweet me. Everybody that works on tv is frightened to say the truth because they are frightened to lose their job, life shouldnt be like that.”
Katie Hopkins, that jobbing to-deadline Aunt Sally, must be gutted. Used to seeing unattractive people from the 1980s telly unearthed to help police with their enquiries, it’s a novelty to see one helping the media in its narrative.
Having seen and very possibly enjoyed the shitstorm, Bristow backtracks a little on twitter:
Britsow’s language update shows he’s a man can move with the times. If he carries on like this, there’s a job as a tabloid columnist heading his way.
Update: Sky have sacked him as a darts pundit.