Frank Lampard’s shunning by Chelsea and other cases of sporting ‘disloyalty’
Poor old Frank Lampard. Actually, not poor. Not by a long chalk. Not that old either. But old enough for Chelsea to decide, according to Lampard’s agent, not to offer the England midfielder a new contract ‘under any circumstances’ at the end of this season.
It’s a move that’s been criticised by some as a display of disloyalty on the part of the club. I think we’ve got to be careful how we use words like ‘loyalty’ in the context of professional sport. In much the same way as ‘loyalty card’ is a complete misnomer – it should be ‘bribery voucher’ or some such – notions of loyalty between club and player can only be viewed in relation to the contractual agreement between the two parties.
Sensibly for Chelsea, but unfortunately for Lampard who’s been a great ‘servant’ (now that really is the wrong choice of word), the club are not willing to keep him on the books on improved terms versus his current contract. Why would they? In business terms, he’s an asset whose value diminishes over time; no company in its right mind would pay more now than five years ago when he was worth a lot more.
If Lampard winds up at Manchester United, and neither the club nor the fans could complain if he did, that would fire up the disloyalty debate all over again.
Kieren Fallon switches horses mid-stream
Kieren Fallon has said in the past that he prefers the company of horses to that of many humans. Certainly, when the six-time champion jockey whispers sweet nothings in the pricked ears of his mounts on the course or the gallops, his words can’t get him into trouble. When he does interact with people, he attracts controversy as a sweating thoroughbred draws horse flies on a summer’s day. He’s been banned from racing for drug offences, beating Signor Dettori to that punch by several years. In 2004, he was the subject of a tabloid sting on race fixing, an offence of which he was later found not guilty at the Old Bailey.
But perhaps the most bizarre row in which Fallon has found himself embroiled came before the Epsom Derby in 2011. He’d been booked to ride the Ed Dunlop-trained Native Khan, a likeable grey who had a live chance of springing a surprise in the big race. Fallon had won on Native Khan both times he’d ridden the colt, most recently in the Craven Stakes, a decent Classic trial. But then, in the week leading up to Epsom, he announced that he would instead be riding Recital, trained by the all-conquering Aidan O’Brien and winner of another Derby trial in Ireland.
This horse-switching is not uncommon, particularly among the top jockeys who are much in demand. It must be frustrating for connections but that’s just the way it is, for example, where retained relationships take precedence over freelance arrangements. So when Native Khan’s owner, Ibrahim Araci, threatened legal action to prevent Fallon from riding another horse in the Derby, my reaction was along the lines of: “selfish owner not used to not getting his own way and being vindictive.”
But then it emerged that Fallon had signed a contract. He’d actually put pen to paper on an agreement to ride Native Khan for a year whenever asked and, if not asked, not to ride a rival in the same race. Fallon had openly and deliberately reneged on both of these contractual promises. The result: the court injunction was granted and Fallon was left without a ride in the Derby.
On the surface, these appear to be the arrogant actions of a man who believes the normal rules don’t apply to him. My take, though, is that Fallon is just, to put it politely, a little naïve. Either way, best stick to the horses, Kieren.
As a footnote, Native Khan finished fifth under replacement jockey Johnny Murtagh behind the French-trained winner, Pour Moi, with Recital, ridden by Pat Smullen, two lengths back in sixth.
“Say it ain’t so, Joe”
Perhaps the strangest aspect of the most infamous case of sporting disloyalty in history is that it was never proven. ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson and his seven Chicago White Sox team-mates accused of throwing the 1919 World Series for $5,000 apiece were acquitted of any wrong-doing.
However, the acquittal came in 1921 and the interim saw enough media muddying of the waters for the stain to become permanent. On the one hand, there’s very little evidence that Jackson himself under-performed in the series to lend weight to the theory that he was party to a fix: statistics note that his batting average was the highest on either side (he also holds the third highest career average in history) and that he made no individual errors in the field. On the other, newspaper reports carried purported quotes from the grand jury trial in which Jackson owns up to ‘crooked work’ in the field that ‘netted the Cincinnati [Reds] team several runs that they never would have had if we had been playing on the square.’ Important to note, though, that the official grand jury record makes no mention of the quote.
Even the most celebrated incident of the whole sorry affair – where a young, dewy-eyed fan is said to have pleaded “Say it ain’t so, Joe” as Jackson left the courtroom one day – is widely thought to be apocryphal.
If we’re to hold true to the notion of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, we must maintain that Jackson and his team-mates were clean. I do hope so. Say it wasn’t so, Joe.
Nevertheless, it’s a slur on sport made more shocking through the lens of history because it happened in supposedly more innocent times. Well, whatever the truth, the 1919 World Series scandal and the American media’s reporting of it teach us this: there were never more innocent times.
Next up… Lance Armstrong explaining his alleged betrayal of cycling on Oprah…Tagged in: chelsea, football, Frank Lampard, Premier League
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