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The price of football

By |October 14th, 2014|Recent news|0 Comments

Tomorrow, the BBC is going to reveal the findings of its The Price of Football 2014 study.

There will be things that the study will not cover. For example, it will not report on travelling to the game (it’s different for everyone); the prices of sandwiches at Greggs, since food in the stadium is eye-wateringly expensive (£4.10 for a pie?); and the cost of private counselling.

As a Newcastle United fan, it is very difficult to make purchasing decisions regarding replica kits and merchandise. If you buy from the club shop, where is that money really going? If you buy a new football shirt this season, will it have any bearing on on club recruitment or performance? If you buy these things elsewhere (and for much cheaper), are you giving less support to your team?

There is much to be angry about as a supporter. Football tickets may not be rising as much as they might be, but other things are becoming much more expensive. Football shirts are typically reaching beyond £50 now (for a shirt that you can’t really wear to a restaurant). Many teams require season ticket holders to become members.

And, despite this, the members and supporters have no voice. Newcastle United is an example that has a supporters’ panel to comply with UEFA regulations. The last meeting was cancelled at short notice. No actions have ever been taken as a result of any of these meetings, and representatives of the club largely comprise the public relations team.

If you think this is confined to club football, it is not. The international game is abhorrent. The Football Association releases a new kit for the England team every year, even though competitions occur in two year cycles. This season set a record for the shirt price and introduced two-tier pricing depending on how loyal you wish to appear to be. International competitions are run by the sponsors: being the official beverage of the World Cup permits you to ban any other beverage in the stadium, whether for sale or whether supporters wish to bring in a rival’s brand. It wouldn’t surprise me if there is soon an official paracetamol supplier to FIFA, meaning that many fans will have to endure headaches during a match unless they’re willing to pay inflated prices for the official pain-relief.

They call football “the beautiful game”, but it really isn’t. As entertainment, it’s top class. I thoroughly enjoy what I watch. It’s unlike any other entertainment, but there are things that come with the territory. As supporters, you have no control over the game. If the Premier League decide that a game will be held abroad, it will be. If the FIFA decide that supporters have to wear Puma boxer shorts and Adidas trainers, it will happen. If the owner of your football team decides that the club should move to a new city, change its name or change the colour of its kit, you aren’t going to be able to stop them.

A reply from The Telegraph

The Head of Editorial Compliance replied within a matter of hours. As expected, my complaint didn’t quite invoke the Editors’ Code of Practice and my complaint wasn’t upheld. Here is the reply nonetheless.

Dear Mr Broughton

‘Martin Amis: How Hitler had sex’, 12 Oct 2014

Thank you for contacting us about this article.

This was Martin Amis’ personal and subjective view of Hitler’s sexuality, and instantly recognisable as such. It is of course impossible to know the truth about such a recondite topic, and the writer is entitled to conjecture. An article about Hitler’s putative asexuality cannot be taken, on any fair reading, as a ‘negative stereotype of asexual people’ in general.

We are very sorry if the article upset you. However it does not engage clause 12 of the Editors’ Code, which forbids discrimination against individuals, not groups.

Yours sincerely
Jess McAree
Head of Editorial Compliance

Although I accept what was said in that letter (to some extent, anyway: Amis did not support his conjecture with any kind of evidence, convincing or otherwise), my complaint was not that associating Hitler with asexuality is a slur on asexuality. It was more that Amis communicated views that asexuality was not normal and alien.

A letter to The Telegraph

I was alerted to an article published to The Telegraph’s website via an email update that searches for articles about asexuality. This one was offensive. I’m not going to link it, because I do not wish to publicise it any more than necessary.

It suggests that Hitler was asexual, and this is one of the reasons that we have failed to understand him. It also says, directly, that asexuality is not normal. Under Clause 12 of the IPSO Editors’ Code of Practice:

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

My complaint is slightly oblique to this section of the Code of Practice. Nonetheless, this is a copy of the complaint form I sent to The Telegraph to complain about it.

To whom it may concern,

I wish to complain about the article “Martin Amis: how Hitler had sex”, written by Anita Singh. The narrative offered by Singh and the comments made by Amis and reported in this article, in my view, contravene Clause 12 of the IPSO Editors’ Code of Practice.

The specific nature of my complaint is as follows.

1. Singh states that “the author” — presumably referring to Amis — believes that Adolf Hitler is asexual. Singh quotes Amis: “No-one understands Hitler. No-one understands what he was up to. And I don’t want to be reductive here or simplistic or frivolous, but I’m convinced that one of the reasons why we don’t recognise Hitler is that he’s sexually a void… Sexuality is one of the ways we recognise each other: knowing whether someone is married or gay or whatever it might be.”

This implies that being asexual is a barrier to being accepted or understood by wider society. It is my view that this is not only ignorant on the part of Amis, but it also serves to propagate negative stereotypes of asexual people as being distant, impossible to engage with, and being abhorrent in nature.

2. The article reports Amis made the following remarks: “In Hitler studies there are three schools of thought about his sexuality. One is normality… asexuality is the other one, the third one is perversion.”

This unequivocally marks asexuality as being outside the confines of “normality” and clearly propagates the discrimination of asexuals and asexuality.

I hope you will consider my complaint for this and future publications and will offer an apology and clarification of the paper’s stance towards asexuality and asexual persons.

I would be willing to assist the Telegraph Media Group on this matter if desired.

Yours faithfully,
Stephen Broughton.

A reply from the Government Equalities Office

Today I received a reply to my letter to the Government Equalities Office. And here it is:

Dear Mr Broughton,

Thank you for your letter of 23 September 2014 regarding the legal recognition of asexuality.

I am sorry to hear that you have experienced prejudice because of your asexuality. However, the Government believes that an amendment of discrimination law based on attitudes to asexuality would not be appropriate.

Discrimination law is based on protection for people against discrimination because of particular characteristics (described as “protected characteristics”). These are, in the Equality Act 2010: age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. These characteristics also reflect EU legislation. As you recognise, the sexual orientation characteristic is defined as a person’s sexual orientation towards persons of the same sex, the opposite sex, or either sex, which explicitly does not cover asexuality.

A strong evidence base has built up over time that people with these protected characteristics have faced serious discrimination affecting their employment prospects and access to goods and services, like housing, health services and education, leading to disadvantage for themselves and their dependants. As there is not the same level of robust evidence for discrimination on the basis of asexuality, the Government is not looking to bring forward this change in discrimination law.

That said, there are situations in which an asexual person is protected by the Equality Act — for example, the Act bans discrimination based on the perception that someone does have a protected characteristic, or because they are associated with someone who has that characteristic.

If you would like advice on your experience of discrimination, you can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Services (EASS). The EASS provide [sic] bespoke advice and in-depth support to individuals with discrimination problems and can be contacted on the following number: 0800 444 205 (or textphone 0800 444 206). Their website is at: https://www.equalityadvisoryservice.com/.

I hope this is helpful to you.

Yours sincerely,
Lucy Kennedy,
Policy Assistant, LGB&T Equality

Clearly this isn’t good news. The only hope of getting protection by law and from Government is to be discriminated against and reporting it. The paragraph about the protection we do have is of little comfort: we are only protected if people assume that we have a sexual orientation towards either sex and then discriminate against us.

Unfortunately, discrimination against asexuals can, does, and will happen. It is legal to discriminate against asexuals. And the Government are unwilling to do anything about because they do not believe it is necessary. In fact, the Equality Act is an example of discrimination against asexuals.

The political parties appear to have no appetite to outlaw such discrimination either.

So what’s next? Well, there’s the long game. Be discriminated against. Be accused of frigidity. Be sent to counsellors and therapists. Be sent to doctors for “corrective treatment”. Be sent to others for “corrective treatment”… Be hassled to get married and have children. Be told you’re not normal, that you’re a freak, that you’re not human. Then report these incidents (they are not crimes, though, remember). Then hope enough people are brave and persevering enough to report them. Then hope Government notices these incidents and debate a change.

This is not good enough.

The alternative is to campaign. Win hearts and minds. Share understanding, breed knowledge. Get people to contact their local MPs. Get people to sign a petition. Make Government notice. Make Government legally recognise asexuality and protect asexuals.

Addendum
This is the letter I sent to the GEO to which they replied.

Email sent to major political parties

Forgive me, I grew impatient. It has been more than two weeks since I sent letters to the political parties and received a reply (nay, an acknowledgement) from only the Conservative Party. I thought, perhaps, there were more appropriate places to send the request for more policy information than to the campaign headquarters. Indeed, for some of the parties, there appear to be such places.

I have just sent emails (or completed web forms) to the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the United Kingdom Independence Party and the Green Party. The Conservatives advised me to contact the Government Equalities Office, so I shall await their reply. The email contained an almost-carbon-copy of the original letter, save for a note at the start of the message noting that I have already sent a letter (dated 16th September).

Hopefully I should get some responses soon.

Addendum
I should add that I may have, in haste and carelessness, asked UKIP for the Green Party’s policy. I apologise openly for that oversight. However, I hope they can understand that this is my greatest concern and my alliances may be forged by an appropriate response and that I am not contacting them in isolation because of this.

Letter to the Government Equalities Office

You could say I’m quite determined. I want to know what policy the Conservatives have (if they have any at all) with regard to the protection of asexuals. As they suggested, I have sent another letter. Rather than the Department of Women and Equalities (which I do not believe exists) I have sent the letter to the Government Equalities Office (GEO) at the same address.

I realise that it probably is not the right place to find Tory policy; however, the GEO should have a policy of their own and, even if they haven’t, it would be interesting to know what their thoughts are with regard to this issue. So this is the letter I sent.

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to you with regard to the recognition of asexuality as a sexual orientation within the protective laws of the United Kingdom. As an asexual person, I am concerned that the policy of the Government Equalities Office (GEO) that aim to promote and protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people do not appear to extend to asexual people.

I have been in contact with my local Member of Parliament, The Rt. Hon. Mr Ronnie Campbell MP for Blyth Valley. His response to my letter, with confirmation from the House of Commons Library, establishes that asexuals are not included in the definition for a sexual orientation in the Equality Act 2010 (EA 2010), Section 12. Therefore, the laws that protect individuals on the basis of sexual orientation do not apply to asexual people.

It is my concern that, as more individuals recognise asexuality in themselves and others, discrimination and hate crime towards asexuals will become more frequent. As someone that has endured prejudice of this nature, I find it intolerable that EA 2010 does not offer the same protection as it does to other sexual orientations. An oft-heard refrain from such-prejudiced individuals is that asexuals are weird and not human-like; that EA 2010 excludes protection for asexuals only supports their prejudice.

I am proud of and commend the continuing ethos in which EA 2010 was written and Government Equalities Office (GEO) operates; however I have read the GEO’s Policy webpages and found no indication of any intention to make the necessary amendments to EA 2010. Indeed, asexuality is not mentioned at all.

As a community, asexuals do not wish for this discrimination to become prevalent and, given its purpose, I am sure that the GEO does not wish to advocate discrimination against asexual persons either.

I am writing, therefore, to establish the policy of the Government Equalities Office to ensure that asexual people are protected by law from discrimination.

I have also been directed by the Office of the Party Chairmen of the Conservative Party to write to you directly to establish the policy of the Conservative Party with regard to the same issue.

I eagerly await your reply for my own and others’ reassurance and I thank you in advance for taking the time to respond to my letter.

Yours faithfully,
Stephen Broughton.

A reply from The Conservative Party

This morning I received my first reply to the letters I sent to some political parties. The Conservatives win for speed in sending me a response. However, the good news rather ends there. Having asked the Conservatives what their policy towards promoting and protecting asexuals, this was their response.

Dear Mr Broughton,

I am writing on behalf of the Party Chairman, The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, who has asked me to thank you for your letter of 16th September.

It is good of you to get in touch and make us aware of your thoughts.

It is most appropriate for correspondence regarding specific issues such as this to be directed to the Government, rather than the Conservative Party. In light of this, I would encourage you to contact the Department for Women and Equalities directly by writing to 100 Parliament Street, London, SW1A 2BQ.

Thank you, once again, for taking the time and trouble to get in touch.

Yours sincerely,
Oliver Wells
Office of the Party Chairmen
Conservative Campaign Headquarters

Now, this seems to me a bit peculiar. Why would a question about a party’s policy towards asexuality be better addressed to the Government? I can only infer from this that the Conservative Party have no such policy and no intention to introduce a policy. However, you can read for yourselves the letter that I sent to the Conservative Party Headquarters and their reply in full and allow you to reach your own conclusions.

In the meantime, I will work on a letter to the Department for Women and Equalities (to whom I had planned on sending a letter anyway) to ask for the Conservative Party’s policy on asexual equality.

Letter to major political parties

Since the letter I received from my local MP concentrated on the Equality Act 2010, I decided that I will concentrate on that, for now. So I’ve written another letter.

Well, letters. Seeing as there is going to be a General Election next year, I am writing to five political parties to establish their views and policies on asexuality protection. It is quite vague and does not make any demands at this stage. I want to get as rounded a picture of their stances as possible before seeking to push for promises.

So the following letter will be sent to the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the United Kingdom Independence Party. They will all receive the following letter.

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to you with regard to the issue of the recognition of asexuality as a sexual orientation within the protective laws of the United Kingdom. Since I identify myself as being asexual, I am concerned that current plans that aim to promote and protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people do not appear to extend naturally to asexual people.

I have recently been in touch with my current local Member of Parliament, The Rt. Hon. Mr Ronnie Campbell MP for Blyth Valley. His response to my letter, with confirmation from the House of Commons Library confirms that asexuals are not included in the definition for a sexual orientation in the Equality Act 2010 (EA 2010), Section 12. Therefore, the laws that protect individuals on the basis of sexual orientation do not apply to asexual people.

It is my concern that, as more individuals recognise asexuality in themselves and others, discrimination and hate crime towards asexuals will become more frequent. As someone that has endured prejudice of this nature, I find it intolerable that EA 2010 does not offer the same protection as it does to other sexual orientations. An oft-heard refrain from such-prejudiced individuals is that asexuals are weird and not human-like; that EA 2010 does not include asexuals only supports their prejudice.

As a community, asexuals do not wish for this discrimination to become prevalent. Now is the opportune time to act. The United Kingdom could become the first country to pass protective legislation to protect asexuals and, as a leading, progressive nation, I believe that is something that we should strive for.

I am keen, therefore, to be informed of the <insert party name>’s policy towards the protection of asexuals and the commitments it intends to make following the forthcoming General Election. I look forward to your reply.

Yours faithfully,
Stephen Broughton.

Forgiveness and the missing link

By |September 12th, 2014|Recent news|0 Comments

I have entered into conversations before on the topic of forgiveness. It has been thrust into our consciousnesses again, since some members of Reeva Steenkamp’s family have expressed their forgiveness of Oscar Pistorius. It is not my intention to comment any further on this case here (the BBC News website has its own dedicated section to the incident, subsequent trial and wider issues). Presumably, I am not the only one interested in this act of forgiveness, as the BBC has done one of their “iWonder” pieces, and you can see their overview of forgiveness and its origins in religion here.

To simplify greatly (and, perhaps, naively) the message of that page, is that the origins of forgiveness is the realisation that no one is perfect and we should forgive others’ mistakes in the knowledge that we have committed and will commit plenty of our own.

This simplification does not always hold, clearly. Some refuse to forgive, and there are doubtless many instances where homicide is not forgiven. But, like in the above case, some forgive and are willing to invite the perpetrators into their own home. That’s a stark difference.

What the iWonder article does not explore is why we forgive. The suggestion is that we blindly forgive to appease the deities to which we serve. In some cases, that may be true. Section 7 of that article suggests how these practices have moved into the secular world, as symbolic forgiveness may be a remedy for dealing with seismic events in our lives.

Furthermore, the article does not discuss what forgiveness is. Wikipedia offers an explanation of what it isn’t:

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship). Wikipedia

What is the trigger that decides whether we can forgive or not? For some, it’s their faith. For others, it’s an apology. For me, I have to be able to understand.

I think most would regard me as a tolerant and patient person. I say that not to sound boastful, but to communicate the need to be willing to listen to an explanation or to mull over the causes of bad things that have happened to me. The reasons don’t have to be good ones. People make mistakes and bad choices, and I fully appreciate that.

So did those members of Steenkamp’s family forgive on the basis of understanding? In some ways, I hope so. There would be something powerful in accepting the remorse and explanation from Pistorius, as well as the judgement of the trial proceedings. I would hope that doing so would help to bring some closure to them.

Do I forgive Pistorius? Well, that is a discussion for another day!

A reply from my local MP

In my previous A fight for change post, I posted a letter I sent to my local Member of Parliament. I received his reply today, so I’d like to thank Mr Campbell for his prompt response to my query. His response is below.

Dear Mr Broughton,

Re: Recognition of asexuality

Further to your enquiry to the office regarding the above, this is to confirm that I contacted the House of Commons Library and reiterated your concerns to the employment and equality law specialist.

Please find enclosed your response regarding asexuality and the Equality Act 2010.

I trust the above clarifies the situation, however if you require further assistance, then please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Yours sincerely,
Ronnie Campbell MP

The enclosed document was thorough (three pages, no less) and reflected upon the laws and court action that has been provoked by legislation with regard to asexuality. I thank the gentleman that composed this document. Since it is thorough, I will post highlights of the document, including the warning:

This information is provided to Members of Parliament in support of their parliamentary duties and is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. It should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. A suitably qualified professional should be consulted if specific advice or information is required.

You have been warned!

Here is a summary (and a few quotes) of this document.

  • “In short, the constituent [me] is broadly correct: the definition of sexual orientation under the Equality Act 2010 (EA 2010) does not expressly encompass asexuality.”He quotes Katherine Monaghan QC, a leading commentator on equality law:

    the EA 2010 does not address discrimination against a person because they are asexual. The EA 2010 assumes that such a person has no sexuality at all (or none justifying protection). This is on the presumed basis that we all have a sexual drive towards one sex or another, or both.

    (Monaghan on Equality Law, 2013, p.238)

  • “This failure to address discrimination against asexuals may be more a product of oversight than intention. The EA 2010’s definition of sexual orientation was based on that used in regulation 2(1) of The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/1661), which implemented EU Council Directive 2000/78/EC.”Looking at SI 2003/1661, the definition is, indeed, identical. He suggested that the Government at the time proposed this definition, which was not challenged in Parliament. Similarly, when EA 2010 was adopted, there were few challenges in Parliament, presumably since the Act itself is considered broadly a good thing — and, of course, it is.
  • “Despite the above, it is still possible that the Act could eventually prohibit such discrimination. The courts are required to interpret the Act in accordance with EU law, including case law, which may in time come to encompass asexuality within the definition of sexual orientation. It appears that, at present, the EU has not addressed this issue due to a lack of evidence that asexuals are suffering discrimination.”
  • He noted the response to a question sent by a member of a Spanish Member of Parliament to the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship at the European Commission, Viviane Reding. The summarising question was, “Does the Commission not believe it should give attention to asexual people in programmes to ensure equality regardless of sexual orientation?”The response was reassuring in that the European Commission appears sympathetic; and: “The Commission is not aware of reported cases of discrimination by asexual persons in employment in the framework of this directive and does not dispose of any solid evidence of discrimination suffered by this group” (European Parliament, Official Journal C 55E, 26/02/2014).
  • “Of course, this does not address the constituent’s concern that the EA 2010 does not expressly prohibit discrimination against asexuals, which could only be addressed by amending section 12.”

So, the gist of this document is that there have been no cases of discrimination against asexuals; EA 2010 doesn’t expressly forbid such discrimination; but it may still offer protection to those that need it.

I would appreciate suggestions for what I should be doing next. This letter has both reassured me and confirmed my worries. Ideally, Section 12 of EA 2010 should be changed: not only to protect asexuals, but also for the knowledge that my country recognises who we are. Once this happens, I hope there are fewer children growing up thinking that there must be something wrong with them.