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Eamonn Carrabine et al. (2014, p. 1061) define transgression as ‘[t]he act of overstepping boundaries or limits established by rules, laws, principles, custom, convention or tradition’. As this definition indicates, the line between right and wrong is often difficult to see, because it is drawn by explicit and implicit ‘rules’. As public figures, footballers often get caught in the confusion that results. For example, when England international Paul Gascoigne infamously told a whole country (Norway) to ‘fuck off’ on television, he crossed one set of lines (broadcast embargoes on swearing, the popular expectation that footballers should adopt ambassadorial roles, respect for supporters), while adhering to other standards (the informal rules of ‘banter’). However you interpret this incident, it speaks to a larger

truth: footballers who are seen to break the rules in the media become part of the process that determines how we make rules in the first place. Footballing transgressions that become part of a social conversation about right and wrong often focus on matters of gender and violence. Gascoigne’s ‘clown prince’ persona was tarnished by reports of spousal abuse. In 2015, three Leicester City players were sacked following the circulation of a video clip showing the men racially abusing, insulting and degrading Thai sex workers. The incident dramatized the relationship between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ rules – from the explicit, legal issue of racial abuse to the implicit racism and sexism of sex tourism. A vivid example of how media stories about footballers, gender and violence mobilize debates about transgression came in 2014, when Welsh professional footballer Ched Evans was released from prison on probation, having served half of a five-year rape sentence. Evans sought to resume his career first with Sheffield United and then with Oldham Athletic, both of whom were playing in the English League One. Both proposed moves imploded after protests from fans, club sponsors and public figures (BBC News, 2015a). Even politicians weighed in. The leader of the UK Labour Party, Ed Miliband, gave the following advice:

I think that it’s right Oldham are thinking again about whether Ched Evans should be hired by them because you are a role model, he’s been convicted of a very serious crime. Personally, if I was in their shoes, he hasn’t shown remorse and I wouldn’t take him on.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudying Football
EditorsEllis Cashmore, Kevin Dixon
Place of PublicationAbingdon Oxon UK
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781315737072
ISBN (Print)9781138830721, 9781138830738
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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