James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: We must tackle football’s ingrained unfairness

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Why do celebrities, who aren’t usually short of a bob or two, get handed freebies when everyone else coughs-up?

Are ‘Z List’ no-marks really so precious they can’t queue for a nightclub with those of us in great unwashed?

Yes, you’ve guessed it, I can’t stand preferential treatment. Especially when, in this ruthless old world, there are so many more deserving cases out there.

Unfortunately, despite positioning itself as the game of the people, football is not immune to sycophancy. As Sheffield United and Oldham Athletic, who host the League One leaders at Boundary Park tomorrow, were reminded earlier this month. Both will enter the match, which could have huge bearing over how their respective seasons unfold, without key players after Daniel Lafferty and Ryan McLaughlin were called-up by Northern Ireland. And yet, unlike their top-flight and Championship counterparts, they are expected to carry on regardless.

Now, I’m not saying that United are stuffed without Lafferty. Or, for that matter, Oldham have no chance of causing an upset without his compatriot in their ranks. But it’s the principle, ensuring a level playing field for all, that matters. The governing bodies, if they really are serious about fairness, need to take a look at this. Particularly, given the influx of overseas talent and changing financial landscape in recent years,as more and more leading professionals are being pushed down the divisions.

Of course, this is not a problem United will have to contend with next season if, as seems likely, they gain promotion from League One. That, however, is not a good enough reason to ignore the potential injustice faced by up to 48 others clubs. Self-interest has long been the scourge of our national sport.

Chris Wilder will not be best pleased to lose Daniel Lafferty: Robin Parker/Sportimage

Chris Wilder will not be best pleased to lose Daniel Lafferty: Robin Parker/Sportimage

Recently, the English Football League announced that second-tier clubs will benefit from goal-line technology next season with Hawk-Eye technology rolled-out across 24 grounds. Shaun Harvey, the organisation’s chief executive, welcomed the move saying it enabled match officials to “ensure they are best placed to make the right calls in even the most difficult of situations.”

My first thought was ‘Great.’ But don’t League One and League Two clubs deserve those, the right calls, too?

The argument that there is more money at stake towards the top of the pyramid is misguided because, as those at the bottom will testify, everything is relative. For the protagonists and the people who follow them too.

But, unless clubs, commentators and supporters alike show more solidarity, the rich will continue to benefit from more favourable deals.

Danny Lafferty is away on international duty with Northern Ireland: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Danny Lafferty is away on international duty with Northern Ireland: Simon Bellis/Sportimage