There is no doubt that Sol Campbell’s claims are genuine. He strongly believes that, if he had been appraised on footballing and leadership ability alone, he would have been England football captain for most of his career. One factor, and one factor alone, he says, prevented that happening.
But to accuse the FA of institutional racism just because he didn’t win 50 England caps as captain is at best misguided and at worst a cynical and unjust ploy, aimed purely at boosting sales of his autobiography.
On a basic level, he has missed the point. It is not the FA that decides who should captain the country’s football team but rather the manager in charge. Campbell’s long and successful international career took in several national team managers, including Terry Venables, Glenn Hoddle and Sven Goran Eriksson. It is those men who decided that Tony Adams, David Beckham and Steven Gerrard, great players and leaders, should be their captain, and not Campbell.
So are Venables, Hoddle and Eriksson all racist? That is the ridiculous inference from Campbell’s claim but nothing could be further from the truth. Each of them made black players captains in their club management careers – and has Campbell forgotten that he even played under a black captain for England, in Paul Ince?
Perhaps there are more fundamental reasons for overlooking Campbell as captain, such as his sometimes introverted character and unpredictable behaviour (he once disappeared at half time of a match against West Ham, and set off for Belgium in full matchday kit). Regardless, it is a manager’s prerogative and Campbell has jumped to a ludicrous conclusion
I believe he is genuine in his misguided conviction, for whatever reason, and this is not a cheap publicity stunt but the FA does not have a case to answer. It should not dignify Campbell’s accusation with a response; whether the former England managers implicated in this unsavoury story choose to do is up to them, but I expect they have been shocked by Campbell’s words and will feel compelled to protect their dignity.