At the weekend I watched Wayne Rooney score a hat trick for Man Utd, rescuing them from certain defeat. He celebrated this achievement by walking over to the nearest camera and indulging in a juvenile rant using a series of four letter words, his face screwed up in rage. This all happened in the middle of the day, when the match would have been watched by thousands of impressionable youngsters.
Why is this worthy of comment? I have seen a thousand Rooney’s, and I am sure most police officers will have. The same aggressive stance, the bulging eyes, the foul mouthed rant, fists clenched, surrounded by his mates, all cheering him on. I have seen this on Friday and Saturday nights, as young men (and more often young ladies) enagage in a ‘good night out.’Â I have seen people argue over almost every kind of nonsense you could imagine. ‘He stole my place in the taxi queue,’ ‘Â he looked at my girlfriend,’ ‘he is from the wrong estate,’ ‘ I didn’t like the look of him.’Â
Rooney has offered some form of apology,Â no doubt drafted by anÂ Old Trafford press officer,Â apparently it was the emotion of the moment, so that is all right then. He will get a two game ban for his sins (although apparently Utd are appealing).
What he won’t be able to do is alter the impression that he has left inÂ the eyes of the watching youngsters. It is OK to insult and abuse, it is OK to react with ridiculous aggression to perceived slights or provocation, it is excusable because it is the heat of the moment.
If Rooney had behaved like that in Wolverhampton on Saturday night, I would have expected my officers to lock him up. My officers will face more Rooneys over the weekend, no doubt somebody will be injured in some meaningless fight. An officer will have to go and tell a parent that their son or daughter is in hospital as a result.Â
People in positions of influence have an obligation to behave like human beings. It is not a lot to ask.