I wasn’t the only person whose first reaction to the announcement of Adam Chapman’s arrest for dangerous driving as ‘please don’t let this cock up Wembley’.
The club made an appropriately brief statement, but the Oxford Mail stayed noticeably quiet on what was clearly a hot story. Reporting restrictions aside, nobody wanted this do anything that destabilised the season at its apex.
But equally, I like to think that I have a well-tuned morale compass. I don’t blindly think that football should take precedent over someone’s death. By definition, most people think the same. This is despite the media trying to have you believe that we’re all of one mind that football is by far the most important thing in the world.
But these are not mutually exclusive positions; you are rarely asked to choose between football and death. And nobody is asking us to choose now. To express concern at the impact on the club and player does not belittle the loss of a life and its impact on the family.
Chapman is a bit of a twit, but he’s not a predatory killer. During his post-match interview at Wembley, he was charming and polite and clearly overwhelmed by what had been achieved.
The purpose of his sentencing is not to punish him or protect society per se – I suspect that he’s learnt plenty of lessons from the incident itself – it’s to send a message out to others who don’t recognise the dangers of driving. The law has spoken, and there seems little purpose in punishing him further.
The club has an economic decision to make as to whether it can continue to pay for a player who is not available. This aside, I hope that the club takes the enlightened position to support him. It is not corrupting your morale sensibilities to want your club to support its members when they are in dire need. If you run a football club just like a business, then your corporate reputation is at stake, but this is a club in its truest sense. Its members should be able to turn to it for support when they need to.
Society is better served by someone who makes a mistake, comes back and contributes – whatever that contribution is. For Chapman to return a pariah will only serve to marginalise him and then he’s not contributing anything.