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11 things we learned from this year's Premier League

Hunter Davies' "The Fan" column.

Another season over, where do they go, and why can’t I remember them? But this time quite a lot still lingers in the mind. Some of it interesting, even momentous, and not much of it silly, which means no award for Haircut of the Season. Sorry. They have all become so damn sensible.

Apologies of the Season. Should have come from the back-page hacks, who for the past three years have been saying that Barcelona were the best team the world has ever seen, will ever see, blah blah.

Praise of the Season. Now being lavished on Bayern Munich and the Bundesliga. It won’t last. Oh, how I regret telling myself in the 1980s that this Liverpool team, wow, best team the world will ever see, blah.

Small Apology. Should have come from André Villas-Boas. “Arsenal are on a downward, negative spiral,” he said two months ago, which was so stupid, even at the time. OK, he has only been in football half an hour but he should know how quickly things change, how strong Arsenal really are, how experienced Wenger is, how all such observations can rebound, how suggesting the notion of a negative spiral could lodge in the heads of his own players, which it did.

Best Explanation. From Roberto Mancini, when he realised Man City were not going to retain the title. “If only I had been allowed to buy better players, I would have had a better team.” Brilliant, don’t you think?

Best Sound Bite. “He’s going to shoot himself.” ITV commentator during a Brazil game. Best Real Bite. Or was it? Yes, we all saw Suárez open his jaw, nuzzle the arm of the Chelsea defender, but did we see blood, did we see teeth marks, did we ever even see a picture of any actual damage? Nope. But boy, what a talking point it provided.

Daftest Contract. Alan Pardew being given eight years as manager of Newcastle after a modest run of half-decent results. Clubs, like fans, get easily carried away, conning themselves, thinking this is it forever, we’ve cracked it. I bet it went through the heads of the Sunderland board to give Paolo Di Canio lifetime tenure after they beat Newcastle.

Disappointment of the Season. Raheem Sterling of Liverpool, looked utterly fab early doors, what an arrival, capped by England in November, still only 18, but now where is he?

Surprise of the Season. David Beckham, still playing football. Come on, how does he fit football into his life. It’s a miracle . . .

Second Season Syndrome. Gary Neville as a commentator. Raved about last season, so refreshing, what a football brain. Now fatter and treading water. Still worth listening to, though, especially when he pronounces the word winger with a hard g in the middle. But best linguistically is still Chris Waddle when it comes to a pelanty.

Predictions. Bale will still be at Spurs next season, Mourinho will go to PSG, Wayne Rooney still at Man United. Bound to get one of them right.

Big lumps up front, bullet-headed centre forwards, a thug in midfield to break it all up – they will all return, thanks to the collapse of Barca. Coaches will begin to think hmm, perhaps filling the midfield with titchy ball players and no proper striker isn’t the only way to succeed.

Alex Ferguson to manage another five years at Man United. I did worry during the season when I spotted him getting up from the bench and staggering, thinking it can’t be the red wine, not that early, must be arthritis, hope he doesn’t have to have a knee op. That’s what I had – and it’s still painful. Relieved to hear that in the summer Fergie is having a hip op, which is 90 per cent successful, compared with 80 per cent for knees. Good luck, laddie. Right, see yous all in September. Will try not to stagger.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 13 May 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Eton Mess

Photo: Getty Images/AFP
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Why is the government charging more women for selling sex but turning a blind eye to buyers?

Since 2013, the number of women charged for selling sex gone up while the number of men charged for buying it has gone down.

It’s no surprise that prostitution policy is an area rarely visited by our legislators. It’s politically charged - a place where the need to prevent exploitation seemingly clashes head on with notions of liberal freedom; where there are few simple answers, a disputed evidence base, and no votes.

There’s also little evidence to suggest that MPs are different from the rest of the population - where one-in-ten men have purchased sex. It is little wonder therefore that our report on how the law should change, published in 2014, was the first major cross-party intervention on the subject in twenty years.

Some take the view that by removing all legal constraints, it will make the inherently exploitative trade of prostitution, safer. It’s not just me that questions this approach, though I accept that - equally - there’s no consensus that my preferred measure of criminalising the purchase of sex, while decriminalising the sale, would fundamentally change the scale of the problem.

Where all sides come together, however, is in the desire to see women diverted from the law courts. It is still possible for women (and it still is women; prostitution remains highly genderised) to go to prison for offences related to prostitution. Today, in 2015.

The total number of prosecutions for all prostitution offences in England and Wales has been decreasing since 2010, but not in a uniform fashion. This does not reflect a reduction in the size of the trade, or the violent nature of it.

There were once consistently more prosecutions for kerb crawling, profiting, and control of prostitution. But since 2013, there have been more prosecutions for soliciting or loitering than for profit from prostitution and kerb crawling each year.

In simple terms, offences committed by men with choice, freedom and money in their pocket are having a blind eye turned to them, while women are being targeted - and this trend is accelerating. In the law courts, and in prosecutions, it is the most vulnerable party in the transaction, who is taking the burden of criminality.

Take on-street sex buying as an example. In 2013-14 just 237 prosecutions were brought for kerb crawling, but there were 553 - more than twice as many - for loitering and soliciting.

There is a similar pattern in the 2014/15 figures: 227 charges for kerb crawling reached court, while 456 prosecutions were initiated against those who were selling sex. Just 83 prosecutions for control of prostitution, or ‘pimping’, were brought in that same year.

These are men and women on the same street. It takes a high level of liberal delusion to be convinced that prostitution is caused by a surge of women wishing to sell sex, rather than men who wish to buy it. And yet women who sell sex are the ones being targeted in our law courts, not the men that create the demand in the first place.

This situation even goes against the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) own guidance. They say:

“Prostitution is addressed as sexual exploitation within the overall CPS Violence Against Women strategy because of its gendered nature… At the same time, those who abuse and exploit those involved in prostitution should be rigorously investigated and prosecuted, and enforcement activity focused on those who create the demand for on-street sex, such as kerb crawlers.”

Why then, is this happening? For the same reason it always does - in our criminal justice system stigmatised, poor women are valued less than moneyed, professional men.

My debate in Parliament today raises these issues directly with the government ministers responsible. But to be honest, the prosecution-bias against women in the courts isn’t the problem; merely a symptom of it. This bias will only be tackled when the law reflects the inherent harm of the trade to women, rather than sending the mixed signals of today.

That’s why I welcome the work of the End Demand Alliance, composed of over 40 organisations working to end the demand that fuels sex trafficking and prostitution, advocating the adoption of the Sex Buyer Law throughout the UK.

This would criminalise paying for sex, while decriminalising its sale and providing support and exiting services for those exploited by prostitution. Regardless of these big changes in the law, I don’t see how anyone can support the current state of affairs where there are more prosecutions brought against women than men involved in prostitution.

The authorities are targeting women because they're easier to arrest and prosecute. It goes against their own guidance, common sense and natural justice.
And it needs to stop.

Gavin Shuker is MP for Luton South and chair of the All Party Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade.