A modest proposal

Let's have insurance against the things that footie throws at us

You probably haven't got your copy handy, so let me remind you of a paragraph in Grimsby Town's programme for their home game against Sheffield United on 17 November 1956: "The Supporters' Accident Policy for Supporters' Club Members has been raised to cover 30,000, so it behoves any Town follower, who is not a member, to join and gain this free cover against any possibility."

There are no more details, but wouldn't it be wonderful if football supporters really could insure themselves against anything that might happen at a game, especially the sort of annoying, poxy things hardly imagined 50 years ago?

You’ve planned your whole Saturday,

and then what do Sky only go and do?

Put it back to when you’re back on your North Sea oil rig

Sky buggering around with kick-off times: Weeks ago you planned your whole Saturday around being in the boozer from 12, at the game from three to five, then back in the pub, then what do they only go and do? Put it back to late-night Monday when you'll be back on your North Sea oil rig. Insurance to cover loss, expenses, aggravation - £1,000.

Star player doing a runner in the January window. You buys your season ticket back in June, fully confident that Good Old Heskey, the only Wigan player who can kick straight, is going to be leading your line. Come February, the bastard is still leading the line - for the fucking opposition. Refund of ticket, plus compensation - £1,500.

Star player disappearing: Imagine having an LA Galaxy season ticket, which you only bought cos of Beckham, about whom you have wet dreams, and then he's gone, destination unknown. Grievous disappointment - $1,000.

Being abused by Craig Bellamy, or similar: You're happily shouting all sorts, cos you really hate him, which is only your right, when he turns round, in front of your missus and kids, and gives you a mouthful back. Affront to your sensitivities, public humiliation and possible saliva poisoning - £500.

Being kung-fu'd: He's off playing beach footie with a load of other fatties, thank Gawd, but chances are some overpaid yob will still leap over the barrier and lump you. Insurance cover - £5,000.

Manager sacked: There must be people who adored Big Phil, and even Grey Old Grant, so when it happens mid-season, just when you're convinced he's cracked it, you are well choked, having invested all that sympathy not to mention empathy, whatever that is. Compensation - £5.50.

Change of owners: Overnight, the butchers, bakers and builders who've owned the club for yonks have sold out to some financial wizard based in Colombia who arrives on the pitch at half-time with a helicopter filled with fivers that he throws to the crowd . . . only to disappear a month later, leaving the club bankrupt.

Rubbish programme: Full of glossy ads for horrible sponsors, and nowt about your team you didn't know. Refund, plus insult to intelligence - £20 per game.

Rubbish players: Several hundred Spurs fans travel midweek all the way to Ukraine to cheer on their heroes, only to find that Harry has fielded a team of youth players in nappies whose names they don't know. Travel, hotel, entertaining well fit Ukrainian girls - £1,000.

Objectionable fans: Being sat next to belching, farting drunks from the hospitality suites who have never been to a game before, middle-class dads who talk all the way through to their dopey kids and Mr Shouter, right in front of you, who stands for the whole game. Insurance - £100 per game.

It took about a week, but I did get through to a present-day Grimsby fan. Gary Swan, of the away supporters' travel club, told me they do have cover - mainly for coach travel, in case a match gets cancelled. No imagination, these modern insurance firms.

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 02 March 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Thatcher: 30 years on, the final verdict

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.