7 July ~ The latest footballers' sex scandal to be reported in the media is not one where the public will ruefully shake their heads at the antics of an errant player. The activities of Hearts right-back Craig Thomson are far more sinister than simply sleeping around. Nevertheless the tabloids in Scotland have energetically picked up the story, publishing lurid details of the players attempts to "groom" two underage girls online and then launching a campaign to have the player sacked after the club initially took no action against him.
Thomson was placed on the sex offenders list last month after being found guilty of indecent behaviour with 12- and 14-year-old girls and fined £4,000. He was welcomed back by Hearts with a bullish but bizarre statement from owner Vladimir Romanov which seemed to suggest a conspiracy between, among others, the mafia, Thomson's agent and Hearts legend Gary Mackay, aimed at manipulating the club and its results. Thomson also offered a less than full apology on the club's website, describing the case against him as an "unfortunate affair" and thanking the club for withstanding pressure from "outside" organisations "not in full possession of the facts surrounding my situation". However, last week the club responded to the media backlash, negative comments from ex-players and fans, and businesses withdrawing sponsorship, by suspending Thomson indefinitely.
The outcome doesn't look good for anyone. Thomson's victims would have had to relive what he tried to do to them, which the tabloids recounted in detail over a number of days. And while it is hard to sympathise with someone on the sex-offenders list, he has been offered no counselling by his employers and was apparently still visiting schools to help out with PE classes after he had been charged last September.
Would Hearts have tried to ignore Thomson's criminal record if he had been a reserve or an older player with no resale value? Thomson was tipped to have a great future for club and country, and Hearts have already have invested heavily in his football education so far. It also has implications for other clubs. Rangers and Cardiff target David Goodwillie of Dundee United was charged with rape at the New Year, with the case still not having gone to court. If he is found guilty and the media reflect in detail on his case, what will the club who has just spent £2 million on him do? Gordon Cairns