Rebecca Wilson. Football, Leyonhjelm and respecting a human being.

I really didn’t want to write this post very much, but as I got involved in twitter debates after the untimely death of Rebecca Wilson I decided I needed to explain my views on this matter.

Should we stop criticising someone just because they died?

I share somewhat the opinion that when someone dies he or she is shielded from criticism.  I think of this when the lives of those who died in terrorism attacks is reported in the media, they are always wonderful human beings. After a few year I remember someone questioning the account of the 3000 people who died in the 9/11 attacks that it was impossible that everyone would have been an absolute angel.

However we must also remember that everyone has a human dimension.  Rebecca Wilson was a soccerphobe, but that does not mean that her death at a relatively young age should be celebrated because ‘it is one less voice against football’ as some have tweeted.

She was a daughter, a sister, a mother and a wife of someone.  Her passing will give grief and pain to other human beings no matter what she wrote in a newspaper, and this will always have to be remembered.

Perhaps I feel strongly because Wilson was one year younger than myself, and I could think of the desperation I would feel facing a diagnosis like that when I have so much life to live, wanting to see my son grow perhaps having children of his own, and having that taken away.

Perhaps because this evokes memories on my brother in law, a healthy man who would ride his bicycle every weekend for hours, struck down by esophageal cancer at 56.  His daughter just had a baby three weeks ago, and he was not to share this event with her.

Perhaps people that tweet somewhat pleased that Wilson is no longer around to write against football are young and have been fortunate enough to experience the feelings that a cancer diagnosis of a loved one can have.

Why I criticise David Leyonhjelm’s tweet

This tweet by Senator David Leyonhjelm has created a huge backlash.  And I have criticised it myself.  Senator Leyonhjelm defends this tweet by bringing to attention her reporting of a leaked document about people banned by FFA (often for minor misdemeanours or even for wrong people) has seriously affected some people’s lives (being sacked from their jobs etc.) He put out this statement:

“Rebecca Wilson wrote a story in the Sunday Telegraph in 2015 in which she purported to name and shame fans of the Western Sydney Wanderers who she claimed had been banned by the Football Federation for loutish behaviour.  This was accompanied by photographs of the individuals.

“In fact, some of the people named had never been banned, some had been banned on spurious grounds, and some were under 18 and should never have been named even if they had legitimately banned”

“The response by fans was to boycott games, eventually forcing the FFA to modify its approach to banning fans and to treat them with decency and natural justice.”

“However, Western Sydney Wanderers fans never forgot Wilson’s failure to check facts or shabby treatment.  As I said in my tweet, I do not expect them to attend her funeral.”

“If you think that’s offensive, you need to get out more.  I stand by my tweet.  Furthermore, death does not suddenly absolve us of what we did when we were alive”


I have criticised Wilson in the past. And I stand by that now.





However, I believe there is a time and place. Wilson was wrong when she wrote that article, and it was shameful she ‘exposed’ minors, innocent people or made out that those who made minor infringements were ‘hooligans’. She didn’t like Association Football and she wrote negative things about it. That is not disputed. I also don’t dispute that when we will remember Rebecca Wilson this should be also be part of her legacy. But to make what could be construed as a lighthearted remark that Western Sydney fans would not attend her funeral just a few hours after her death I think is really insensitive.

The other issue is that what Leyonhjelm is counter-productive. I can see that for some fans, the positive eulogies in the media would have been perceived as unbalanced because her actions against A-League fans were not mentioned.

If the intention was to highlight the injustice meted out to the banned fans then the Senator did an ‘own goal’ by his timing and tone of the tweet, as all the attention and anger was towards him rather than on the issue he wanted to highlight.  Too ‘smart’ for his own good.

I can’t speak for Rebecca Wilson as I didn’t know her.  But from I can gather she was a strong woman and stood by her stories, even if most football fans felt they were biased and wrong.  I think that her actions and writing should not be whitewashed and same as maintaining a critical of them.

There will be plenty of times to talk about Rebecca Wilson the writer.  At this time we should let Rebecca Wilson, the daughter, the sister, the mother, the wife take precedence.

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