If only we didn’t have to think about what should happen to a convicted rapist once he leaves prison.
If only he had made any suggestion to his fans that they shouldnleave his victim alone.
If only he hadn’t decided he deserved to get straight back to where he was even before his sentence was finished.
If only the FA had made it clear that clubs should, at the very least, stand back and wait.
If only footballers, like the directors of their clubs, were subject to a test of whether they are fit and proper persons to receive the fame, wealth and privilege that those at the top do.
If only people in positions of authority had shown respect both for the victim and the law when pontificating about an offender’s future career prospects.
If only journalists and pundits hadn’t decided to frame the whole debate (because, whether we like it or not, debate there must be about what happens post-jail) in terms of whether this was “real” rape, or whether he’s actually been the victim throughout.
If only the voices of senior police and campaigners had been heeded.
If only none of this was about one individual.
If only we’d been having a different conversation altogether.
If only a prominent man, within football or otherwise, had said “Do you know what, I didn’t know that it was rape if a woman was too drunk to consent”.
If only all those people, including me, when it mattered, really took on board that rape doesn’t just mean the stranger in the alley.
If only that man, or men, had said plainly that a woman doesn’t “ask for it” or give consent simply because she has gone out for the night and had a lot to drink.
If only enough people had said, out loud, “Yes, we have a culture of getting wasted and treating everything that happens when we are as if it somehow doesn’t count. The law’s still right, though.”
If only this sorry episode had changed, even slightly, the perception that a drunk woman is fair game, rather than hardening it.