Added Time - The Prologue
Just under a year ago, a major publisher refused to proceed with Mark Halsey's autobiography, Added Time, after pressure from the Premier League, who did not want its contents revealed. A lawyer urged me to write a prologue to the book to explain why we went it alone. This is it.
MARK HALSEY asked me to write his story about 18 months ago. He knew of my record of collaborating on the auto-biographies of some fascinating, flawed but outstanding characters in football, most notably Tony Adams, the captain of Arsenal and England, whose searingly honest stories transcended their sport - in Tony's case, his alcoholism and recovery from it - and appealed to a wider public. Mark also knew that, like him, I had had cancer and was in recovery from it. He reasoned that I could produce the sort of book, through experience and empathy, that he wanted the public, footballing and beyond, to read.
In turn, I agreed to work with him because he had a vivid story that could not fail to appeal to a writer who believed that sports books had to be more than sports books; they had to be about life. His tale worked on two levels. Not only had he reached the top of his profession of refereeing, to become a well-known figure in the Premier League - on first-name terms with the biggest managers and greatest players in English football - but he had also come through an aggressive throat cancer to return to the top.
What sealed the working relationship for me, though, was the answer I seek from all I write with: yes, he would be honest and self-searching, delving within himself for his true feelings and the detail that might both interest and help other people.
Unfortunately, honesty seems to both offend and threaten some people.
In the winter of 2012, news that we might be working on a book reached Mark's employers at the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd, overseen by the Premier League, and they appeared to grow worried about what it might contain, knowing that Mark had plenty to say on the state of refereeing and the way it was being administered.
Mark was summoned to their headquarters to explain. They subsequently made his life difficult in the latter part of the 2012/13 season, as will be seen in the book, and pointed out to him some confidentiality clauses in his contract. I had been unaware of them, Mark had overlooked them, never thinking they would try to deny him freedom of speech after he had quit. The PGMOL, and the Premier League made it clear to him, however, that they believed the clauses should preclude him from telling his story at any time even after he retired, which he decided to do as the end of that season approached and events on and off the field depressed him.
Sadly, the publishers of the book declined to proceed when presented with the prospect of any pressure from the PGMOL and the Premier League. Mark and I, however, were not ready to be cowed. We both believed that Mark's story should be in the public domain, for two reasons:
First, his was an inspirational account of being struck by cancer, the surgery, the gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment for it, and his recovery from it. Mark returned to the top of his game, despite the obstacles placed in his way by his employers, and he wanted fellow sufferers to see how it could be endured and survivors to see how there was successful life after it.
Second, he recognised that the public pump huge fortunes into football through ticket prices, merchandising, sponsorship and TV satellite subscriptions. He himself had made a good living for more than 20 years through their largesse. In return for their goodwill accorded to him, he reckoned, they had a right to know about the politics, personalities and economics that inform the game. His views on incidents and internal machinations, along with the game itself and and the way it was run, were a matter of public interest.
And so we, two cancer survivors, decided to stare down the powers that be and go it alone - with the support of both of our wives, Michelle Halsey and Vikki Orvice, who had also themselves both been through cancer, theirs controllable but not curable. We decided to publish the book ourselves and rely on natural justice, with faith that a good story well told, one that entertains and informs, offers help and hope along the way, will prevail.
I write this after six difficult, stressful months for both Mark and I, six months of attempts to stop this book and us. If you enjoy it, feel that it has achieved the aims we have for it, then it will all have been worthwhile.
St Albans, August 2013.