The Big Society - David Cameron's catch-all term for things the Government doesn't, can't or no longer wishes to do - is supposed to lead us all into a brighter, more involved, more inclusive, more community-oriented future. The Government seems keen to claim virtually any kind volunteer organisation as part of the Big Society, pointing a paternal finger and saying "well done you".
As a family, we're involved in a three different sports clubs, all of which are apparently part of a move to reduce crime, increase community cohesion, and improve academic achievement. Oh yea, and do some sport.
One of the central tenets of the Big Society vision seems to be that we all know what's good, we all know how to achieve that, and we're all working selflessly towards it. Does that strike you as some kind of utopian socialist vision, or what? Usually though, we just kind of muddle through and it generally works out. Occasionally someone with extraordinary passion, commitment or talent comes along and really drives the thing forward for everyone. They're the kind of people who get MBEs for services to the community. We've always had them and always recognised them, even before the Big Society was invented. (Iain Duncan-Smith, speaking on Any Questions earlier this year, essentially claimed that before the current government took office that there was no voluntary sector at all- everything was provided by the state or by private companies. Fool.)
Sometimes, and this is thankfully rare, it goes the other way, where someone takes centre stage and proceed to twist everything around so it all becomes about them. No, I'm not about to take another poke at David Cameron. One of our clubs has recently come through several really unpleasant months where the bluffly charming head coach was gradually revealed to be a serial liar. He would cheerfully say one thing to one person then turn around and say the precise opposite to another. When caught out, he would blankly deny any wrongdoing, even in the face of damning evidence and at the risk of being reported the sports governing body. Given second chance after second chance to reform and, basically, start acting like a grown-up, he threw those chances back in everyone's faces.
In the end he resigned, while telling everyone he'd been sacked. It then turned out he'd secured a coaching position at another club before leaving. Since then he's told lie after lie in order to take as many parents, kids, and other coaches with him to the new club. Some have gone and will, I'm sure and sorry to say, be let down.
It's been horrible. The club's been really damaged, and lots of people have been made very unhappy. In fact it continues to be pretty horrible, although things are improving. One of the things I'm looking forward to next year is putting all this shit behind us and getting with the actual business of sport. The crime reduction and what-not can take care of itself.
I'm not suggesting that sports clubs should all nationalised and run by the council. In the end, this is just a little local difficulty at one club, and even if the club did go down the tubes no real harm has been done. There are other clubs, and other sports. People will find another. Perhaps though, we should go steady on the notion that happy armies of willing volunteers can link arms and provide services that people rely on. Nobody dies if a sports club folds. If a dressing doesn't get changed, if meals-on-wheels don't deliver, if the post-natal visit doesn't happen, people really might.