Sunday, October 2, 2022

Football, the postponement, and respect

Morning all.

It’ll be a short one today, and for the next few days I guess, as football has been postponed due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The Premier League released a statement yesterday, which read:

To honour her extraordinary life and contribution to the nation, and as a mark of respect, this weekend’s Premier League match round will be postponed, including Monday evening’s game.

I realise this is a sensitive subject for some people, but I think they have got this wrong. If everything had shut down, then that’s one thing, but that’s not what has happened. Cricket continues. Rugby continues. Horse racing continues. Entertainment continues. Life and work continues. Football does not.

The RFU’s statement makes a lot more sense to me:

Rugby Union will go ahead this weekend as teams and supporters come together to honour Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to be united in our grief as we express sorrow at her passing.

Rugby, at its heart, is about community and bringing people together, in good times and in sad.

Why could football not have done the same? A period of silence. Black armbands. Perhaps the national anthem could have been played, but to just postpone everything – in this most bizarre, condensed of all seasons – seems like a mistake. Instead of packed stadia allowing those who wished to show their respects to do so, they will remain empty, and the The FA’s decision to even shut down grass roots football, so kids can’t even play their matches this weekend, is so ludicrous is defies any rational explanation.

The idea that policing was an issue has been put to bed, that might well be something to consider next weekend as preparations for a state funeral are put in place, but that’s not what happened. There was no edict from on high, this was left up to the authorities in each sport to make a decision and football stands alone this morning while everything else carries on.

Why? It’s hard not to think that once again football is seen as different. Remember during lockdown when politicians targetted footballers to ask why they weren’t doing more to help financially when fundraising for the NHS and related charities became a thing? Leaving aside the fact it’s a government’s responsibility to properly fund health services (they should try it sometime), it was easy to have a go at high-earning, high-profile footballers as if they were greedy, while they said nothing about their friends in industry, banking, finance, and other high earner – not to mention the corporations who they allow to avoid tax on the monstrous earnings they make.

This Tweet from Henry Winter (I’m not sure if it’s from an article or if it’s just an opinion that’s too long for one Tweet), is instructive too:

It’s more evidence that football fans are looked down on by those above, even those who run the game itself. There will be periods of silence in stadiums when football does return anyway, so this doesn’t make a lot of sense.

And what about respecting the fans? Those who have bought tickets for games up and down the country; who have paid for travel, accommodation and so on. They get partial refunds if they’re very lucky. The Premier League also has to consider that in their thirst for worldwide revenue, they have created a global product. I lost count of the amount of messages from Arsenal fans who are coming from all over the world this weekend, and will now lose out on an experience that means so much to them – and one which has cost a lot of money. Make that true of every other Premier League game, and surely lots in the EFL too, and that’s a lot of people who have been disrespected, in my opinion.

Then there are the businesses that revolve around football, the bars, restaurants, concession stands; the staff who miss a day’s work and because much of it is part-time probably won’t earn the money they’ve been banking on – particularly troublesome at this moment in time when every penny counts; the gigantic waste of food that will have been ordered and delivered at this point. I know some clubs are donating to food banks (a great gesture but one that highlights the inequality in society that these things even have to exist), but there is bound to be plenty that simply gets thrown out. And that’s not even taking into account the smaller business, the burger stands, cafes, restaurants etc, whose own orders will have been made with predicted crowds in mind.

As I’ve said, I think football has got this one wrong, and ultimately, the idea that cancelling football matches is the right way to show respect is misguided. You can show respect in all kinds of ways, and still play. You can express sympathy and solidarity, and still play. You can use the community aspect of football to bring people together, to produce some powerful moments, and still play. You can celebrate a goal, a win, and enjoy the 90 minutes, and it takes nothing away from those expressions of respect, sympathy, grief and so on.

But those that run the game have done nothing to really show respect to the passing of the Queen, instead simply highlighting the disdain they have for football fans, and if you want to talk about disrespect, that’s it right there.

Have a nice Saturday. There is a brand new Arsecast for you below, chatting about the Europa League win on Thursday, and some thoughts on the postponement. Have a listen.

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