Canceling football matches means missing an opportunity for solidarity | Football

largeLike most people, I was deeply saddened by the news about Queen Elizabeth. The events of recent days have demonstrated how important the Royal Family is to our sense of identity as a nation. Even the most committed Republican can share a sense of the loss of such a symbol of humility and grace at the center of our nation, someone who, as the BBC has repeatedly and rightly said, represented stability in an age of ceaseless change.

Three days after the death of King George VI on 6 February 1952, Grimsby Town beat Carlisle 4-1 in front of 16,000 fans. Before the game began, then manager Bill Shankly stood solemnly and decisively with his players, facing the opposition in respectful silence on the icy ground.

Looking at the image, which appears online from the Mariners Archive, I was struck not only by the huge piece of history and social change experienced by Queen Elizabeth, but also by how it highlighted why many people were disappointed by the decision of her governing bodies. soccer to cancel games this weekend. The decision seemed strange to me because I felt that this was exactly the time and place that people needed to be together, to express their solidarity and support in the collective grief of a nation.

Like the Football Supporters’ Association, I think it was not only “a missed opportunity to pay tribute” to the Queen but also a moment to show the unity of our citizens. There is nothing more powerful than a moment of communal silence – individual silent contemplation, reflection or prayer followed by the joining of voices.

Football games, especially home games, can be a time to gather with people we love, a chance to check in on the relative strangers who sit around us for more than 90 minutes each week. an opportunity for the elderly and those who are less socially active to come and enjoy the company of their colleagues. an opportunity for those feeling the impact of recent national events to share their feelings with others. Feelings that might not otherwise be shared.

That moment of offering an immediate opportunity for people to come together and support each other has been removed and, depending on the race schedule, could now be a few weeks away for some people.

Since becoming the majority shareholder in Grimsby Town, we have been thinking about the role football clubs play in society and how they create unique spaces for shared experience. This is partly the idea expressed as the common good, of which Lord Glassman speaks so eloquently, with the Foundation for the Common Good. Every week we see people come together and enjoy not only the quality of our football but also the sense of community and solidarity that comes from a common cause.

There are few places these days where people can gather, regardless of the other dimensions of their identity, and share their experiences, good and bad, with a common sense of solidarity. That’s what many would have hoped for last weekend. The minute’s silence at football matches, the whistle and the stunning sound of silence followed by the roar as the whistle is blown again is a sacred moment of complex, collective emotion. The queen is dead, long live the king.

In 1952 there was a backlash against the decision to play the game, as some felt it was an act of disrespect at a time of national mourning. the prioritization of gate receipts versus respect. To be clear, that is not my argument here. Although there have been financial losses for the clubs, this will mostly be recovered when the matches are rescheduled.

It was, in fact, another opportunity for football to once again show its collective spirit, as clubs and club caterers shared on many occasions the food they had bought for the matches with food banks and other charities. The nature of our society has changed significantly in these 70 years, not only in our relationship with the monarchy but also in our understanding of grief and its need for expression.

I truly sympathize with those in power in the associations that run our national game. It’s an impossible decision in an age of performative ethics, where everyone is rightfully afraid of being out of step or making an inflammatory decision for fear of backlash on social media. If everyone understood that the decision to cancel was the express wish of the royal family and was driven by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, then everyone could understand and would immediately stand by the decision.

It appeared that the decision was made in an effort to coordinate the FA, Premier League, EFL and National League, and while I’m sure they all did their best with a time-sensitive decision, one of the main motivations would no doubt have been that no one he wants to be at the back of a backlash against insensitivity. The irony of writing this article is not lost on me.

But we live in an individualistic society and the passion of football is based on sharing and solidarity. A minute’s silence is one of the glories of our country – standing solemnly in assembly is a profound act of respect and love. I know the football world will show nothing but the requisite respect and love for the Queen in the coming weeks. By taking away the right to choose to meet quickly, express these feelings and support each other, we have lost an opportunity to be there for each other.

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