By Tony Attwood
In the Bundesliga: 94 per cent of players have been fully vaccinated against Covid. In Serie A the figure is higher: 98 per cent. For La Liga it is 93 per cent. For Ligue 1 in France it is 95 per cent. In the Premier League it is 77 per cent. The English Football League is at 59 per cent. These figures come from the Telegraph.
As they say, “It is no coincidence that 60 per cent of Premier League matches were postponed last weekend along with 53 per cent in the Football League. The other four big leagues didn’t have a single postponement.”
Now these figures are not presented as a way of trying to start a conversation that says “People should test themselves” or that “People should be jabbed.”
But it does strike me as interesting that the top leagues in Germany, France, Spain and Italy have not lost a single match to Covid-19 this season and, they won’t because they are now going to shut down for the Christmas period, whereas we are going ahead with the traditional games across Christmas.
And taking the Telegraph’s figures, this is at a time when we have had more cases on Monday this week, than the whole of France, Spain, Italy and Germany combined.
Sowe have clubs where everyone has been vaccinated, and then other clubs where a lot of players are not willing to be vaccinated. As the Telegraph report adds, “In October, it emerged that at least five England players and more than half of professionals across English football’s four divisions were refusing to get jabbed. A vaccine promotional video never got off the ground, reportedly because not enough high-profile players could be persuaded to front it.”
In the alternative approach Kylian Mbappe, “allowed himself to be photographed receiving the jab and was publicly thanked by President Emmanuel Macron when they were pictured together shortly before the Euros.”
The general approach seems to be in Europe that players have to be jabbed, or won’t be played, they have to be tested, they have to wear masks in confined spaces, and there are no players’ Christmas parties this year. The report suggests that players in Germany who are not vaccinated are having their pay cut.
So why is it so different in England?
I’m going to veer away from football for the rest of this little article, and give my view as to why in England the situation is so different.
It has long been the policy of governments in the UK (such as the one we currently have) not to take the notion of society or organisations into consideration when forming policy, instead putting everything onto the shoulders of the individual. Thus the trouble at the Euro final was the fault of the individuals who forced their way in. The social situation, and the way the FA organised the event was not to blame.
In 1987 in an interview in the journal “Woman’s Own” which was headlined “No Such Thing as Society” Thatcher was quoted as saying, “I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!’ or ‘I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!’ ‘I am homeless, the Government must house me!’ and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.”
This notion that “there is no such thing” as society, has become a dominant force in political thinking for many governments since then and it justifies the reduction of the role of the state and replacing responsibility for all aspects of life on the individual. Indeed a large percentage of the British electorate have constantly voted in the party that proclaims that view.
But there is a downside. For as people come to believe that it is for the individual to decide, the individual can make his or her own decisions – such as not to wear masks in public places and not to obey lockdown regulations.
Such a situation is not insoluble, but when faced with a situation in which people are likely not to heed government advice on how to behave socially then it is hard work to convince people to take note of what is best for society.
Now to solve this, the government could have gone to sociologists and asked, “how are we going to convince people to do what we say?” But they didn’t because of what has become a long-standing approach by governments of the right in the UK, not to consult social scientists at all. And why would you when there is no such thing as society and when everything is the responsibility of the individual?
Thus the problem is not one just of football’s making, but of the dominant political class of the country. Indeed the reason why so many people associated with the government have themselves be seen to be breaking the rules by having parties when social gatherings are forbidden, or travelling around the country during lockdown, is because the whole notion of social responsibility has been denigrated by the government since Thatcher’s speech on the BBC.
Thus disregarding government wishes and instead doing one’s own thing, has become a dominant mode of thought for many people.
One day we might get our sense of society and community back, but for now, it seems to be so far gone, that “I can decide” seems to be the dominant vision. Which is ok sometimes, but not much use in a pandemic.
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