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By Tony Attwood
Of course it is right and proper that the nation’s most popular sport, and one supported by members of the late Queen’s family, should express the national feeling of mourning.
But the simple fact is that every decision taken by any football club affects anything from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of people. From those who are employed on a casual basis to manage the crowds and work in the bars and restaurants (and who depend on such income as a contribution to being able to feed their families) to the football supporters without whom football would be nothing; everyone is being affects. And it looks like there was not even the slightest plan as to what to do.
It is a welcome sign that a part of the media is showing concern for those pooly paid part-time workers many of whom it seems will now have a day’s work removed from their schedule. And what will perhaps strike some of those who suddenly find themselves without pay, is the messy way all this has panned out.
Her Majesty was 96 and so was approaching the end of her life, and yet it seems no one had really thought about what was going to happen to football when she passed away. Do we stop the games part way through? Do we postpone all games until after the funeral? Do we play on as a tribute because we are told she quite liked football?
Horse racing, the sport the Queen was particularly known for loving, knows exactly what it is doing. It resumes on Sunday – tomorrow – so why not football?
And “why not football?” becomes a relevant question because there is the matter of the funeral. I suspect most people can immediately understand that it would not be appropriate to play football on the day of the funeral. But there is more to it than that, because for the day of the funeral there will be huge crowds in London, which mean police who would normally be on call for football matches, won’t be available – they will be engaged with the funeral. Many will be working an extra day, which means they won’t then be available further down the line for football duties.
So there will be knock-on effects – and again no one seems to have thought this through.
When my parents died I was an only child (which might seem a very odd thing to write, but the fact is that earlier this year I discovered that I had a brother – an utterly joyous and overwhelming discovery for me), and so obviously, as the only descendent of my parents, I was very much engaged in overseeing all arrangements for each sad event.
And although it would have been morbid to make too many prior arrangements it struck me as only sensible to know how things were going to be arranged. And that was just me arranging matters in the appropriate and respectful way for each of my parents.
It seems insane that people are still debating exactly how things are going to happen for the funeral – and what sporting fixtures are on and what is off.
At least there is one positive thing – in all this, the clubs and catering companies have had the foresight to donate the food that will not be consumed this weekend, to food banks.
Arsenal have announced that will not make payments now to casual staff who have been told not to come to work this weekend, because they would be paid when these cancelled games are played. Fair enough, unless you are living on the edge and are dependent on the money from this weekend’s game to feed your family on Monday.
To me, it is utterly appalling that everything was not agreed and arranged years ago. Everyone seems to have been taken by surprise except the broadcasters who have an endless supply of guests to talk about her late majesty and Parliament who have everything arranged and planned.
Football is not coming out of this well. It seems to be dithering and uncertain. And yet it is the biggest sport in this country.
None of this, in my opinion, reflects well on the Premier League or the Football Association. And not for the first time.
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