Comment: Government Decisions Put Football In Last Chance Saloon

The Government may feel it doesn’t owe football any money but, as Mark Bradley writes, it does owe us some answers.


Oliver Dowden was once considered to be the Conservative version of Alastair Campbell: the attack dog that bit you before you got your press release approved. But, as the events of the last few weeks have shown, he needs to work on his defence a bit. If football is to be denied both fans in stadia and financial support from the Government, we at least deserve a cogent argument from them.


Rick Parry’s letter may have erred about Glyndebourne, but compared with Dowden’s response, it was perfection in ink. Our current Government prefers abstract to fact. I’m still trying to figure out how ‘taking back control’ will actually improve my life, so expecting some specifics was a bit optimistic.


Why would football devote time to carefully putting together a pilot exercise and producing measurable outcomes (i.e. no infections) when the Government is going to act before looking at the data? The answer is because they prefer factional to factual.


I do accept that thousands of fans travelling at specific times presents some difficulties, so why not continue with the small-scale pilot so that, when the time comes, we can open up with confidence? If Legoland, in an outdoor setting where transmission is 20 times less likely than indoors, could manage 10,000 people safely during half-term, why can’t a biosecure football venue have a trial with a tenth of that number?


Before the new lockdown, the city of Oxford found itself in Tier 2, while the rest of the county remained in Tier 1. Was that because there was no infection growth in the surrounding countryside or because a lot of Tory MPs have their constituencies there? They tell us that we’re all in this together but, here in my adopted home of Bradford, with a large multicultural population, they waited until an hour or so before Eid to stop families from mingling.  Now, they’ve put a month-long lockdown in place just a fortnight before Diwali.


Football, according to the Government, is wealthy enough to manage itself. But football is made up of several different organisations where one, in particular, is doing exceptionally well.


So why don’t they ask Hawksmoor – undeniably one of the most successful chains in the country – to bail out all the other restaurants in difficulty simply because it happens to be flourishing? The answer is either (1) it doesn’t make any sense or (2) it’s because the Government might just have an agenda when it comes to football.


Margaret Thatcher (the one who stole free milk from impoverished children before Boris and his chums curtailed the free school meal voucher scheme) wanted fans to have ID cards. It was she who gave UEFA the idea of removing our clubs from Europe after Heysel. Winston Churchill was known to fear large gatherings of working men because he thought they would forcibly convert us to Communism. That agenda appears to have informed the way Conservative Governments in particular have viewed our beautiful game ever since.


Rick Parry was careful to use words like ‘constituency’ in his letter, because ultimately, if football clubs die and the present Government were complicit in their demise, people wouldn’t forget. What’s more, football fans have long memories and, every four years from now, they’ll be reminded of what Oliver Dowden said when they asked for help.


Image: PA Images