Row over 'respect'

Football criticised for weekend wipe-out

Rod Petrie: appropriate step (pic: Terry Murden)

Football authorities have come in for criticism for the decision to wipe-out this weekend’s fixtures following the Queen’s death.

The Scottish Football Association, Scottish Professional Football League, the Football League, the English Premier League and the English Football League defended the decision as a mark of respect and mindful of police resources.

However, guidance from the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport was that there was no obligation to postpone fixtures.

While there was understanding of the desire to mark the monarch’s passing, critics of the decision say matches could have gone ahead with suitable messages and gestures such as silences, clapping, and wearing black arm bands as happens following the death of other notable figures.

Some have said that sport and the industries, such as hospitality, that support it have faced enough disruption over the past two years and this was one opportunity to celebrate the Queen’s reign and mark a new era, with some saying clubs could have organised the singing of God Save The King.

The Football Supporters’ Association described it as a “missed opportunity” for fans to pay their respects.

Women’s football and rugby is also off, including Scotland women’s final World Cup warm-up match against Spain tomorrow.

Other sports will go ahead today, including rugby league matches, rugby union’s Gallagher Premiership and England’s deciding Test cricket match against South Africa at the Oval in London. England captain Ben Stokes said on social media: “[The Queen] loved sport, be honoured to play in her memory.” Golf’s DP World Tour flagship event, the BMW Championship will resume at Wentworth today.

The government’s guidance states sporting bodies should consider postponing events on the day of state funeral but that all decisions are at their discretion.

It says: “There is no obligation to cancel or postpone events and sporting fixtures, or close entertainment venues during the National Mourning period. This is at the discretion of individual organisations.

“As a mark of respect, and in keeping with the tone of National Mourning, organisers may wish to hold a period of silence and/or play the national anthem at the start of events or sporting fixtures, and players may wish to wear black armbands.”

Rod Petrie, the SFA president, said: “We spoke with our counterparts across the UK this morning and in discussions with our colleagues across the professional game in Scotland it was agreed that this was the appropriate step to take following the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

“We will work with our clubs and members in the meantime to ensure appropriate steps are taken throughout the period of mourning.”

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “Following consultation with the UK and Scottish governments, the Scottish FA, our counterparts at the EPL and others, we confirm that all SPFL fixtures scheduled for this weekend will be postponed as a mark of respect.

“The passing of the Queen, a constant in our lives for 70 years, is a profound and momentous occasion. It is therefore appropriate that professional football marks this event with all possible solemnity. We will update clubs and supporters when we have clarity over official arrangements for Her Majesty’s funeral.”

Social media was awash with criticism of the postponements, with some fans saying they had booked train tickets and hotels. They noted that not only is other sport continuing, but other sectors of the economy are functioning as normal. Some retailers closed yesterday, including Selfridges in London, French Connection and Liberty, but most stayed open as did other businesses, including the London Stock Exchange. Royal Mail and railway staff called off strikes and continued to work.

TV pundit and former England and Manchester United defender, Gary Neville, said: “Sport can demonstrate better than most the respect the Queen deserves”.

Antonio Colak
Rangers are due to play Napoli at Ibrox on Tuesday

The Football Supporters Association said in a statement: “Our view is that most supporters would have liked to go to games this weekend and pay their respect to the Queen alongside their fellow fans.

“Not everyone will agree, so there was no perfect decision for the football authorities, but many supporters will feel this was an opportunity missed for football to pay its own special tributes.”

Critics of the postponements are also concerned at a fixtures pile-up ahead of the disruption the winter World Cup will cause to the domestic season. After next weekend the Premiership stops for the international break in which Scotland will play three Nations League fixtures.

A decision will be taken over the coming days about whether next weekend’s SPFL games can go ahead, with the state funeral of the Queen expected to be held on Monday 19 September.

There is also decision to be made over Rangers’ Champions League clash with Napoli which is still scheduled to go ahead at Ibrox on Tuesday night (13th).

The club was in talks with Uefa and Police Scotland whose officers will be on duty for the movement of Queen’s coffin from Edinburgh to London. Liverpool have a home tie against Ajax that same night.

In a statement, Rangers said: “At this difficult time for the United Kingdom we are cognisant of ongoing uncertainty regarding supporter arrangements and travel plans for next week.

“We are aware of policing and resource pressures, especially on Tuesday, 13 September. We can confirm that discussions are taking place between Uefa, Police Scotland and Rangers regarding our scheduled Uefa Champions League fixture v Napoli on Tuesday, 13 September. At present, the game is scheduled to take place at the scheduled date and time.”

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