Food banks, respect and social cost: why football should not have been canceled this weekend

When the Premier League met at 11am on Friday morning, one consideration was paramount and the reason why the decision took just 20 minutes.

That was the late Queen Elizabeth II was a Patron of the Football Association with Prince William, as well as the monarch for over 70 years, so the only possible conclusion was to postpone. It was purely, to cite a few sources, “respect”.

That was despite other sports being played and the fact that there were many serious elements to respectfully consider. The decision had nothing to do with a lack of vigilance, something that could be a problem before the funeral next weekend, potentially causing a second straight week of postponed games. That is up for discussion. It could have significant consequences for many.

With the announcement of the Premier League just over 24 hours before the first match of the weekend, all the clubs involved had to plan as if the matches were taking place. This meant an entire economy of freelancers, casuals, and employees on zero-hour contracts who were told they would be working, a number that rose into the thousands throughout the game.

The clubs themselves may have had to take a 25 per cent cancellation fee hit, which may not be a problem in the Premier League but is a big problem outside of it. Then there is the amount of food that is wasted, with transportation and storage issues ensuring that not all of it can go to food banks.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of fans had made travel plans, and the international popularity of the Premier League ensured that a good number of them would have come from abroad. Many won’t get reimbursed for travel or hotels. Some arrangements are at least possible for those who had booked by train to guarantee the refund of the coupon – if they claim early enough.

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Chelsea Women were supposed to play at Stamford Bridge, in what was to be a boost weekend for the women’s game and the Women’s Super League.

Then there is the most absurd decision of all: the cancellation of football for children and schools. It’s ridiculous as it undermines all messages about physical activity, especially since so many other sports are carried on as normal. That urgently needs to be revoked.

All of that adds up to a significant social cost, much of it to the citizens of the Queen.

There are a number of contentious arguments that could be made on other pages about how many Britons are unconvinced about this; that he is forcing them into mourning; which is actually changing the mood. There was a darkly absurd moment during Manchester United’s Europa League game when commentators repeatedly referred to the fans having other things on their minds than football, only to have some abrasive chants about the owners, the Glazers, begin.

“These are not Victorian times,” said an involved source. “You can’t treat sport like that anymore.”

Except that in 1952, when King George VI died, and in 1936, when King George V died, football continued to play.

That is another element. Sport actually does solemn remembrance very well. While some would of course have insisted the games be cancelled, other affected fans would have wanted to use their games to show respect. Does anyone doubt that this weekend’s games would have been packed? The Football Fans Association has issued a statement saying “it was a missed opportunity for football to pay its own special tributes”.

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Above all else, however, there is a pointed symbolism in the game of people costing thousands and negatively affecting their lives, and that in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis of so much financial and emotional austerity, out of deference to what remains an elite institution. And, perhaps, a misplaced deference.

It is all the more ironic given that the sports most associated with the establishment, such as cricket, rugby and even horse racing, which was the Queen’s great sporting passion, continue at a time when football is off.

Manchester United take part in a minute’s silence at Old Trafford on Thursday

(PA cord)

Then there is the fact that many people point out how one of the things the Queen was most admired for was her stoic demeanor.

Sport, rightly allowing the governing bodies some concession, put itself in a difficult position here. “There was no rule book,” a source said. In fact, there were no rules at all, but by design. The Department for Culture, Sport and Media issued new guidance on national mourning and specifically stated that “there is no obligation to cancel or postpone sporting events and events… this is at the discretion of individual organisations.” This was also known through planning meetings for years.

When you weigh up all the various elements, including the debate over what actually constitutes “respect”, it’s hard not to conclude that football has made the wrong choice. It’s hard not to wonder if this is purely public relations and possible criticism for No postponing

It has only meant that many of the Queen’s citizens feel the cost.

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