The decision to postpone this weekend’s football fixtures is, sadly, an opportunity missed.
An opportunity for rival supporters to unite, for our country to show the best of itself and create some of the most powerful, memorable tributes to Queen Elizabeth II. I have no doubt the scenes inside and outside stadiums across the country would have been truly remarkable and uplifting.
What do we do when people die? We gather, for a funeral. Remember the frustration and upset when Covid-19 prevented that? Collective mourning is part of the grieving process, yes. But, often, it is more so a celebration, a lasting show of respect.
West Ham fans belted out a rousing rendition of ‘God save the Queen’ during Thursday’s Europa League game following the announcement of her death
The Queen will have a state funeral, of course, but that will be something the majority of us watch on television. This weekend, at football matches and sporting events, it was a chance to feel something, to pay your own respects, be that with a dignified silence or by belting out the national anthem en mass, opposition fans and all. It could have been the last time we get to sing those words, ‘God save the Queen’, as part of a crowd.
At a time of social crisis, what a feeling of togetherness that would have engendered. It would also have left the royal naysayers, and a watching world, in no doubt as to how cherished Queen Elizabeth II really was by the folk, largely working class, who populate our sporting arenas.
The Premier League, it seems, have taken the decision to postpone more out of fear than respect. Fear of making the wrong call and being criticised for it, should some in attendance not show the due reverence. How sad. They had an opportunity to use football to raise morale, and how we need that. The brave call was to play.
The Queen presents England captain Bobby Moore with the Jules Rimet trophy after the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley Stadium
The Queen has eyes on the trophy after presenting Germany with the European Championship trophy at Wembley in 1996
I was in Switzerland covering Arsenal’s Europa League match on Thursday evening when news of the Queen’s death broke. I felt sadness, yes. But the emotion I experienced more than most was pride. Pride at the Arsenal supporters who sang an impromptu national anthem. Pride when they then shouted down the minority of home fans who sought to ruin a minute’s silence. Pride when, on a train in the Swiss countryside past midnight, a group of FC Zurich supporters wanted to talk about the Queen, not the football match. And pride is what I believe every one of us would have felt this weekend. Next weekend? The power would have been in the immediacy of the raw emotion.
I was scheduled to be at West Ham versus Newcastle on Sunday. During West Ham’s Europa League game on Thursday, there was a spine-tingling rendition of the national anthem – check out the video on social media. This was only initiated by the fans in the stands. I wanted to experience that. And at the Olympic Stadium, too, 10 years on from the Queen ‘jumping out of a helicopter with James Bond’ during the opening ceremony for London 2012.
Her Majesty had always celebrated sport, and this was our chance for sport to celebrate her. Sadly, it is an opportunity missed.
The Premier League and English Football League have postponed this weekend’s fixtures
The Premier League released a statement saying they made the decision to postpone the fixtures to honour Queen Elizabeth’s ‘extraordinary life and contribution to the nation’
There are concerns that next week’s fixtures could also be delayed with police set to be redeployed to London for the Queen’s funeral
The following statement was shared by the Chief sports reporter for The Times outlining what has been said in regard so sporting fixtures this weekend
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