Premier League: Were games postponed for the passing of a queen or to avoid a media storm? 

Football and the Premier League bore the brunt of games postponed in the wake of the passing of Queen Elizabeth. John Roycroft reckons the decision to put off games was made more in fear of fan reactions than the need to mark the passing of the monarch. 
Premier League: Were games postponed for the passing of a queen or to avoid a media storm? 

Liverpool and Ajax players, officials and fans observe a moment of silence in memory of Queen Elizabeth II, ahead of the UEFA Champions League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

THE death of Queen Elizabeth II last week was received with a variety of reactions, as one would expect from the passing of a head of state with a 70-year reign.

While most people seem to have had a benign regard for the queen at a human level, the nature of her being the sovereign of a former empire with a contentious colonial past did raise more than a few instances of resentment. Some of which were understandable, others were in rather poor taste.

For some reason, football, in particular, seems to amplify the events and concerns happening in the world outside the stadium walls.

It was notable, from events last weekend, that the English and Scottish FAs were quick to announce the postponement of all games on Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile, the cricket continued at Lords, rugby league played on across the country, while most other sporting organisations continued with their original programmes, accompanied by a respectful period of silence before their events. So why was postponement the only option for football?

Players and fans observe a minute's silence following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, at the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Queen's Park Rangers at The Den, London on Wednesday. Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA Wir
Players and fans observe a minute's silence following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, at the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Queen's Park Rangers at The Den, London on Wednesday. Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA Wir

Fallout

I am afraid to say, the only rational analysis concludes that the FAs were running scared of negative fallout in the UK media from any adverse reaction fans that might happen during commemorations of the monarch's passing.

While it seems like a knee-jerk reaction by the FAs, I would give them a measure of latitude in their decision to walk (run) away from the situation rather than making a decision on suitable or contentious commemorations.

Remember that this is happening in the UK, where in the best of times, a toxic media reaction is liable to blow up in your face, not to mind now in the post-Brexit and culture war-wielding world of Britannia.

How inviting must it have been to postpone the entire match programme rather than deal with the moral outrage from the right-wing press had fans booed or jeered during the period of silence at the matches across the land?

Celtic fans and banners in the stands during the UEFA Champions League Group F match against Shakhtar Donetsk at the Municipal Stadium of Legia Warsaw Poland, on Wednesday.
Celtic fans and banners in the stands during the UEFA Champions League Group F match against Shakhtar Donetsk at the Municipal Stadium of Legia Warsaw Poland, on Wednesday.

Some social media remarks postured that the FAs' decision was based mainly on the fear that Liverpool and Celtic fans would likely break protocol during the periods of silence and 'ruin it for everyone.' Again, I wouldn't blame the FAs for coming to this conclusion. And here. the decision may also have been coloured by the video of Shamrock Rovers fans and their melodic but insensitive chants in Tallaght Stadium on the very evening of the monarch's death.

The image of Irish football fans singing and dancing in the stands on the death of the British head of state no doubt conjured up similar ideas of it happening in the cities with the strongest Irish connections, mainly Liverpool and Glasgow.

And to be fair, it's not like these clubs' fans have been shy about letting the world know about their thoughts on the royal family. Liverpool fans booing God Save the Queen at the FA and Carabao Cup finals and at the Charity Shield. And Celtic? Well, Celtic have let their thoughts on all things English and unionism pretty well known.

Freedom to disagree

In this situation, it appears that the FAs had a sweep-all attitude and called off the entire list of fixtures. While understandable, it was an erroneous decision, in my opinion. The period of silence at Tuesday's Champions League game between Liverpool and Ajax was meticulously observed by 99.9% of the Anfield spectators and the few boos and shouts of derision that were made were being ignored but for the nervous whistle of the referee, who ended the period of silence after just 25 seconds. No doubt warned by Uefa and the FA to end it should it turn nasty. What we witnessed was far from upsetting even to a staunch loyalist.

Now it might have been a more heated reaction at Celtic Park but even here I think it would have been better to play on, no matter what the fans did. Celtic fans and the club have earned the right to commemorate or ignore any event they want. Is there a law saying that Celtic need to mark every event of note happening in the country? What would be so wrong if Celtic took to the field and didn't even mention the queen's demise? Just play football. And what's wrong with all the other clubs marking the event to the full extent of their wishes?

Rangers banners, flags, and tributes near Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.
Rangers banners, flags, and tributes near Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.

Why do we need to get offended by boos or feel the need to commemorate everything? Isn't that what we desire when we say we live in democracies based on the tenets of free speech?

Anyway, this weekend's postponements are more to do with policing shortages due to the funeral rather than fear of disturbance. As it turns out, it sees the Liverpool against Chelsea game deferred, which means the Merseysiders will not now play league football until some time in October. This may be a blessing in disguise for Klopp and the club as it offers them an opportunity to rest their players after some rather leggy performances and also offers the chance for the recuperation of several key players on the club's long injury list.

Silver linings and all that.

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