The Hijacking of Our National Game | Sir John Hayes MP
Sport and sentiment go hand in hand. Great narratives are woven from the sporting triumphs and crushing defeats which are shared by fans and many more beyond the usual enthusiasts as sport enlivens us. Its capacity to do so speaks of the emotional power of sporting endeavours and the capacity of sportsmanship to dignify and uplift.
It is this passion which has led to such backlash against the most recent examples of the unwanted imposition of partisan politics and damaging greed into the ‘beautiful game’ of football.
Many fans have felt for a long time that they are regularly regarded as nuisances if they make their voices heard. As well as providing an emblem for local and national pride, the character of sport reflects social norms. In this way the gap between the greedy global sporting elite and their liberal sponsors on one hand and the loyal fans on the other mirrors the distinction between the powerful liberal few and the patriotic many.
For a while now, teams have ‘taken the knee’ before every game, echoing the militant extremists of BLM. Bearing in mind this is an organisation that says it wants to defund the police, dismantle capitalism and break up traditional family life. Fans have justifiably booed this insufferable virtue-signalling not because they are racist or because they oppose expressions of solidarity and equality, but because they rightly recognise this form of kneeling as intrinsically tied to the partisan, militant politics of BLM and want ideological dogma to have no place in their beloved game.
The opposition of fans to the introduction of political grandstanding in their football has been met with the predictable accusations of ‘bigotry’ from powerful liberals. But I’m sure that, as the Euros progress, those who are sick and tired of political virtue signalling will be cheering Rashord and Sterling just as much as they will Kane and Foden. The commentators and critics who chastise opponents of gesture politics are not only wilfully misrepresenting why fans are booing, they are hypocritical.
Those in the footballing elite who rub fans faces in their progressive politics are the very same who stay tight-lipped regarding the next World Cup being held in Qatari stadiums built by migrant workers bound in working conditions that wouldn’t ever be tolerated here; or when players are punished for daring to speak out against the real, tangible oppression of the Chinese Communist Party. Apparently ‘standing up for what’s right’ only goes as far as the bottom line allows.
In the face of increasing politicisation of our national game, it has fallen to hardworking ‘ordinary’ people to stand up for the integrity of their sport as a place free from incessant partisanship of politics.
The disconnect between football fans and so much of the sporting elite doesn’t end with politics, the very soul of the national game was recently threatened by the European Super League proposals by billionaire ‘citizens of nowhere’.
With nothing but their own interests in mind, six English clubs joined the closed-off scheme which struck at the heart of the English League’s pyramid system and so the soul of English football. For that system is a testament to what we love in sport, as the system of promotion and regulation encapsulates the spirit of competition and the dream that even the smallest team can rise to the very top through hard work, grit and determination.
In response to that pitiful episode and the subsequent grassroots, fan-led revolt against globalist greed, the Government thankfully announced a fan-led review into how English football is run.
Football fans have been bombarded by the excessive greed of the global rich on one side and the vainglorious virtue-signalling of culture warriors on the other. But, as we increasingly see in this country, the silent majority have had enough of being manipulated and lectured. So let’s put politics aside and, as our team competes in the Euros, enjoy the local and national pride which is the backbone of Britain.