I am, by nature, something of a miserable sod. Indeed, as anyone who knows me will know, moaning isn’t just second nature to me, it is my nature. Football, work, politics, telly… the subject is irrelevant. If it irks me, I’ll moan about it. Often for days.
There will however, eventually come a point where I’ll say ‘f**k it’ and move on. For even I will realise that the only thing moaning will ever change is my mood.
Sadly, this is not a lesson the ‘remainers’ of this little island of ours seem capable of learning. For despite it being months since they woke up to the gut wrenching feeling of being proved wrong, they are still moaning about the result of the EU Referendum. And they’re not alone. The tide of bitterness which followed the Scottish referendum shows no sign of abating and now they’ve been joined by the anti-Trump brigade. A group who are giving new meaning to the term ‘bad loser’.
Now whilst their continued angst is all highly amusing to those of us who voted to leave the EU, to remain as part of the Union or to put Trump into the White House one does have to wonder how long they are going to continue whining before they actually accept the result. Because at some point, like it or not, they are going to have to and that’s going to be a huge problem for them. Mostly, I suspect, because the vast majority aren’t football fans.
You see those of us who follow the great game are all too familiar with the gut-wrenching feeling of defeat and so are quickly able to put it behind us before moving on. Those who don’t, have no idea what humble pie tastes like and so would rather choke on it than swallow it.
OK, I know I’m being flippant, but be it in the UK or the US, there has to be some reason why people refuse to accept the outcome of a democratic process which millions have died to defend. And that reason has to be more credible than the idea that those individuals are so arrogant that they are incapable of accepting that they are in the minority.
As you must be aware by now, FIFA, in their infinite wisdom (sic) have decided to punish the FA’s of the four home nations for offences relating to the display of the Poppy on Armistice Day.
Now you don’t need me to go into the grubby details because they are no longer of any importance. What is important however, is what happens next. For it surely goes without saying that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must refuse to accept this punishment on the basis that the poppy is not, nor ever has been, a political symbol.
The various FA’s of course, have a record of ballsing things up and we are already hearing noises about fines being paid, albeit reluctantly, in an effort to avoid any potential sanctions. But in this instance, all those sitting behind their polished desks at Wembley, Hamden Park, Vanguard Way and Donegal Avenue have to understand the depth of feeling involved and accept that this is an issue which is bigger than football. Much bigger in fact.
It is about the integrity of the poppy, the memory of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice and the fact that our tradition of remembrance on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month is enshrined in the British DNA. Not because it’s political as FIFA allege, but because it is honourable and respectful.
As a consequence, those who administer our national game have to do the right thing and make a stand against this ludicrous decision. Anything else would be a dereliction of the duty they owe not just to those who follow the game, but to the history of their respective nations.
So it appears, as threatened, that FIFA are going to investigate both the FA and the SFA for a variety of incidents relating to the displaying of a political symbol during their World Cup qualifier on 11th November. Or Armistice Day as some of us refer to it.
The symbol they refer to is, of course, the poppy and whilst a large portion of the British sporting public are rightly up in arms about this affront to the war dead, it might shock you to read that I hold the opposite opinion. Yes, that’s right, this particular veteran actually welcomes this investigation, and for a variety of reasons.
The first is that it will show English and Scottish football fans just how strong the backbones the staff at our respective FA’s actually possess. For given the public reaction, not to mention our inbred dislike and distrust of both FIFA and UEFA, even the acceptance of a token fine would be seen as an admission of guilt and given the significance of both the poppy and the date to the British people, that would be totally unacceptable. Hence, they dare not back down.
Second, it will show once and for all exactly how FIFA regard the English game and the people who follow it. Indeed, given the nature of the allegations, one has to wonder why the Welsh FA aren’t also being investigated given that they put on a show of remembrance in Cardiff the following day.
So angry are fans at this affront that many are already calling for the home nations to step away from the existing governing bodies and whilst I can’t ever see that happening, if FIFA fail to show any flexibility with regard to this matter, the damage to our relationship could be immense.
Finally, and most importantly, it will establish once and for all that the poppy is NOT nor ever has been a political symbol. For the stark reality is that if FIFA decide it is, and the FA accept that decision, it will set a legal precedent which would open the floodgates to all kinds of groups who attack the very idea of remembrance.
That simply cannot be allowed to happen which is why we have to have this investigation and why we have to come out of it with the dignity of the dead intact.
As a lifelong football fan and a passionate supporter of fans rights, I am often asked to become involved in campaigns. These can involve huge protests about clubs being taken to the edge of financial ruin by useless owners through to charity evenings being run by fans to raise money for sick children.
No matter what they are, as long as I have a degree of sympathy with the cause then I will do whatever I can do to help be that by going along to show solidarity or by donating books to raffle off as prizes. And I do that because I am one of those who believe that no matter where they watch their football, fans are one huge community. Yes of course there are exceptions (we all have rivals after all!) but at the end of the day, it’s the game that really matters and if a club are in trouble or something is being done which is fundamentally wrong, we should all pull together to help. I actually wrote a book about this very thing –Rebellion- which examined protests at clubs ranging from Manchester City to former FA Cup winners Wimbledon FC.
The reason I mention this is that this very week we have seen two clubs go into administration here in the UK including one of the legendary names of world football. No, not Pompey, but Glasgow Rangers.
Now I won’t go into my usual rantings about the way football is run but there is a sad inevitability in the fact that as with all such things, the only real hope for ultimate salvation will lie with the fans. Only recently we saw little Darlington put out a call for help when closure seemed just days away and to the credit of all those who follow the game, even though they are a relatively little club that call was heard and a small fortune raised (including one single donation of £25,000) to keep them going for a while in the hope that some way of saving them will be found. And to be fair, if history is anything to go by it probably will be. Sadly too many clubs have been in this position before including such giants as Chelsea, Leeds, Wolves and even the great Manchester United.
To me, things like this actually show football fans at their very best. We get a lot of bad press thanks to the hooligan and racist elements but we should never forget that they form only a tiny minority and the vast majority love the game and everything to do it. Long may that continue.
However, whilst news of a club in crisis being saved by the community of football fans always fills me with pride, it also fills me with a sense of anger. Anger which is directed at one specific group.
It would be reasonable to assume that the target of my fury would be those who administer the game. After all, their consistent failure to impose any kind of strict control over how the individual clubs manage their finances is ultimately responsible for things like this happening. But it is not. No, my anger is directed at players.
I do not for one second begrudge anyone earning a decent living out of the game because if I could, I would. I don’t like the amounts involved when we get into the top flight, that’s true, but I certainly don’t blame them taking it. That’s market forces after all.
What I do have a problem with is players taking that money and never putting any of it back into the game. Yes of course there are exceptions to
that but in the main, players take a fortune from out of the pockets of fans and then when trouble hits a club, we are the ones they expect to dip into our pockets to keep that the club alive. That’s not right. Not right at all.
Here in England there are 92 professional and hundreds of part-time clubs and together they form what is in the opinion of many, the greatest league structure in world football. If one of those clubs goes under, especially in the current financial climate, it can only destabilise the rest and as Rangers have shown, no one is immune from the danger of financial collapse especially when the tax man comes calling. Indeed, there are a number of Premiership teams in serious trouble at the moment and one can only imagine the consequences should one of those go out of business.
So with so much at stake is it really too much to expect that the people who take the largest slice out of the game contribute a small percentage of their huge wage to help keep a struggling club alive?
Or is that responsibility always going to fall on that group of people who in far too many cases these days are already struggling to afford the cost of a ticket to walk through a turnstile?
Two quick plugs, I’m currently giving away ebooks versions two of my best-selling books (The Crew and Everywhere We Go). Further details can be found by clicking here Free Books
Could I also thank all those who have downloaded my most recent book, The Art of Fart. If you liked it, please leave a review at the store where you obtained it from. As with all my books, they really do make a difference.
And I recently gave a short interview to the excellent It’s Round & It’s White website. Please click on the link to visit.