Should Margaret Thatcher be honoured with a minute’s silence?

April 12, 2013 in Premier League

She divided the nation in life, and now with her death comes a debate that has divided the footballing community - should Margaret Thatcher be remembered with a minute’s silence at football matches this coming weekend?

ThatcherFootball

My personal opinion screams “Are you bloody mad? She’s a political figure, not a footballing one” and hasn’t been in the public eye for many years. She is a woman who many over a certain age cannot be indifferent to and whose lives were either uplifted or spectacularly downtrodden as a result of her time in office. During her tenure, she showed no interest in the game and although she visited Hillsborough after the 1989 disaster, she is also seen as a villain of the game in the 1980s, going as far as to suggest football fans should carry identity cards with them to go to matches.

The mention of Hillsborough is also important as this weekend will mark the 24th anniversary of the disaster, with a tribute being paid at Reading as they face Liverpool who lost 96 fans as a result of the stadium collapse. Thatcher was never popular in the North, and her popularity sunk to an all-time low amongst football fans in Merseyside after Hillsborough, as many felt she had supported the South Yorkshire police that day in blaming the fans for the tragedy and not speaking out when they were accused of mistreating the dead. A minute’s silence had already been arranged by Reading Chairman Sir John Madejski to remember the 96 who died on 15th April 1989 and many, including myself, believe it would be disrespectful to those who died that day to have the focus taken away from them, when their deaths are such a poignant moment in the modern game.

FBL-ENG-PR-EVERTON-NEWCASTLE  PEL1789

However, it is no secret that John Madejski himself is a dedicated Conservative supporter and advocate of the Thatcher era. He has come out to say that had the Hillsborough memorial not been pre-arranged, he would have no qualms in commemorating the death of Baroness Thatcher and that all clubs should be taking part out of “respect”.  This is a theme that has been popular this week amongst British owners and chairmen of Premier League football teams; Wigan owner Dave Whelan, another Tory exponent, has been very open in his opinion that Thatcher should be remembered with a minute’s silence AND black arm bands during his side’s semi-final game against Millwall at Wembley on Saturday. This really makes me wonder whether Whelan has any of this respect he has been harking on about for the fans of his club.

As I have already mentioned, the North suffered hugely as a result of the Thatcher campaign; Manchester and the surrounding area remain staunch safe Labour seats to this day, having seen a loss in its industry under the Thatcher Conservatives. I wonder, therefore, whether Whelan has taken this into account when talking about respect and wondering why the north of England did not want to commemorate her. Maybe it’s because Dave hasn’t considered that the majority of the north probably didn’t have the same experience of the 1980s as he did. Far more sensibly, a decision has already been made not to hold a minute’s silence at the Tyne-Wear derby between Newcastle and Sunderland this coming Sunday; presumably, this is a decision that has been made out of regard to a population with a large demographic of fans who would have been affected by the strikes and closure of the mines in the 1980s, and the eschewing battles with unemployment in the area as a result.

I think it is also important to remember that commemorating dead politicians is not something we have made a habit of doing in English football; the last Prime Minister who was honoured before the 90 minutes was Winston Churchill at his death in 1965. We did not remember Edward Heath, James Callaghan or even Clement Atlee, the man responsible for implementing the National Health Service. So why now? Why Thatcher? This shouldn’t even be an issue, because quite simply, the minute’s silence should never have been suggested.  If we have not remembered past Prime Ministers, who now we are perhaps indifferent to but who were good men, why on earth would we commemorate one who many, especially football fans, believe to be the devil incarnate?

It may be that it has become such a hotly debated issue because she was such a dividing character, or equally as likely, it is an issue that has been blown out of all proportion simply because it gets a rise out of people and creates a good journalistic atmosphere. I think that the Football Association has handled the situation very well; they are leaving the decision as to whether a silence takes place up to individual clubs and stressed that the interest of the fans should be a major consideration in the decision making process. This is something I wholly agree with, as it seems that a situation could occur here where people are being unnecessarily distressed, and in a time where tensions are running high within football stadiums already, really, what is the point of stoking the fire further?

If you’re a fan of Thatcher, then fine, commemorate her in your own time, but do not expect the rest of us to mourn her with you. I feel like implementing a minute’s silence to Margaret Thatcher will cause a bigger outrage to those who did not support her, than not implementing one will to those who did. We are lucky enough to live in a place where we can choose who to support politically, and so, under no circumstances should we be forcing an ideal on a collective who may be caused anguish as a result. There is a time and a place to remember a political figure, and Saturday afternoon in a football stadium is not it.

Comments