7 The Daily Telegraph Friday 3 July 2020 *** the flawed ‘movement’ ‘Pompey John’ forced to miss first game in 41 years their own political agendas,” the statement added. The Premier League was warned about Black Lives Matter’s political agenda before the season resumed, and Ben Bradley, MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sport, wrote to the league’s chief executive, Richard Masters, last month urging him not to support a movement that had “attacked police officers and war memorials”. Bradley insisted it was “impossible” to separate the movement from the message and added: “Why not have Kick It Out on the shirts? Nobody would complain about that.” MPs grilled Masters over Black Lives Matter during a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing on Tuesday, prompting the Premier League to clarify the nature of its support for the cause. But Giles Watling, MP, said yesterday: “I wasn’t convinced. Unfortunately, this particular movement has been hijacked.” There was also concern about the free advertising the BLM movement was getting. Mike Flynn, founder and chief executive of sports and entertainment sponsorship agency DataPOWA, put the value at up to £25million. Previously responsible for Carling’s sponsorship of the Premier League, he said the value came through the combination of logos on shirts, banners in stands and hashtags on television screens. The FA, meanwhile, yesterday refused to lift its ban on Pep Guardiola’s wearing of a yellow ribbon, supporting Catalan independence, after the Manchester City manager implied it was guilty of double standards by fining him for wearing it two years ago, but then allowing Black Lives Matter logos on shirts. Defending its decision to “offer our solidarity in promoting this important message of antidiscrimination”, the FA said: “The yellow ribbon was deemed a political symbol and therefore in breach of the FA’s kit and advertising regulations.” By Sam Dean Road, in a garden of one of the terraced houses, watching on a screen and banging on his drums. “Physically, the last time I did not go to a game was 1979 away,” he says. “I have never watched Pompey on TV in my life. It will be surreal.” His need to be in the area, supporting the team in whichever way he can, extended to Portsmouth’s behind-closed-doors friendlies in recent weeks. He travelled to Reading in mid-June after hearing whispers of a friendly match, but soon realised he had arrived 24 hours early. So he drove back again the next day, standing outside the ground as the game was played. He did the same for their match against Brentford a week later, using a makeshift stool to look over the walls of Griffin Park. He was spotted by the team, too. “I should have known you would be here,” he was told by Kenny Jackett, the Portsmouth manager. Today, Westwood will be in attendance in cardboard, if not in person, having paid £25 for a cutout of himself to be placed within Fratton Park. “I have always said that too many fans are cardboard cut-outs,” he says. “Now I am actually going to be one myself.” Over 40 years of following his One of Portsmouth’s most colourful fans reveals the pain of being outside Fratton Park for tonight’s League One play-off A s he turns the corner into Frogmore Road and stares up at the mock-Tudor entrance to Fratton Park, John Anthony Portsmouth Football Club Westwood lets out a sigh. “Ah, this is what it’s all about,” he says. “It gets me a bit, just standing here.” Westwood, or “Pompey John” as some call him, is Portsmouth’s most recognisable fan, known for his outlandish accessories and his unrelenting dedication to the cause (hence the name change), and he is struggling to adjust to the new way of the football world. “It’s killing me,” he says. “I feel like a robot. It has taken the life out of me, it has taken the spirit.” To walk the streets around Fratton Park with Westwood, clad in Pompey-themed clothes and tattoos, is to witness the strength of the connection that forms between clubs and their most ardent supporters. For them it is not about the matches or the results, but rather the routines and the friendships that develop. A lifetime of evolving stories and memories, of frequent laughter and occasional despair – and now it has stopped. “I don’t even know what day of the week it is,” Westwood says. “I used to know exactly what day of the week it was because I knew when Pompey were playing and I would count the days down. It is a nightmare, because it is the one thing you focus on all week. Throughout my life, whenever I have had struggles, I have been able to go out and submerge myself in the game, have a few beers and forget about my troubles.” In many ways, Westwood is among the lucky ones. At least Portsmouth are playing again, against Oxford United in the first leg of their League One play-off tonight. He does not feel particularly fortunate, though. The match itself has prompted mixed emotions from a man who, perhaps more than any other British football fan, lives for the passion of the sport. “If I am honest, I don’t want Pompey to go up,” he says. “It would not feel right. In 20 years I would not be able to tell my grandkids that I saw Pompey get promoted. The whole thing about football, for me, is being a moments man. I have to be there in the moment, and you can never replicate that moment.” Westwood, who runs a 100-yearold bookshop in Petersfield, cannot be in the moment this time. He can, however, be as close to it as possible. He will be back on Frogmore Serie A Seven months ago, the Italian top flight sparked outrage with its “No To Racism” launch, featuring the imagery of monkeys (above). Serie A chief executive Luigi De Siervo apologised and launched an investigation. It consulted black players before putting together a revised strategy. Roma will display a “Black Lives Matter” anti-racism badge on their shirts for the remainder of the season. Torino defender Nicolas N’Koulou took the knee after scoring against Parma. “When I scored, I immediately thought of my brother, George Floyd”, he commented later on Torino’s Twitter account. But the picture accompanying the tweet sparked criticism as it showed him kneeling in front of team-mate Andrea Belotti (right). Portsmouth v Oxford Utd 5.30pm, Sky Sports Labour attacks Premier League ‘lack of ambition’ Eye-catching: John Westwood (left) stands out among Portsmouth’s loyal support By Ben Rumsby has got to be the beginning of a conversation, and nobody should feel like the initial steps that we’re taking will be enough. For me, it’s about listening to what people who are directly involved have got to say. We’ve been talking about these things for a long time. I understand feelings of frustration.” Former Premier League player, coach and technical director Paul Mortimer also criticised the scheme. “You get the 20 Premier League chairmen together, they’ll look in the back of their pockets for change to pay for that,” he said. “It’s great offering black and ethnic minority managers and coaches opportunities, but that doesn’t change the environment that suppresses opportunity for black coaches.” team, Westwood has learned what really matters in football. The answer is not success, he says, but community. A League One play-off, and the chance to return to the Championship for the first time since 2012, is important for Portsmouth as a club, but for many fans it is simply having the club that matters most. Portsmouth fans know this as well as anyone, given their financial collapse a decade ago and the threat of liquidation. “Win or lose, it does not matter because you know you will be back the following week,” Westwood says. “It is tribal. It is the very essence of being a human. We have this basic primeval urge to belong. It is your identity.” The Premier League yesterday stood accused of failing to do enough to convert its support for Black Lives Matter into meaningful action to tackle the exclusion of ethnic minorities from the dugout. The world’s richest league this week announced it had launched a BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) coach placement scheme alongside the English Football League and Professional Footballers’ Association, in order to tackle the game’s shocking lack of diversity off the pitch. But while the BBC has pledged £100million of its budget over three years to produce “diverse and inclusive” content and set a target of 20 per cent of off-screen talent coming from under-represented groups, the Premier League-led scheme offers only six places annually at a cost of what appears to be in the low hundreds of thousands. Shadow sports minister Alison McGovern told “I’ve listened to footballers, ex-footballers and others on this and I hear individuals wanting the Premier League to go further. I think they’re right to be ambitious and I think this The Daily Telegraph: Just the start: Shadow sports minister Alison McGovern says the Premier League must build on its new placement scheme
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