The Football League Paper - - INSIDE -

WOULD you ask Green­peace to hon­our an oil ty­coon? Or the RSPCA to eu­lo­gise a cham­pion bull­fighter? Of course not. So why on earth are we still em­broiled in a point­less de­bate about whether foot­ball should pay trib­ute to Mar­garet Thatcher?

De­spite ef­forts to price them out, the vast ma­jor­ity of foot­ball fans are work­ing class men. And ir­re­spec­tive of whether you think she was right or wrong, Thatcher’s poli­cies de­stroyed work­ing-class com­mu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly in the north.

Towns, vil­lages and cities de­pen­dent on man­u­fac­tur­ing and min­ing were laid waste. I grew up in a former pit vil­lage that re­mains to this day a fes­ter­ing sore of de­pri­va­tion and un­em­ploy­ment.

Proud men who worked hard ev­ery day were sud­denly dumped on the dole and urged to be­come as­pi­ra­tional cap­i­tal­ists. They weren’t told how, or where.

Mar­riages crum­bled, fam­i­lies were torn apart. De­pres­sion and sui­cide rates went through the roof. Even in death, the woman de­serves not one iota of re­spect from th­ese peo­ple.

Nor was she any friend of foot­ball. Some in the rightwing Press ar­gue that Thatcher’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to deal with hooli­gan­ism – those who she rightly said “brought shame and disgrace to their coun­try” – led to all-seater sta­di­ums.

I don’t buy that. Thatcher’s ap­proach was one of con­trol and zero-tol­er­ance. Her government de­picted foot­ball fans – all fans, not just the hooli­gans – as pond life, a sub-species of vi­o­lent an­i­mals. As a re­sult, po­lice were en­cour­aged to treat them like cat­tle, caus­ing the deaths of 96 in­no­cent peo­ple at Hills­bor­ough.

It was the sub­se­quent Tay­lor report, not any cru­sade of Thatcher’s, that cleaned the game up.

So fine, praise the good that Thatcher did. If her poli­cies helped you out, good for you. But don’t try to force your be­liefs on oth­ers, like some un­wel­come Je­ho­vah’s Wit­ness rant­ing on the doorstep.

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