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Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Football is knee-deep in nonsense

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BEFORE the first match of the new Premier League football season on August 11, Burnley and Manchester City players ‘took the knee’ – and fans at Burnley’s Turf Moor ground booed. Managers and officials expressed their disappointment; media outlets described the booing as ‘disgraceful’. English Premier League players plan to kneel again in five rounds of fixtures in October 2023 and April 2024 coinciding with ‘No Room for Racism’ campaigns. 

I do not support racism in any form. Assuming those who booed in Burnley are just normal fans and not extremist political groups, let me tell you why I would boo along with them, even if only inwardly.

The Premier League is the best-paid meritocracy in the world. There are no quotas or family connections that can help players succeed. If a footballer is good enough and mentally tough enough, he can make a fortune.

But there are conditions. Players have to toe the line and accept what they are told by league officials. Which presumably means being told that kneeling is a protest against racism, in clubs sometimes owned by countries with appalling human rights records. Professional footballers kneel because they believe kneeling is the right thing to do, or because it is easier than making a fuss.

Yet for many of those watching in the grounds and on TV, the discomfort is palpable. They see millionaires putting on displays of how much they care about racism, whilst the people who work hard to pay their wages are forced to watch insufferable displays of moral superiority: I am on my knee because I am not racist, support me or you are racist too. In other words, to tell ordinary fans how backward, uneducated, and racist they are.

I know some people will say that the intentions of taking the knee are good; that taking the knee is standing against racism; that it filters down to the grass roots of the game in a positive way. I don’t agree.

This is a gesture which originated as a political statement in the US, with all sorts of extremist political baggage. It divided people, rather than bringing them together. So it is in the UK. Taking the knee is not about racism, it is about power: the power to tell the players literally to kneel down to their masters, kneel down to those who control you, because despite your fantastic wages, you still belong to the officials at the Premier League clubs who want to use you to show how much they care, and what good people they all are.

The Premier League has become like our political class and the institutions taken over by woke, city-based graduates living in million-pound properties: they love telling people how to think. And regular people watching it push back. Hence the boos.

The fans charity Kick It Out says there were 261 reports of racism in the professional game last season out of 4,072 matches, excluding cup games and matches in Europe. While Kick It Out requires incidents of discrimination to justify its funding, and counting methods remain opaque, it is one of the organisations taking racism in football seriously. Booting people out of the ground for racism works, I think. So do anti-racism campaigns, referees sending players off, coaches and captains taking players off the pitch in foreign countries during racist chanting. All this shows good intent. But taking the knee?

The National Centre for Social Research reports that almost no one in Britain today holds an ‘ethnic-only’ view of British identity. The UK is not a racist country. Yet the Premier League appears to have been taken over by the same opinionated hyper-liberals as many other institutions in the UK, from the National Trust to the BBC, that will use whatever opportunities they can to enforce their weird woke virtue-signalling on the rest of us. It is also possible that the Premier League officials have got themselves knee-deep in this nonsense and have no idea how to extricate themselves from it without being accused of being racist by the left-wing establishment they have tried to appease. My advice: do what is right and make the argument to end the theatrics, so that those of us who boo, or boo inwardly, can get back to watching football.

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Tim Briggs
Tim Briggs
Tim Briggs is a commentator, lawyer and former Leader of the Opposition on Lambeth Council, and on the Conservative list to be a parliamentary candidate for the next general election.

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