Friday, June 14, 2024
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Nick Booth: Remain or Leave? Bruised and battered England fans face a tough choice


If you were an England football fan in France now, do you think the most sensible course of action would be to withdraw? There will be many people holding a referendum on this now, as they face being ambushed on their way to their next match (England vs Wales today). I think they might be safer out, even if it does work out more expensive. Who wants to live under the cosh?

Don’t get me wrong, football at its best brings everyone together. You can make instant friends from all over the world just by wandering down to the local park and joining in a kickabout. Even in Spain in 1982, when many locals were backing a war against our country, it was still possible to have a peaceful kickabout in the park with the local Madrilenos. Any park football game instantly resolves more differences and brings more people together than any Diversity Diva will achieve in a lifetime.

There are three factors that have changed since 1982 when my fellow England fans were getting battered by police and locals. Firstly there is now a higher average IQ among the UK contingent. There are more England fans abroad and most of them are interested in getting on with the locals. If we say, “jumpers for goalposts” and they say “puentes para postes”, nobody calls the whole thing off.

The second significant change is that, having invented hooliganism (apparently) other countries have left us way behind. The Russians have taken thuggishness to unimaginable levels. They organise themselves like paramilitaries – they look better trained than the Special Patrol Group. There is no question of them being infiltrated by the police, because many of them are from the Russian police and military backgrounds. The Russian media actually takes great pride in these morons and they’ve been praised in their national press. The fact that England’s herd of fans is not only bigger, but a lot more mature and passive, has been an absolute gift to the Russian psychopaths.

The third most significant change is that, thanks to Nick Hornby, football is now more widely socially acceptable so there were BBC, ITV and even Channel 4 staff in those Marseille bars and streets, witnessing first hand the scenes their predecessors have misreported for several decades.

It’s taken thirty years, but suddenly the penny has dropped among BBC reporters, because it’s happening to them. So the tiny bit of good news is that England fans are no longer routinely categorised as the BNP on holiday.

But it’s a bit late now. Having fought a media war against their own people for decades, the BBC et al have managed to create scapegoats out of England fans abroad. When a local gang of youths attacks some peaceful England fans in a bar, the French police let the aggressors escape, after which they have the excuse to fire tear gas cannisters at the English contingent. When squads of Russian paramilitary goons run around punching lone victims to the ground, then stamping on their heads, none of them get arrested. Instead, the police wait until they’ve gone and break out more tear gas cannisters and fire them at the people trying to pick up the bodies on the floor.

Sadly, there’s a minority of morons from England (some in England football shirts, some working for the media) who have convinced every other thug in Europe that it’s politically acceptable to attack the English. OK, even the BBC sports reporters have back pedalled on this, a bit, but it’s too late. It only took them 30 years to realise this. Now it’s open season on England fans and always will be.

Yes, I’ve been to England games and I know that many of the fans are pretty unpleasant. But still, two wrongs don’t make a right. Why be prejudiced against everyone who likes football, just because you want to adopt a radical left wing pose?

Now, what should we do in the meantime?

Should we take responsibility for our own actions, and weed out the bad England fans? Meanwhile, would it be safer for England fans to withdraw?

Hang on, what am I saying? Take responsibility for ourselves, don’t accept that two wrongs make a right and don’t rely on a useless foreign, administration to do the right thing. Does that sound dangerously like a Little Englander? People start petitions for your sacking over less contentious questions. Ask Laura Kuenssberg.

Or should we allow French justice to take its course. Maybe those fans are ‘better off in’. Perhaps they should Remain and negotiate a deal with the Russians, the local ultra gangs and the French Riot Police. I wonder what Lord Kinnock and Nick Clegg and all those other armchair experts would do? They’re never going to wake up and smell the tear gas are they?

Thirty years of hurt indeed.

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Nick Booth
Nick Booth
Nick Booth is a freelance writer.

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