JONATHAN McEVOY: Out of respect, the game was right to put a foot on the ball… one weekend off for England’s national game is not too much to ask for after Queen’s 70 years of service
- There is a time for respect, and this juncture in our national story is that moment
- A one week postponement to the football fixtures is not too much to ask for
- The last-minute decision reflects weakness of leadership and a lack of foresight
- Had the games gone on, it would have reflected very poorly on the sport
We all know that ‘never complain, never explain’ is a mantra that has long guided the best strands of royal life — not that Meghan got the email.
Attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, adopted by the Queen Mother, and still holding sway among the top rank as the Queen died at Balmoral, it was an aphorism that smacked of a stoicism and get-on-with-life resilience that we considered a very British aspiration.
But there is also a time for respect, and this important juncture in our national story is that moment. And it doesn’t merely apply to wearing a black tie. However, it does require an acceptance that sport is not itself a matter of life and death, even if the Premier League is the closest phenomenon to religion that we have in modern Britain, eclipsing even our exalting of the NHS.
A one week postponement is not too much to ask for after the Queen’s long service
Is one weekend off for our national game too much to ask?
Is 70 years of service not worth one brief interruption to a sport that has long broken its old seasonal boundaries so rapaciously that it barely takes a day off?
As our national game it also carries a responsibility unique in our society. A distinction recognised in the Premier League’s stated decision to ‘honour the Queen’s extraordinary life and contribution to the nation’.
Of course, the way the decision was arrived at was farcical. It should all have been resolved far in advance of the death of a monarch who was essentially housebound in Balmoral, unable to walk freely and aged 96, rather than in a meeting yesterday morning.
The last-minute talking to postpone reflects a weakness of leadership and a lack of foresight
The last-minute talking reflects a weakness of leadership and a lack of foresight. Only now are they thinking about how to commemorate the Queen’s reign when the sport recongregates at some ‘appropriate point’.
At least football has managed the situation better than its tin-eared handling of an earlier crucial phase in its story, namely during the First World War, when it played on as hundreds of thousands of British men died in combat.
This insensitivity caused many schools to disaffiliate from the Football Association, robbing the game of generations of boys to rugby union at significant disadvantage to its own fortunes.
Some critics might wonder why football is the outlier and criticise it for being so.
Allowing games to take place this weekend would have reflected very poorly on the sport
Racing, cricket, rugby and golf only stopped for a day or two, and then played on. Perhaps those sports and others struck the right balance by demonstrating a degree of reverence without denying fans and participants for longer than decorum demanded.
This nuanced approach may well have been the right way for football to go. Nothing today and tomorrow, and then a resumption. The Queen would have been honoured and sport put in its place. Job done.
But if you think everything should have carried on without a pause, or a second thought, think how that would have looked.
Typical, greedy football, we would all have chorused. It waits for no one.