British football has come under fire for its decision to reschedule this weekend’s round of matches following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, with some fans questioning the move unlike other sporting bodies who have opted to hold the game again record.
The Queen, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, died at her home in Scotland on Thursday aged 96, prompting English football’s Premier League, as well as the English Football League, to postpone their next round of matches as a show of respect.
Football matches in Northern Ireland this weekend have also been postponed, while the Football Association of Wales has postponed matches from September 9-12. Professional games in Scottish football have also been cancelled.
There was widespread outrage that the FA had canceled grassroots football in England.
But England’s crucial third cricket Test match against South Africa at The Oval resumed on Saturday, while Rugby Premiership is also due to start after Friday’s two season-opening games were postponed.
The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), which represents football supporters in England and Wales, said the cancellation of games was a missed opportunity for fans to show their respect.
“We believe football is at its best when it brings people together at times of great national importance – be they moments of joy or moments of sadness,” the FSA said.
Former England internationals Peter Crouch and Gary Neville echoed the group’s opinion.
“Black armbands, silence maintained, national anthem, Royal Band plays etc for the millions around the world watching? Isn’t that a better goodbye,” Crouch said.
Neville added: “The sport does a better job than most of showing the respect the Queen deserves.”
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) had said there was “no obligation to cancel or postpone events and sporting events”, effectively leaving the decision to the governing body of each sport.
Rugby Football League said it had made the “difficult decision” to ensure matches were played at all levels, while the BMW PGA Golf Championship opted to restart as a 54-hole event on Saturday after play was canceled on Friday had been.
Sunday’s Great North Run, the world’s largest half marathon with 60,000 runners, will also go ahead as planned, a decision welcomed by many participants.
Britain’s Horse Racing Authority had suspended all events for two days but said they would resume on Sunday.
There were moving scenes at The Oval in London as fans applauded long after singing ‘God Save the King’ before the day’s action began, with the vast majority of the crowd undoubtedly singing the anthem for the first time in their lives .
But Neil Stevens, 58, a recent pensioner and cricket fan, told Reuters he had mixed feelings.
“I was worried today if they were going to scrub the whole thing,” he said.
“I’m mixed. The problem is that it completely ruined that as a match. Will we get a three day result? We had a few (from three day results) but in a sense it took that aspect of the game away.
“But it was appropriate to do something to mark the death of our monarch. I’m not particularly a royalist. You can’t retire in this job – you work until you drop dead. It was appropriate to do something for that.”
Another fan, Alex Turner, 32, said he felt the Premier League made a mistake and the England & Wales Cricket Board made the wiser decision.
“That’s a good sign,” he added. “The ECB did well to keep things going. It was a better strategy.”
(Reporting by Hugh Lawson in London, Hritika Sharma and Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Writing by Shrivathsa Sridhar; Editing by London Desk)