British soccer at odds over Margaret Thatcher tribute

British soccer at odds over Margaret Thatcher tribute
The decision to not honor the late Margaret Thatcher with a moment of silence before games this weekend has made some members of England’s Football Assn. unhappy.
(Alessandro Abbonizio / AFP/Getty Images)

England’s Football Assn. will not order teams to observe a moment of silence in memory of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher before English Premier League, Football League, or FA Cup games this weekend.

And that has proven unpopular with many club owners. Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan, for example, has called for a minute’s silence at London’s Wembley Stadium ahead of his team’s FA Cup semifinal Saturday against Millwall to remember Thatcher, who died Monday at 87.


“We owe Mrs. Thatcher a minute’s silence,” Whelan told The Guardian newspaper. “It is not my decision, it is for the FA to decide. But I would be in favor of wearing an armband out of respect to Mrs. Thatcher. We have to say thank you very much for the services the former PM has given us.”

There was no official recognition of Thatcher’s passing before Monday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford, something Whelan said was “very disrespectful” on the part of the home team, Manchester United.


Thatcher is somewhat of a controversial figure in British soccer. As several soccer officials noted, she had no love for the game and presided over the British government during a time when hooliganism across the UK was rife.

But some of Thatcher’s tough policies also strengthened the British economy, which every soccer club has benefited from.

“We have got to appreciate that Margaret Thatcher was a world leader who did so much for this country,” Reading owner John Madejski said. “So much that she deserves a minute’s silence. Football was in a bad way when she was prime minister. We all saw changes in her time and they should pay tribute to that.”

Whelan said politics has nothing to do with his disappointment over the FA’s decision.

“The politicians, you get them on the left or on the right. [But] when they are PM, they are PM. They are acting for the country,” he said. “Whoever it is, whatever political views they have, I would always support the PM. To have no recognition of Mrs. Thatcher is not right.”


No county cricket teams have announced plans to mark Thatcher’s death when their season begins this week but the England and Wales Cricket Board has advised them to fly flags at half staff on the day of her funeral next week.


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