British soccer has come under fire for its decision to postpone this weekend’s round of fixtures following the death of the UK’s Queen Elizabeth, with some fans questioning the move in contrast to other sports bodies who opted to let play resume.
The queen, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, died at her home in Scotland on Thursday aged 96, prompting English soccer’s top-flight Premier League as well as the English Football League to postpone their next round of fixtures as a mark of respect.
Soccer games in Northern Ireland this weekend were also postponed, while the Football Association of Wales postponed fixtures from September 9th-12th. Professional matches in Scottish football were also cancelled.
There was widespread annoyance that the FA had cancelled grassroots soccer in England.
But England’s deciding third cricket test match against South Africa at The Oval resumed on Saturday, while the rugby Premiership will also get under way after Friday’s two season-opening matches were rescheduled.
The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), which is the representative body for soccer fans in England and Wales, said the cancellation of games was a missed opportunity for fans to pay their respect.
“We believe football is at its finest when bringing people together at times of huge national significance — be those moments of joy or moments of mourning,” the FSA said.
Former England internationals Peter Crouch and Gary Neville echoed the group’s sentiments.
“Black armbands, silences observed, national anthem, Royal band playing etc to the millions around the world watching? Isn’t that a better send-off,” Crouch said.
Neville added: “Sport can demonstrate better than most 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 fixtures”, effectively leaving the decision to each sport’s governing body.
The Rugby Football League said they had taken the “difficult decision” of ensuring matches at all levels went ahead while the BMW PGA golf Championship opted to restart as a 54-hole event on Saturday after Friday’s play was cancelled.
Sunday’s Great North Run, the world’s biggest half marathon with 60,000 entrants, will also go ahead as planned, a decision that was welcomed by many competitors.
The British Horseracing 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 supporters applauded at length after singing ‘God Save the King’ before the day’s action got under way, the vast majority of the crowd no doubt singing the anthem for the first time in their life.
But Neil Stevens, 58, a recent retiree and cricket fan, told Reuters he had mixed feelings.
“I was concerned about today, whether they were going to scrub the whole thing,” he said.
“I’m mixed about it. The problem is it’s completely ruined this as a match. Are we going to get a three-day result? We’ve had a couple (of three-day results), but in a sense it has taken away that aspect of this game.
“But it was appropriate to do something to mark the passing of our monarch. I’m not particularly a royalist. You don’t get to retire in that job — you work until you drop dead. For that, it was appropriate to do something.”
Another fan, Alex Turner, 32, said he felt the Premier League had made a mistake and that the England & Wales Cricket Board had made the smarter decision.
“It’s a good sign,” he added. “The ECB have done well to keep things going. It was a better strategy.”