Skip to content

British clubs deny Margaret Thatcher the silent treatment

Apr 10, 2013, 12:33 PM EDT

Baroness Thatcher death

It’s routine these days to hold a period of silence or applause before kick-off to acknowledge a notable death. Margaret Thatcher was the first woman to lead a major Western power and ruled Britain for eleven years, yet hardly anyone in the U.K. seems keen to pay tribute to her on the first weekend of matches following her death.

Quite the opposite, which is causing controversy. Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan has called for a minute’s silence at Wembley before his club’s FA Cup semi-final against Millwall on Saturday and said he wanted players to wear black armbands as a gesture of respect. He was joined by Reading chairman, Sir John Madejski.

But the English Football Association and the Football League reportedly have no plans to make a period of reflection mandatory, preferring to dodge the issue by leaving it up to individual clubs to decide if they want to pay tribute to Thatcher. And few do.

It’s partly political. Thatcher, who was Prime Minister from 1979-1990, was a hugely divisive figure in Britain. Her strategies of curbing trade union power, taming socialism and privatizing industries made her highly unpopular in northern English industrial cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

It’s also because she was no fan of soccer. Thatcher even considered ordering England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to pull out of the 1982 World Cup, which was held in Spain, because of the chance the teams might face Argentina. At the time, the U.K. and Argentina were at war over the Falkland Islands.

She never seemed to like or understand the sport and its culture and the hooliganism problems that dogged British soccer during the 1980s only added to her distaste. She even proposed to combat hooliganism with a membership scheme that would have required all supporters attending games to carry identity cards.

Some commentators credit Thatcher for playing an important role in the modernization of Britain’s crumbling soccer stadiums that happened after the Hillsborough disaster of 1989. But in reality, much of the impetus came from the Taylor Report, an investigation by a senior judge that analyzed the tragedy and produced recommendations. And many in Liverpool want to know whether Thatcher was involved in an official cover-up to blame fans, rather than police, for the deaths of 96 supporters.

But if she did leave a lasting impact on soccer, it’s probably that she created the conditions where a competition such as the Premier League could thrive. When Thatcher was ousted as Conservative party leader in 1990, Britain had become ready to embrace globalization: friendlier to big business, its financial ethos more favorable to ruthlessly-ambitious capitalism, its media environment more diverse. Two years after she left power, England’s top clubs broke away from the Football League with a view to forming a more lucrative competition. It’s brought immense wealth to the most powerful clubs in the game – but done the smaller teams more harm than good.

Latest Posts
  1. Sunil Gulati backs Jurgen Klinsmann following MLS dispute, USMNT “on the same page”

    Oct 23, 2014, 1:12 PM EDT

    GulatiKlinsmann Getty Images

    Gulati: “Jurgen is our coach and technical director, and I fully expect that to be the case through to the 2018 World Cup.”

  2. Diego Costa remains a doubt for Chelsea amid illness, groin strain

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT

    With Costa struggling to make the bench, plus Remy out, Chelsea are running out of strikers.

  3. All eyes on Origi: Tim Howard, Everton wary of on-loan Liverpool forward

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:04 AM EDT

    Belgium v USA: Round of 16 - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Howard: “I know what he likes to do, but that doesn’t mean I will always be capable of stopping him.”

  4. MLS Atlanta urges David Beckham, Miami to share stadium with Dolphins

    Oct 23, 2014, 10:22 AM EDT

    Cincinnati v Miami Cincinnati v Miami

    Atlanta Falcons owner urges Beckham to link up with Miami Dolphins to sort out MLS stadium mess.

  5. Everton fans reportedly attacked by gang in Lille ahead of Europa League clash

    Oct 23, 2014, 9:36 AM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-EVERTON-SUPPORTERS FBL-EUR-C3-EVERTON-SUPPORTERS

    A gang of 100 local men reportedly ambushed Everton fans outside city center pub.

  6. Report: Dutch star Dirk Kuyt heading to Southampton

    Oct 23, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Will Saints swoop to sign former Liverpool star?

  7. Reality check: Outclassed by Real Madrid, what now for Liverpool?

    Oct 23, 2014, 8:34 AM EDT

    Liverpool’s players react to Real Madrid humbling, as growing pains continue to spiral out of control.

  8. After winless October, USA drop out of top 20 in latest FIFA rankings

    Oct 23, 2014, 7:54 AM EDT

    Klinsmann Getty Images

    After two draws in October, the USA drops six places in latest world rankings.

  9. Galatasaray’s 3-D Tifo has demanded all others to step their game up

    Oct 22, 2014, 11:04 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 10.48.58 PM

    How did the Galatasaray supporters pull off this Tifo before Wednesday’s match against Borussia Dortmund? How?!?

  10. Thursday’s Europa League preview: Spurs go Greek, Everton faces Lille

    Oct 22, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Europa League AP

    The pair of Premier League clubs remaining in the competition face quite different tests on Thursday.

  11. PST’s MLS Rookie of the Year: Shipp, Hagglund, Akindele or Birnbaum?

    Oct 22, 2014, 9:25 PM EDT

    Nick Hagglund; Michael Bradley AP

    Perhaps it isn’t the sexiest year for rookies in Major League Soccer, but there’s a quartet of names set to stick around for a while.

  12. Arsene Wenger: We went big and it paid off against Anderlecht

    Oct 22, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Belgium Soccer Champions League AP

    “I had hope, it maybe didn’t look like it, but it happened,” Wenger said.

  13. It’s official: World No. 3 Colombia to face USMNT in London on Nov. 14

    Oct 22, 2014, 7:23 PM EDT

    James Rodriguez AP

    “So overall, it’s a squad with a lot of experience playing at the highest level, and this will be another great benchmark for us,” Klinsmann said.

  14. Brendan Rodgers remarks on Balotelli and Pepe’s halftime shirt swap

    Oct 22, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Champions League AP

    Of course many are claiming this “is the beginning of end” for Balotelli on Merseyside. That seems a bit much.

  15. VIDEO: Top 10 goals of the MLS season (heading into the final weekend)

    Oct 22, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT

    Erik Hurtado AP

    Here’s the bar, Week 33 of Major League Soccer: Please feel free to raise it.

  16. UEFA Champions League roundup: Madrid clubs, Borussia Dortmund roll

    Oct 22, 2014, 4:47 PM EDT

    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, AP

    We are at the halfway point in Groups A-D, and some English clubs are concerned about their fortunes to be sure.

  17. Three things we learned as Real Madrid rout Liverpool

    Oct 22, 2014, 4:41 PM EDT

    Ronaldo and co. rolled into Anfield and issued Liverpool a harsh reality check. Ronaldo and co. rolled into Anfield and issued Liverpool a harsh reality check.

    It was a night to forget for the home side, as Real ruled at Anfield. Here’s what we learned.

  18. Arsenal’s Podolski, Gibbs break Belgian hearts in left-for-late win

    Oct 22, 2014, 4:36 PM EDT

    Belgium Soccer Champions League AP

    The 21-year-old Honduran international did what a dangerous Alexis Sanchez couldn’t, but Arsenal was rescued late.

  19. Michel Platini denies making ebola comments which angered African Confederation

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:54 PM EDT

    Platini Getty Images

    The CAF claimed Platini said something he didn’t, and it hurt his feelings.

Featured video

PST Extra: Can United beat Chelsea?