Skip to content

British clubs deny Margaret Thatcher the silent treatment

Apr 10, 2013, 12:33 PM EST

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. DONE DEAL: Mattia Destro, Juan Agudelo sign with new clubs AC Milan, New England Revolution

    Jan 29, 2015, 7:10 PM EST

    Mattia Destro, AS Roma Mattia Destro, AS Roma

    What went down on Thursday, the 29th day of this January transfer window? A full recap, inside.

  2. Juan Agudelo signs with New England Revolution, completes return to MLS

    Jan 29, 2015, 5:36 PM EST

    Juan Agudelo, FC Utrecht Juan Agudelo, FC Utrecht

    Agudelo is back in MLS, where he probably should have been all along.

  3. Russia to cut budget for 2018 World Cup, as economy continues to struggle

    Jan 29, 2015, 3:18 PM EST

    FIFA FIFA

    Putin and Russia have already had to cut costs for the 2018 World Cup.

  4. Alexis Sanchez an injury concern for Arsenal

    Jan 29, 2015, 2:43 PM EST

    Arsenal v Southampton - Premier League

    Arsenal’s main man is touch and go for this weekend’s game against Aston Villa.

  5. Daniel Sturridge could return from injury for Liverpool this weekend against West Ham

    Jan 29, 2015, 2:00 PM EST

    Liverpool FC Training Session Liverpool FC Training Session

    Liverpool’s leading striker could return to action this Saturday after five months out.

  6. How will Chelsea, Manchester City line up in huge Premier League clash?

    Jan 29, 2015, 1:02 PM EST

    Manchester City v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    With players out and title dreams on the line, how will Chelsea and City line up on Saturday?

  7. VIDEO: Jurgen Klinsmann’s a stud, backheels TWO balls at the same time

    Jan 29, 2015, 11:43 AM EST

    jurgen_klinsmann Getty Images

    Watch Klinsmann’s insane piece of skill from the friendly vs. Chile on Wednesday. My word.

  8. Lots drawn: Guinea in, Mali out as Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals set

    Jan 29, 2015, 11:08 AM EST

    FBL-AFR-2015-MATCH24-GUI-MLI FBL-AFR-2015-MATCH24-GUI-MLI

    Guinea won the lottery and are through to the last eight. Here’s the quarterfinal field for AFCON.

  9. Freddy Adu heading back to MLS? Reports claims two teams interested

    Jan 29, 2015, 9:45 AM EST

    Fredy Adu made his first start for Bahia in Brazil. Getty Images

    Former D.C. United, RSL and Union player heading back home?

  10. DONE DEAL: Arsenal, West Brom and Villarreal all got new players Wednesday

    Jan 28, 2015, 11:10 PM EST

    arsenal.com arsenal.com

    So what went down on Wednesday, as the transfer window took another step toward slamming shut?

  11. VIDEO: Christian Eriksen scores a free kick for the ages in League Cup semi

    Jan 28, 2015, 10:20 PM EST

    Sheffield United v Tottenham Hotspur - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    Set up for a free kick outside the 18, Eriksen not only sent an arrow whizzing over the goal, but he managed to spin it into the far upper 90.

  12. Real Madrid will change the name of the Santiago Bernabeu

    Jan 28, 2015, 9:58 PM EST

    Bernabeu Getty Images

    The La Liga giant has woked out a sponsorship deal with United Arab Emirates-based International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).

  13. USMNT postgame reaction: Jozy unsure of 3-5-2, Klinsmann explains changes

    Jan 28, 2015, 9:17 PM EST

    Klinsmann AP

    Jurgen Klinsmann remained upbeat, while Jozy Altidore was obviously disappointed.

  14. Player Ratings: Some good, some not so good in Chile’s 3-2 win over the U.S.

    Jan 28, 2015, 8:42 PM EST

    Chile US Soccer AP

    Breaking down the good, the bad and the ugly from Wednesday’s 3-2 loss in Chile.

  15. 3-5-2 system shows life, but plenty of work is needed

    Jan 28, 2015, 8:15 PM EST

    Yedlin Getty Images

    Jurgen Klinsmann said he played the 3-CB system because he had DeAndre Yedlin available. So did it work?

  16. Chile 3-2 USMNT: Another lead disintegrates for Klinsmann’s crew

    Jan 28, 2015, 8:00 PM EST

    Chile US Soccer AP

    Another match fell apart in a haze of substitutions and mistakes as the United States blew a 2-1 lead in Rancagua on Wednesday night.

Featured video

Top five Premier League goals: Week 22