SPFL guilty of overreaction with empty gesture of fixture postponements - Andrew Smith

The most recent survey on the level of support for the monarchy across the UK was published only in May.

It was conducted by the think tank British Future ahead of the Queen’s platinum jubilee. It found that in Scotland only 45% of those polled believed that what is by any stretch an arcane institution should continue. In this context, the decision of the SPFL to postpone Saturday’s football fixtures following the death of the Queen engenders the quizzical.

All can admire the seven-decades service of a woman that appeared well-liked. Her passing at the age of 96 was hardly surprising, though. And we ought to be honest and recognise that, whatever her role as the head of state and place in the body politik of the UK, in Scotland her passing is not going to be the source of deep, paralysing sorrow. To pretend otherwise is fatuous. The phrase ostentatious mourning was coined in the wake of Princess Diana’s death in 1997. It was deployed to describe a strange human phenomenon then witnessed on a grand scale. A phenomenon that involved ordinary people feeling that they had – very publicly – to be seen to be grieving, seen to be racked by bereavement over the tragic loss of a person they did not know, and whose privileged existence was a world apart from their own.

The SPFL appear to have allowed themselves to be drawn into such a curious overreaction. In fairness to the Palace – who seem to have judged the mood better than many outside of their circle – no protocols were demanded for sporting events to be cancelled in the wake of the Queen’s death. Guidance was given only to the effect that proper tributes, such as periods of silence or black armband-wearing, should take place at any sporting events that took place during the 10-day period of mourning. These would have surely been sufficient for Scotland’s football card on Saturday…which has been dispensed with for the very same day that Premiership rugby will take place against such a backdrop. Why is it okay for rugby to go ahead but not Scottish football is the question immediately begged? And is a question for which there is no real cogent answer, frankly.

All shops will remain open over the next week-and-a-half. So will workplaces and schools. Life will go on as normal. As it should. As it must. We have all lost close relatives and friends and yet still been required to pick our way through our daily existences. That is how the world works. As the Queen herself surely understood. To her great credit, she was not a person noted for empty gestures. The pomp and ceremony around which her life revolved were imposed on her, not created by her.

Empty gestures are no true marks of respect. They are simply that: empty. And they come from an uncomfortable place in that they are owed to a desire to be judged to be doing the right thing, rather than coming from a place of conviction over what actually constitutes that right thing.

On that front, all grass roots football in Scotland will go ahead this weekend in recognition of the benefits - mental and physical - of playing football. Watching it can have those benefits too.

The Saltire is lowered to half mast at Hampden Park as all professional football matches are suspended following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
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