Hands off my halftime burger

Football for many people is sacred. It’s a game of beauty and passion replete with important rituals and healthy doses of heartache. I’m well aware of the many flaws of our beautiful game: the complete lack of player loyalty, the pricing-out of working-class fans in the top half of the Premier League, the cancer of diving and the malign influence of TV money, to name a few. But most football fans are willing to put up with the negativities in exchange for incredible entertainment, theatrical drama and a halftime burger. But, for some fans, our beloved rituals are under threat.

Last Sunday, Forest Green defeated Tranmere in the Conference playoff final, earning them promotion to the Football League for the coming season. But it wasn’t just a victory for Forest Green – it was also a victory for vegans everywhere. Forest Green have gained some notoriety, you see, for becoming the world’s first vegan football club. On the weekend, one BBC 5 Live commentator told Swindon, who are facing relegation, they should probably start eating hummus next season.

Forest Green’s chairman, eco-businessman Dale Vince, began by banning red meat from the club’s menus in 2015. Initially, he presented this as an attempt to improve the diet of the players. But before long the whole club went fully vegan – including the food stands. Vince, like many vegans, has nothing but disdain for lower-class grub. In an interview with the Independent, he declared matchday burgers ‘awful’ and ‘cheap as dirt’. (That may be part of the reason we like them, Dale!) You can’t even get cow’s milk in your tea any more.

Vince puts the team’s successful season down to the vegan diet. If I was a player, I’d like my footballing skills to get some of the credit – Vince strikes me as just another chairman trying to take credit for the performance of his players. In any case, he doesn’t seem to have noticed that his players have been photographed outside the local Greggs tucking in to meaty treats. One Greggs worker told Gloucester Live ‘we get quite a few players in here most weeks’.

Vegans can eat greens, moan about Brexit and live off their own sense of superiority all they like. All I ask for is to be able to have my cheap-as-dirt burger in peace. Vince is entitled to his views, but why doesn’t he offer vegan alternatives rather than force the diet down our throats? Imagine travelling from Morecambe to Forest Green to see fourth-tier football only to find your halftime sausage roll had been replaced by hummus and broccoli.

Please, leave the beautiful game alone.

Michael P Fitzpatrick is a writer and teacher based in London.

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