Football and Black Lives Matter don’t mix

The Premier League's embrace of BLM is deeply hypocritical, and an insult to football fans.

Tim Black

Tim Black

Topics Politics UK

When Premier League football returned last month, it did so drunk on the spirit of the Black Lives Matter protests.

For the first 12 games, the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ replaced the players’ names on the back of their shirts, before shrinking to a logo thereafter. And just ahead of each kick-off, players and staff have been earnestly ‘taking the knee’, with some raising a tentative fist, Black Power-style.

Sky Sports, BT Sport and other UK broadcasters have flashed up BLM messages and graphics during ad breaks, while anchors have intoned sombre monologues on the need to ‘educate’ ourselves about racism. And some pundits have even indulged in that most middle-class of BLM rituals: the self-flagellating, self-aggrandising display of contrition. ‘I’m angry at myself now’, admitted one-time Liverpool thigh-studder Graeme Souness, before pleading: ‘What can a man of 60-plus do to be more part of the cause?’ What indeed, Graeme.

It has made for a spectacle replete in political kitsch, from the parody of decades-old protest to the formulaic repetition of saccharine sentiment. It looks virtuous. It feels progressive. It sounds moral. But, like all kitsch, the Premier League’s BLM parade is not what it claims to be

And what a claim. The Premier League says it is supporting the ‘players’ single objective of eradicating racial prejudice wherever it exists’, and that it is ‘unequivocal in the belief that there is no room for racism in our competition, football as a whole, or the wider community’.

These are big, virtuous words. But that means they just ring more hollow. The Premier League may now be cosplaying as a BLM protester, but it is continuing to act as a corporate, commercial entity. Which is what it is: a corporate, commercial entity. Its single objective is not ‘to eradicate racial prejudice wherever it exists’, but to maximise the profits of its 20 members, mainly through the broadcasting deals it strikes with the likes of Sky, NBC Sports and Amazon.

That is why, between 2018 and 2022, the Premier League will have lined its members’ coffers with half-a-billion pounds’ worth of Qatari state capital – because it sold its Middle East and North Africa broadcasting rights to beIN Sports, which is owned by Qatar. Yes, Qatar. A gulf statelet that actually practices something close to the ‘systemic racism’ BLM merely preaches against. How else should one describe the treatment of mainly African migrant workers under a Qatari employment system that strips them of all rights, and pits them to work for low-to-no pay, on, among other projects, brand new football stadia. But, hey, no doubt they will appreciate seeing Brighton and Hove Albion’s first team, paid in part by their Qatari state oppressors, taking the knee, and reassuring them that black lives really do matter.

And then there’s the small matter of the prospective owner of Premier League club Newcastle United — namely, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is financing 80 per cent of a £300million takeover. The PIF is effectively the Saudi state’s sovereign wealth fund, and its chairman is Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. That means a Premier League football club will be owned by an Islamic theocracy — one, moreover, that is not only literally crucifying and beheading domestic dissidents, but is also prosecuting a war in Yemen that has cost the lives of over 100,000 ‘people of colour’. It seems that when it comes to Premier League business, some black lives matter less than others.

Of course it’s not the Premier League’s responsibility to sort out conflicts in the Middle East, especially when the British state has long allied itself with the House of Saud, providing it with arms and political support. Only a few weeks ago Oliver Dowden, UK secretary of state for culture, media and sport, ducked a question on the Newcastle takeover, and pledged the government’s support for ‘Saudi Arabia’s continued diversification efforts under its Vision 2030 strategy’. Which is one way of describing the aerial bombardment of Yemen’s hospitals.

But if it is not the Premier League’s responsibility to sort out the world’s ills, then why is it dressing itself up as if it is? Why is it, aided and abetted by its media partners, posing as an anti-racist crusade? And why is it therefore inviting the charges of gross hypocrisy that will surely come its way?

In part, it’s because, as Apple or Amazon have discovered, embracing BLM has seemed an easy, no-cost way to burnish corporate reputations. As Fraser Myers explained on spiked, capitalism, long bereft of ideological justification, suddenly has a cause.

But in the case of the Premier League the sense of cause, of mission, is perhaps even greater. This is because of the role football has played, since the 1990s, as a means for our political and media elites to address, inculcate and discipline football’s traditional constituency: the working class. And the principal form this has taken is ‘anti-racism’, hence officialdom’s ever-increasing obsession, shared by an excitable media class, with the much-trumpeted rise in fans’ alleged racism during a period in which the number of actual match-going racists has clearly dwindled.

That is why the Premier League has been so blind to the obvious hypocrisy in its BLM stance. Because it is not really interested in the devastating warmongering of its members’ prospective owners, or the brutal, borderline racist employment practices of its partners. Indeed, it is not really interested in tackling actual discrimination. Rather, it is interested, almost myopically so, in targeting fans, addressing them as if they have been doing something wrong, challenging them to fess up to prejudices they never knew they had. It’s like a showtrial conducted on a mass scale. Those overseeing it – in the media, and beyond – are simply convinced of fans’ guilt. ‘As the current political climate shows’, writes one columnist, ‘many of those [fans’] views are problematic’.

You don’t have to support those Burnley fans who flew the horrible alt-right-ish ‘White lives matter’ banner over the Etihad stadium last week to understand that constantly telling fans stuck watching the match at home that they’re racist, or that their views are ‘problematic’, is going to get peoples’ backs up. Because that is what is happening. People are being beaten around the head with the charge of racism. They are being told that their views are ‘problematic’, that they need ‘education’ or ‘correction’. And they are being treated as such by the Premier League and its media partners, while an affluent political and cultural establishment, still reeling from Brexit, cheers them on. It certainly grates.

The sooner the now empty stands echo once again with the noise of supporters, rather than aggressive sanctimony, the better.

Tim Black is a spiked columnist.

Picture by: Getty.

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Marvin Jones

6th July 2020 at 11:04 am

Just one question is really bugging me. This ignorant mob have caused so much damage in and to their own environment through anger, spite, envy and hate, does their “BLACK LIVES MATTER” apply to the nightly stabbings of blacks killing blacks. I have not heard a peep out of them concerning this savagery, or is it too destructive to their cause.

Jim Lawrie

5th July 2020 at 4:58 pm

I cannot think of any field of human endeavour that is moved forward by looking down your nose at people. The Ratner effect.
In the entertainment industry it is immediately fatal.
Whether it is the FA, the Press corps or footballers themselves, contempt for the fans will prove what Jock Stein said “Football without fans is nothing.” At his old club, Celtic, there is a 6000 waiting list for season tickets, most of whom want to be associated with the antifa, sanctimonious, PC, vicarious victimhood outlook of many of its fans.

Christopher Tyson

5th July 2020 at 6:11 pm

Shame you don’t take your own advice.

Jim Lawrie

5th July 2020 at 10:57 pm

I did not give out any advice.

Christopher Tyson

6th July 2020 at 7:04 am

In that case I don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s not clear if you think that ‘looking down your nose at people’ is a good thing, a bad thing, something to which you are indifferent, or why you bothered to mention it.

Christopher Tyson

4th July 2020 at 5:08 pm

Some commentators seem to want Tim Black to take the knee for ‘white lives matter’.

It bring to mind Trotsky’s complaint about left wing activists ‘workers actually place a minus sign where the bourgeoisie places a plus’. The workers simply reacting to and negating the bourgeoise perspective rather than developing their own. This is a form of ‘critique’ which does not challenge the underlying assumptions of the opponent and even reinforces them.

James Knight

3rd July 2020 at 3:28 pm

They broke their own rules on political symbols. Should drown in their own hypocrisy.

jamie murray

3rd July 2020 at 3:25 pm

Gordon, as i have stated elsewhere, i don’t understand why so many are still enamoured with modern football, perhaps you are to young to remember paying on the gate, terraces, an atmosphere that in some cases had the hairs on the back of your neck up, tinged with a bit of menace! Players who were paid well but still had roots in the community and clubs that while not perfect by any stretch still felt “owned” by the community.
I’m not some old codger blind to the deficiencies of the game in the “old days”, there were many, but compared to todays sparkling, corporately packaged premier league, aided and abetted by soulless identikit stadiums with compliant sat down supporters creating the atmospheric equivalent of a loud cough it was f*****g ace!

jamie murray

3rd July 2020 at 3:06 pm

I keep getting m o d d e d, is it me, i am starting to take it personally?

etidretni noinipo

3rd July 2020 at 3:04 pm

It’s been cringe-inducing in the extreme tuning into broadcasts of PL games (albeit from pirate streaming sites – ha ha!) to find the sporting spectacle supplanted by all this leaden holier-than-thou crap. And of course the PL, the FA, UEFA the whole lot of them are no more than unprincipled cowards. Like so many corporations, they buckle to BLM because it’s politically expedient and costs them nothing (while refusing to would require some serious backbone they obviously lack). But stand up to the Gulf states or to China? God forbid! Likewise they play at being “LGBT”-friendly with their rainbow laces and the rest of it, yet are shamelessly holding the next World Cup in a country where gays are still thrown in prison. Hypocrisy doesn’t come get more breathtaking than that in my book.

jamie murray

3rd July 2020 at 3:14 pm

Well said, it felt like you were pulling the words out of my brain and putting em down for me, the hypocrisy is breath taking. One thing that puzzles me though is, how this awful spectacle of bilge that is modern football is still loved by so many? I used to be a typical football mad bloke,but have grown to despise the modern,shiny premier league “experience” ughh, and the game leaves me completely cold now. How could anybody, seeing the vomit inducing football “family” [please it never ends] grovel and virtue signal there way through any issue, from rainbow laces to this, enjoy watching them again?

jamie murray

3rd July 2020 at 3:03 pm

Oh Timothy, Oh Timothy- as many others on here have stated, this was a perfectly solid and well written piece but then “you went and spoiled it all by saying something stupid like alt rightish”. No need mate, no need to flag up your virtue signalling credentials. It wasn’t horrible, it was absolutely fine n dandy to millions of British people sick and tired of been preached to and most of us thought,at the same time as the sombre commentators were saying how awful it was, “good on ya mate,someone with some guts there”. And then the s*** bag media got hold of him and it was cancellation time, gofundme even pulled his mrs’s page, no Tim,it’s the MSM who are “horrible”, a trite expression for the low lifes many of them are, so please don’t feel the need to join them, we want better from spiked!

steve moxon

3rd July 2020 at 1:03 pm

Lunacy latest:
David Starkey sacked from all appointments for saying that everyone involved in BLM is culturally from and of the very culture BLM attacks, are here in the UK through our allowing and welcoming, and that the slave trade was no ‘holocaust’.
All perfectly true, so hardly ‘racist’.
Apparently simply pointing out the hypocrisies and untrue rhetoric of the BLM scum is now ‘racist’.

Peter Spurrier

3rd July 2020 at 1:23 pm

Is there any way people can show their support for him, I wonder?

steve moxon

3rd July 2020 at 1:35 pm

He’ll not only weather the storm but thrive on it, I should think.
He hardly needs the positions nor any money, and his popularity for this well-know anti-‘identity politics’ stance will have been boosted.
If mainstream media now shun him, it’s a further nail in the coffin of mainstream and continues the move away from TV to Youtube discussion platforms.
I’m myself starting to give up on TV and spend my viewing time far more productively on decent-length in-depth uncensored discussion on Youtube — not least those featuring David Starkey.

Michael Morris

3rd July 2020 at 2:00 pm

No sorry i abhor the woke nonsense as do many here but it wasnt his comment that slavery was not genocide, which i agree with, it was the language he used when discussing black people which has exposed him as having some racist tendencies. You dont say “damn blacks” unless you have a problem with them.

Similarly the Cambridge Ms Gopal should also be fired for her racist anti white comments.

James Knight

3rd July 2020 at 3:10 pm

It was just a poor choice of words. The Cambridge academic is just an over-privileged troll.

steve moxon

3rd July 2020 at 3:40 pm

Not so. It’s an intensifier. And that’s normal usage.
You’ve put your own negative interpretation on it, to distort colloquial meaning.

Peter Spurrier

3rd July 2020 at 4:00 pm

I think Steve’s interpretation is right. An ‘intensifier’. A way of emphasising what you’re saying.

Jim Lawrie

5th July 2020 at 5:03 pm

I don’t have a problem with blacks, unless you define my not liking them as one. If you do, then it is your problem. Unless of course you do not agree with extending freedom of association and expression to the likes of me. And Mr Starkey.

nick hunt

3rd July 2020 at 12:18 pm

Hey Tim, you clearly hate the “horrible alt-right-ish ‘White lives matter’ banner flown over Burnley. Do you also dislike the fact that Jake Hepple and his girlfriend lost their jobs because of this stunt? So do you equally condemn those who force ‘black lives matter’ propaganda onto us all 24/7, or express equal disgust for the racist Cambridge academic who tweeeted ‘white lives don’t matter’, ‘Abolish whiteness’ and then got promoted to a full professorship?

Mark Houghton

3rd July 2020 at 8:44 am

“You don’t have to support those Burnley fans who flew the horrible alt-right-ish ‘White lives matter’ banner over the Etihad stadium last week to understand that constantly telling fans stuck watching the match at home that they’re racist, or that their views are ‘problematic’, is going to get peoples’ backs up.” – and at this point the credibility of the author was blown to pieces. Why is the phrase ‘white lives matter’ horrible? Oh, yes, it’s because you’ve fallen for the narrative that such a statement is racist – you utter moron.

Matt Ryan

3rd July 2020 at 9:30 am


James Conner

3rd July 2020 at 10:22 am

“Why is the phrase ‘white lives matter’ horrible? Oh, yes, it’s because you’ve fallen for the narrative that such a statement is racist – you utter moron.”

Quite so. I wonder what the author’s response would have been if the banner had read: “All Lives Matter” or even more simply: “Lives Matter”.

nick hunt

3rd July 2020 at 12:25 pm

As I keep saying to Spiked writers trying to preserve their dying leftist faith during this time of Marxist insurrection and intolerance, BLM should be called ‘BlackDeathsMatter’: they only protest dead blacks, those under white US slavery and those killed by white cops. They say nothing for the many millions of living blacks enslaved or massacred around the world, and totally ignore the painful fact that more than 90% of black homicide victims in the US were killed by other blacks. Why? To pursue their race war against the ‘white’ system they are trying to conquer.


3rd July 2020 at 10:48 am

Absolutely Mark. There is nothing whatsoever that was either ‘alt-right’ or ‘racist’ about the slogan ‘white lives matter’. It was just silly. Any commentator who accepts that absurd narrative shouldn’t be taken seriously, but rather sent straight back to school.

nick hunt

3rd July 2020 at 12:20 pm

Tim Black would receive more leftist indoctrination than he did first time round


3rd July 2020 at 12:53 pm

Nick, like many people in their sixties I really know nothing worthwhile about what goes on in places of education these days, although I do (or did until recently) go occasionally to a couple of different universities to take part in informal seminars. However, it really is tragic if, in any place of ‘learning’, young people of any age are taught that the words ‘white lives matter’ is some sort of ‘hate speech’. I wouldn’t call it ‘leftist’, just ‘brainless’. How has the country come to such a miserable pass? It’s as if we really need to start again, at some sort of truly basic level of language and reason. One and one make two, two and two four . . .

Andrew Mawdsley

3rd July 2020 at 11:32 am

Completely agree Mark. An otherwise decent article spoiled by a reactionary statement. White lives do matter, particularly in a majority white country. People seem to be forgetting that the main body of indigenous peoples in the UK are caucasian. Would I be welcome in Kenya spouting anti black sentiment? Presumably not. BLM are an insidious organisation and the sooner more people see them fir what they are the better.

James Conner

3rd July 2020 at 6:00 am

Football doesn’t matter.

Gordon Te Gopher

3rd July 2020 at 12:29 am

It’s BS like this from massively overpaid footballers why I have no qualms at all about illegally streaming matches. And I don’t even do that very often. I’d rather play FIFA. QPR don’t suck in my imaginary FIFA world.

jamie murray

3rd July 2020 at 3:28 pm

Gordon, i meant to reply to your post but just posted on comment accidentally, it’s up top if any interest to you?

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