Should Scottish sports fixtures – including Premiership and Championship football matches – have been postponed in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, or did matches offer the sporting public the perfect opportunity to pay their respects?
It has now been confirmed by SFA and SPFL chiefs they are suspending this weekend’s Scottish professional football fixture schedule, including the Scottish women’s game and the Highland League, and in line with their counterparts in Junior football, Scottish Rugby, shinty and others.
Following meetings this morning, @ScottishFA, SPFL, @SWPL, and Scottish Highland and Lowland Football Leagues have agreed that all professional football matches will be postponed this weekend as a mark of respect following the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
— SPFL (@spfl) September 9, 2022
The SPFL and SFA were understood to be in talks with the UK and Scottish Governments, as well as the English football authorities – including the Premier League and English Football League – quickly in the hours after Her Majesty’s passing was confirmed on Thursday.
Before the end of the day, they had postponed Friday night’s televised Championship meeting between Cove Rangers and Dundee at the Balmoral Stadium – as a “mark of respect” to the long-reigning Monarch.
All English football this weekend has also been confirmed as being off.
Sports events next weekend, around the time Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral will be held, could also be postponed.
Pubs, shops, cinemas, nightclubs open – but sports events cancelled?
News on sports fixtures being disrupted has sparked debate online about whether this is a necessary or appropriate move.
Now, I know sporting authorities who have opted for postponements have made their decisions after talks with those in the highest corridors of power, and we don’t know what was said.
But I think those who think the games should have gone ahead have a point.
On Friday, the day after the sad news, people were expected to go to their offices and places of work as normal, and this evening, should they wish, they can go to the cinema or to the pub or, even, a nightclub and dance the night away.
This passively suggests there is nothing in the above actions which would be disrespectful to the memory of our late Sovereign.
So why then are sporting fixtures and the public attending sporting fixtures deemed disrespectful acts, or certainly unseemly acts, during the 10-day period of national mourning?
Queen Elizabeth was a renowned supporter of horse racing in the UK, yet that, too, is off on Friday and Saturday. Princess Anne, meanwhile, is the patron of Scottish Rugby and Prince William president of the Football Association in England.
The Windsors are clearly a family of sports fans.
Whether it be a football match, rugby game or otherwise, surely these large gatherings of people, originally scheduled for the coming days, offered a whole host of opportunities from moving tributes en masse?
Although some sports fans in England will get the chance, you could have had sports crowds across the country uniting in minute’s silences, minutes of applause, displays in tribute to the Queen’s memory and so on.
It just seems to me to be an unnecessary shutdown, especially the blanket approach to closing down football north and south of the border – and an opportunity missed – when there will be so much similar pageantry going on elsewhere across the UK and the other countries where the Queen was head of state.
Aside from the “mark of respect” argument, some who are in favour of sport being put on hold may point to the drain on police and other resources over the coming days.
However, certainly in Scotland, the vast majority of sporting fixtures contained within a stadium go ahead without any police presence and without a hitch.
The much-anticipated Aberdeen v Rangers clash which was scheduled for Pittodrie at Saturday lunchtime is a game Police Scotland would have been in attendance for, due to the rivalry between the two sets of supporters, so it is understandable to move this game if the police no longer thought they could ensure public safety – but, what about Brora Rangers v Buckie Thistle in the Highland League, or Ross County v Motherwell in the Premiership? The police resources argument is irrelevant to those games.
The @SPFL & @ScottishFA have confirmed that Saturday's first team match against Rangers and Sunday's AFC Women's match against Hibernian have been postponed as a mark of respect following the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II.
— Aberdeen FC (@AberdeenFC) September 9, 2022
This weekend's fixture with Motherwell has been postponed as a mark of respect following the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II
— Ross County FC (@RossCounty) September 9, 2022
Some may have feared those of a Republican persuasion, or attention-seekers trying to make a name for themselves, would have exploited some sporting gatherings this weekend to be disrespectful, but – if this had come to pass – it would have without a shadow of a doubt been a small droplet in an ocean of respectful, emotional tributes to Queen Elizabeth.
Sports fans could now be left sitting in their houses glumly this weekend – although they could always go to the pub, a shopping centre, or nightclub, I suppose.
However, they could have come together, supporting their teams and celebrating a life well lived.