A move by soccer’s ruling bodies in England not to order clubs to observe a moment of silence for the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at matches this weekend has some in the country crying foul.
England’s Football Association and the English Premier League said the decision of whether or not to honor Mrs. Thatcher will be left to individual clubs. But Wigan Athletic Chairman Dave Whelan said “we owe Mrs. Thatcher a minute of silence.”
“To Mrs. Thatcher or any prime minister that passes away, we have to say ‘thank you very much’ for the services that the prime minister has given us,” he told the BBC.
Mr. Whelan said he would support his Premier League club wearing armbands in tribute to the late British leader when it takes the field Saturday for an F.A. Cup semi-final match at London’s Wembley Stadium. But since the game won’t be played at Wigan’s home ground, the decision isn’t his.
He added it was “very very disrespectful” that no moment of silence was held before Monday’s Manchester United vs Manchester City game, a highly anticipated match that kicked off hours after Mrs. Thatcher’s death.
Reading owner John Madejski agrees the former British Conservative Party leader deserves a minute’s silence before games.
“Obviously I can appreciate that perhaps some people won’t pay attention to it, which is sometimes the way at football. But I just think she was such a colossus in terms of the world stage that she deserves that respect from the whole nation,” he told the BBC.
Mr. Madejski’s Premier League club will hold a tribute before its home game versus Liverpool this weekend, but it won’t be for Mrs. Thatcher. Instead, Reading will honor the memory of the 96 fans who died during a 1989 match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Saturday’s contest falls two days before the the 24th anniversary of the so-called Hillsborough disaster.
Not everyone is upset about the decision not to impose tributes for Mrs. Thatcher, a polarizing figure in the United Kingdom during and after her 1979-1990 prime ministership. The Football Supporters’ Federation, a group representing fans in England and Wales, says individual clubs still are free to honor Mrs. Thatcher if they wish.
“We would expect that most fans’ thoughts this weekend will turn to the friends and families of those 96 fellow supporters who lost their lives at Hillsborough 24 years ago,” said a statement on the group’s website.
Meanwhile two English rugby clubs — Saracens and Exeter Chiefs — have announced they are planning to honor Mrs. Thatcher with one minute’s silence ahead of games this weekend, Agence France-Presse reported.