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Opinion

Maybe Liverpool fans wouldn’t boo the national anthem if there was a level playing field

The outpouring of anger towards Liverpool fans is misdirected, and ignores the wider issues we all face, writes Big Issue editor Paul McNamee.

The booing of the national anthem at the FA Cup final continues to echo. To recap, ahead of the match at Wembley Stadium between Liverpool and Chelsea, God Save The Queen was sung. Some fans booed. There was some other booing when Prince William was presented to the players. In the grand scheme of things, it was not a big deal. But opprobrium followed from some quarters. 

There were furious newspaper headlines. Karen Bradley, the MP for Staffordshire Moorlands and one-time culture secretary, urged the FA to take all necessary action and “pursue those responsible”. She hasn’t said yet if she wants people sent to the Tower.

It was clearly not a personal attack on the Queen and her grandson. This is a wider societal issue. Liverpool fan groups explained they had done the same before this season’s other cup final at Wembley (the Carabao Cup), and as far back as the 2012 FA Cup final. 

“Maybe look into why Liverpool fans act this way,” said John Gibbons from Liverpool fan podcast The Anfield Wrap. “They feel a disconnect from the country… It’s a city that wants to be vocal about how we think this country should be and how we should live in a fairer society.”

Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, said similar. “It’s always best to ask the question – why does this happen? They wouldn’t do it without a reason.”

Klopp has a point. Context is everything. The booing shows two things. One is how potent Liverpool fan anger remains. It goes back to the late ’80s when they felt left behind by Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, and then blamed for the Hillsborough disaster by a press they felt spoke for her side. Liverpool voted strongly to remain in the Brexit referendum. 

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But it’s also emblematic of a nation at odds with itself. If politicians and leaders genuinely want to listen to what people are saying, about how they find themselves in Britain today, worried about the cost of everything, about the division between the wealthy and the poor, the rulers and the ruled, then they have an illustrative microcosm right there. It isn’t enough to trot out the old canard about what we’re hearing on the doorstep when you stand with your fingers in your ears, or castigate those who have views opposed to yours. Denial and ignoring is not addressing. It’s a bit… snowflakey. 

The faultlines in British society are wide and widening. This is not a new reveal. But it is important to listen, even when what the other side is saying is uncomfortable. Otherwise, all will harden and nothing will resolve. 

The morning after the FA Cup booing hoohah, a man walked up to the newly unveiled Margaret Thatcher statue in Grantham and threw three eggs at it. One of them hit. Which says more for his ambition than delivery. I don’t know if he’s a Liverpool fan.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big IssueRead more of his columns here.

@PauldMcNamee

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