LONDON: English football chiefs have been criticised for postponing all matches this weekend following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, with the decision labelled a “missed opportunity” to pay tribute to the nation’s longest-serving monarch.
After the Queen died aged 96 on Thursday, the Premier League opted to cancel this weekend's fixtures in consultation with the British government.
Football chiefs were told by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on Friday that there was no obligation to cancel or postpone sporting fixtures during the national mourning period.
But the Premier League felt it was the right move to honour the Queen for her “extraordinary life and contribution to the nation”.
The second tier Championship, as well as Leagues One and Two, followed the Premier League in postponing this weekend's matches.
It was not just professional football as all amateur Saturday and Sunday leagues across the UK, including youth football, were called off.
However, the England and Wales Cricket Board started England's third Test against South Africa on Saturday after the first day's play was rained off and the second postponed due to the Queen's death.
The deciding Test of the series will be staged over three days at the Oval, with a minute's silence observed in memory of the Queen and the first rendition at a sporting event of 'God Save the King' -- Britain's now altered national anthem given Charles III is the new monarch.
Other sports have also resumed this weekend, with Premiership rugby union fixtures, Super League games, the PGA Championship golf tournament and Sunday's Great North Run all scheduled.
Horse racing, the sport the Queen was most closely associated with, will also resume on Sunday with the St Leger, one of the five English classics and which her horse Dunfermline won in 1977, the feature race at Doncaster.
Former Liverpool and England striker Peter Crouch questioned football’s temporary shutdown, tweeting: “I know it’s only a game and some things are much bigger but imagine all our games went ahead this weekend.
“Black armbands, silences observed, national anthem, Royal band playing etc to the millions around the world watching? Isn’t that a better send off?”
Manchester United, West Ham and Arsenal had all paid tribute to the Queen by wearing black armbands and holding a minute's silence in their European matches on Thursday evening.
West Ham fans even sang 'God save the Queen' throughout their match against FCSB at the London Stadium.
The opportunity for a similar show of respect from the rest of English football has been denied by the postponements.
Television personality Piers Morgan, a noted Arsenal fan, wrote on social media: “Ridiculous decision. Sporting events should go ahead. a) The Queen loved sport and b) It would be great to see/hear huge crowds singing the National Anthem in tribute to Her Majesty, as West Ham fans did so magnificently last night.’
Former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville replied saying: “I agree Piers. Sport can demonstrate better than most the respect the Queen deserves.”
Fans were equally frustrated at being denied the opportunity to pay tribute to the Queen.
A Football Supporters’ Association statement said: “We believe football is at its finest when bringing people together at times of huge national significance -- be those moments of joy or moments of mourning.
“Our view, which we shared with the football authorities, is that most supporters would have liked to go to games this weekend and pay their respect to the Queen alongside their fellow fans.
“Not everyone will agree, so there was no perfect decision for the football authorities, but many supporters will feel this was an opportunity missed for football to pay its own special tributes.”
Football Association chair Debbie Hewitt, who was involved in Friday's meetings with Government, defended the decision.
“This is a great example of football working in unity. We all absolutely 100 per cent agree this was the right thing to do to pay our respects,“ she said. - AFP