Football: Silence for Hillsborough, not Thatcher

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Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says the minute’s silence prior to this weekend’s game with Reading should mark the Hillsborough disaster, rather than the death of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Reading have said that they will observe a period of respect to commemorate the forthcoming 24th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy, which saw 96 Liverpool fans die in a crush during an FA Cup semi-final in 1989.

Thatcher died at the age of 87 on Monday following a stroke, but the Premier League and the Football League have not asked clubs to formally mark her passing.

Rodgers is in agreement, as he believes nothing should intrude on efforts to remember the Hillsborough dead.

“I think it is the only minute’s silence there should be,” he said.

“Lots of clubs around the country have shown us great support wherever we have travelled and this will be Reading’s opportunity to show their support to those families and the 96 who are no longer here. For me that is our only remembrance at the game on Saturday.”

The Football Supporters’ Federation, which represents fans in Britain, said it backed the decision not to oblige clubs to observe a minute’s silence for Thatcher.

“Should individual clubs wish to hold a minute’s silence or commemorate the passing of Margaret Thatcher in their own manner, that is a matter for them,” read a statement from the organisation.

The move has also been welcomed by the Hillsborough Family Support Group, which believes it would be “a mistake” to hold a minute’s silence for Thatcher.

Former Tory leader Thatcher was Britain’s prime minister from 1979 to 1990 and won three successive general elections but she was a divisive figure among football fans.

Her plans to eradicate hooliganism by introducing a controversial identity card scheme were deeply unpopular and she was also blamed for destroying traditional industries in the northern towns and cities that are home to many of England’s football clubs.

Reading chairman John Madejski initially expressed regret at the decision not to mark Thatcher’s passing, but he accepted that the risk of protests was too high.

“Margaret Thatcher did so much good for this country and she deserves respect,” said Madejski, who was speaking at the annual Soccerex conference in Manchester.

“Like any politician, she made mistakes. But she also got an awful lot right.

“Maybe some people in the north of England feel differently, but if the coal mines had been working as they should, they wouldn’t have been closed down.

“I would have wanted a silence, but I didn’t think for a minute it would happen. In a way it could have been the worst thing because some people might have been jeering.”

Like Madejski, Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan has donated money to Thatcher’s centre-right former political party, the Conservatives, and he has also called for tributes to her during the weekend’s matches.

However, ahead of his sides’s FA Cup semi-final with Millwall at Wembley on Saturday, he admitted defeat in the matter.

“It is entirely a decision for the FA,” he told talkSPORT radio. “It’s important that they make a decision and that we respect it.

“We will obey everything they ask for. If they say there is not going to be silence and no armbands worn, we will respect that.”

Richard Caborn, sports minister in former prime minister Tony Blair’s centre-left Labour administration, believes any attempts to honour Thatcher would prove problematic.

“In many places, especially in the north, Margaret Thatcher has not been forgiven for what she did to industry, to the miners and their communities, which suffered immensely under her,” he said.

“To then ask for a minute’s silence at a game of football is the wrong thing to do.”

Meanwhile two English rugby clubs — Saracens and Exeter Chiefs — have announced they are planning to honour Thatcher with one minute’s silence ahead of games this weekend.

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