Football’s under fire for many things lately, but Millwall FC have provided a reminder of how it could, and should, be. This appeared on the club’s website this morning. The club’s FA Cup 4th round tie against Aston Villa next weekend has been moved from Saturday to Friday night because of Saturday’s demonstration against the closure of Lewisham Hospital’s A&E and cuts to other vital services. In the statement, the club says: “Whilst changing the date of our Cup tie is an inconvenience to us, we believe there is a bigger picture here.” And there’s more.
The club not only acknowledges the bigger picture, it weighs in on the side of reason. The statement goes on “Millwall Football Club, our players, staff and many thousands of fans have, over the years, had reason to be grateful for the resources, facilities and care we have received from our local hospital. We are not persuaded by the arguments put forward in favour of closing the A&E department, children’s ward, intensive care and maternity services at Lewisham.” So the club has given campaigners permission to put their case at the ground, the players wore t-shirts supporting the campaign against closure before today’s game against Burnley and Millwall FC “encourage supporters who feel strongly about this issue to attend the demonstration next Saturday”.
No doubt the Football League, UEFA or some other body of self-important, semi-detached bureaucrats will step in to fine the club for “bringing the game into disrepute”, “making an inappropriate gesture” or somehow demonstrating a connection with actual people in the real world. But this is a welcome example of a club recognising its contacts with the community and understanding the grander scheme of things. Millwall and Millwall fans have been much-criticised over the years – not always without reason – but this latest move deserves praise. And if you want to find out more about the insane plans to close Lewisham A&E, there’s a very good campaign website.