Yesterday, we looked at a seemingly odd story about Millwall fans and their complaints about a friendly with Sierra Leone being used to commemorate the abolition of slavery. I emailed Pete Garston, the Millwall Fan Director, to follow-up on the issue.
Rather than adding my own editorial stance, I’d rather let Pete’s words speak for themselves.
Q. Could you elaborate on the main objections Millwall fans have to the event taking place that were cited in the Daily Mail article?
The Daily Mail article was inaccurate as it mentioned there being a call to boycott the game. This is not the case: no-one from the Millwall Supporters Club have mentioned boycotting the game. Fans have no objections on the game taking place whatsoever, the problem is we feel the event puts a political slant on the game and football should be kept clear from politics.
Q. Did the club consult with the fans at all before announcing the game and the commemoration of the abolition of slavery?
I am the Fan Director at Millwall and the game was discussed at board level. It was decided it would be a good pre-season game for the team in preparation for the forthcoming season and our challenge toward promotion, so fans would have had no problem with the game at all. The promoter of the game without informing the board decided to approach the local councils with the idea of associating the game with the abolition of slavery celebrations, as part of nationwide celebrations
Q. Would Millwall fans object to commemorating any historical event at any game, or is there something in particular about the commemoration of the abolition of slavery that is objectionable?
Millwall fans would not object to commemorating any historical events at the club if they are relevant and historically linked with Millwall. We recently held a “Dockers Day” to commemorate the club and local areas links with the Docks. Millwall fans would not object to the abolition of slavery or its celebration, but do not believe a football match is the place to do it.
Q. Do you think the event represents “political correctness gone mad”, as one commenter on a Millwall messageboard put it?
My personal view is that this is nothing to do with political correctness. No Millwall fans are against the football match happening, just the abolishment of slavery aspect of it being linked to our club, a club that has no links to slavery whatsoever.
Q. What is it about Millwall in particular being involved that you object to?
The fact that we have no connections whatsoever with slavery
Q. Do you think Millwall were chosen for the event because of their past?
It is more likely that the event was chosen because Sierra Leone has historical links with slave trade and the promoter felt it would be a worthwhile exercise and sell more tickets. Millwall just happen to be Sierra Leone’s opposition in this football match.
Q. One of the commenter’s on my post yesterday noted Millwall have done far more to combat racism than most clubs, something they receive little credit for. Could you elaborate on these achievements?
Millwall go out into the local communities giving not only football but life coaching to the kids, whatever background they come from, giving out free tickets to matches to try and get more local kids involved. The kids are chosen because they come from the local community, their race does not come into it nor should it
Q. Does this event undermine the work that has been done in some way?
Millwall’s work with the local communities goes on week in week out without any media interest or involvement (other than the local press). This event was not on the radar until there was perceived to be an “issue”. It is my hope and expectation that the event will go ahead with the people attending having a great time.