Politics, Neutrality and ‘kipperminster

Kidderminster fans last week noticed an unfortunate addition to Aggborough this weekend: a “Wyre Forest UKIP” banner hanging from one of the stands.

The club attempted to justify their decision to allow UKIP to advertise at their ground because the club are “politically neutral”.

“Political Neutrality” is, ironically, a phrase loaded with ideological baggage. Essentially it’s used by advocates of the status quo to shut down debates.  Oppose Ched Evans returning straight into football? Quit bringing your politics into football. Think there should be measures to prevent football clubs being owned by states where a third of the population live as slaves? Well we’re just being neutral – we don’t want to get into politics.

Neutrality doesn’t exist as a position. If Kidderminster are neutral, does that mean they accept all advertising?  Would they accept a banner in support of the EDL? How about one from ISIS proclaiming the Caliphate of Worcestershire? I doubt it – even if Kidderminster are flat broke: “political neutrality” permits only a narrow band of acceptable views to be neutral about.

Ah, you say, but if I was to ban all advertising from political parties, wouldn’t that be neutral?

Well, it might sidestep this issue but you still can’t claim you’re neutral. Would you allow trade unions to advertise? Businesses in dispute with trade unions? Companies that don’t pay living wage? Multinationals who exploit workers in developing countries? Multinationals who exploit the environment? Banks and estate agents who exploit the poor here? Charities like the Poppy Appeal and Help For Heroes?

None of these are politically neutral, however much they might try to pretend they are; the status quo is enforced by pretending default positions are in fact self-evident truths.

So if neutrality does exist, it’s a pretty radical position.

What then is the alternative if attempting to stay neutral is a terrible way to run a football club?

My alternative would be that the club should state the politics for which we stand explicitly and proudly.

These would be politics that should be uncontroversial (I hope) to most of our fans. Pro-Wrexham. Pro the people who live in Wrexham. Anti-racism. Anti-fascism. Anti-sexism. Anti-homophobia. Anti-bigotry. And we would try to ensure our sponsors are compatible with that.

This is sound commercial practice too. The Kidderminster-UKIP controversy will put off other local businesses from investing in the cash-strapped club. Ensuring a set of ethical principles makes you more attractive to those companies that do buy in to those values.

UKIP, for so many reasons, are not compatible with those principles.

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