Having written extensively on the Football Lads Alliance (FLA) and the Democratic Football Lads Alliance (1, 2, 3) on here I attended the ‘Day for Freedom’ march, starting at Speakers corner and finishing at Whitehall in the sultry, London. I will discuss this later very briefly, but first some initials point on the FLA and DFLA and present findings.
Firstly, the FLA is no more. At least in name. The FLA is now called the Football Lads Alliance Supporters on it social media site (although the website is still live under the FLA name). The reason for this seems to be the resignation of FLA leader John Meighan resigned , as he wishes to spending more time with his family, though the Hope not Hate has indicated that his Girlfriend may take over. With the fall out from this, the concern has been whether both groups can come back together (Dream Deferred has looked extensively in an article here about it). Hope not Hate has felt that unification may not be possible if Pamela Branighan takes over. Ironically though the March in Manchester on the 19th by the FLA is going ahead (I will be in attendance as an observer). I’ll be interested in figures.
So what has gone wrong with the FLA? Obviously the none payment of Poppy badges money to the Royal British Legion has not helped or John Meighan creating a company under the FLA banner (see here for further information). But, I do believe the coverage by the National Press has meant what the FLA may have set out for ‘to be against extremism’ has been taking over by far right groups. Why? Let’s explain.
Firstly, the English Premier League has Premier League clubs warned over ‘far-right’ Football Lads Alliance. This has fetched down in the lower Divisions, with Football Collective and Oxford fan, Connor Penfold sent me this via Stand Up To Racism giving out the articles on the FLA:
This press coverage has not assisted the FLA at all.
When John Meighan originally set up the FLA, Tommy Robinson, former EDL leader, attended but was a minor figure in June, 2017 march. By October he was at the head of the line, reporting the London march.
By March he attended both the FLA and DFLA march and was well received:-
Yesterday, I only noted a few DFLA flyers and flags at the ‘Day For Freedom’. The DFLA seems to have sided with Tommy Robinson as they are the bigger group, and the FLA superseded.
The day of freedom by the way, was a protest against Tommy Robinson being banned from Twitter. In attending the event I was interested in many things but what was fascinating was the protest and Flags. Unions Jacks, Polish, Israeli, LGBT, Generation Identity and UKIP to name a few. The crowd at speakers Corner was about 2,000 I would say but it was well policed and stewarded but there was some interesting events with the roads closed. The weirdest for me was mod bikers who came for the event and beeped and shouted in support.
On reaching Whitehall I was surprised how profesional it was. Great PA and visual on a large screen and large attendance with (terrible) music (Adele, Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran covers – musical hell TBH). Also, people in pubs came out singing ‘Engerland, Engerland’. Breitbart were in attendance to. People mock the right, but they are slick and should be praised for their professional approach. A lot of people assume they are lacking depth. Very far from the truth. They have outreach programmes and are media savvy to.
I was also struck by the Speeches. Richard Ingham, DFLA de facto leader it seems, used what I have been interested in metanarrative. The OED terms this as:-
A piece of narrative, esp. a classic text or other archetypal story, which provides a schematic worldview upon which an individual’s experiences and perceptions may be ordered.
Dr Andrew Hodges indicated a better term is national cosmology and he’s discussed in The hooligan as ‘internal’ other? Football fans, ultras culture and nesting intra orientalisms.
Anyway, the metanarrative at this was Ingham discussing being in the Army was to allow us to have freedom that Tommy Robinson had been denied. The event in being in White Hall was also a metanarrative of ‘the will if the people’. It was almost like Tommy Robinson march on Parliament was the social media’s version of Wat Tyler. Though, I think Wat could raise a crowd with a speech, whereas Tommy Robinson is a very poor orator, .
In conclusion, the FLA seem rather lost (the DFLA said on it flyer that FLA members were welcomed). But the DFLA, I would suggest have taken on a different stance than the FLA. The Veterans Against Terrorism and Richard Ingham have military backgrounds and are on the DFLA board. I felt the FLA and DFLA might be becoming insignificant, but in joining the Day for Freedom, which are going to become regular events from what the speakers were saying is interesting. Joining informal alliances with Britain First, UKip et.al maybe the future.
*Les Crang has finished his Msc in Sport Management & the Business of Football at Birkbeck. He will be discussing his initial findings on the FLA/DFLA at International Football History Conference 7-8 June 2018 in Manchester. He will also be attending the FLA march on 19th May with the FLA and write this up along with his footycon paper is given in June, 2018.