Who are the Football Lads Alliance (FLA)?

The Football Lads Alliance (FLA) march on 24 June has raised important issues.

The “United Against Extremism” event saw thousands of supporters from many clubs converge on London Bridge, scene of one of a series of horrendous terror attacks in Manchester and London over recent months.

March organiser John Meighan says that the FLA march was not opposed to any one religion, just to extremism. Meighan in a recent interview for Shy Society, announced the FLA would march again on 7 October. He said that he’d told far right groups to “stay away” and that “our motto is no racism, no violence”.

Millions of ordinary people were shocked and horrified by the recent terror attacks.

Some people may have gone on the “Unite Against Extremism” march motivated by concern for their friends and families and didn’t see the march as racist.

But while the attacks in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge were highlighted on the 24 June protest, there was little mention of the terrorist attack at Finsbury Park mosque (a stones’ throw away from Arsenal’s Emirates stadium).

There was also no mention one year on of the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, who died at the hands of a far right extremist, Thomas Mair, who shouted “Britain First” as he killed her.

Any movement that was serious about opposing extremism would surely have invited a Muslim fan to speak and represent their opposition to the terrorism of the far right and ISIS.

Let’s be honest.

Firstly is John Meighan the best person to head up a movement that claims that its motto is “no violence”? He was banned from every ground in the UK for three years for football related violence.

But whatever Meighan’s motivations for organising the FLA march some of those who were prominent at the event have a clear political agenda and definitely have links to racist, anti-Muslim, far right groups whatever the Public Relations.

Toni Bugle spoke on 24 June. She ran as a candidate for the English Democrats, (ex-Nazi British National Party) in 2016. She is one of the organisers of Mothers Against Radical Islam, an organisation exposed by the Daily Mirror on 15 April 2017 as linked to fascist groups. She is also linked to the Nazi English Defence League.

Gerry Farr, one of the admins on the FLA facebook page seems to be a big fan of ex EDL leader Tommy Robinson, a man who built a career on targeting Muslims and stirring up hatred against them.

Ex England and Leicester striker and Match of The Day presenter Gary Lineker was right to describe Robinson as a racist.

Can we really say that Muslims are the problem here?

Every major Muslim organisation and Mosque in Britain has condemned the recent terror attacks. Muslims have also been the victims of these attacks. Clearly there are sections of the fascist far right who are prepared to kill innocent people and spread terror.

Muslims are our workmates, our neighbours. Muslims are football supporters too, some 16 percent of those who attend Premiership games are black or Asian.

Many key players at the clubs we support are Muslims. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)  and Asmar Begovic (Bournemouth), Moussa Sissoko and Moussa Dembele (Spurs), Andre Ayew Pele and Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham), Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Ahmed Musa (Leicester) are amongst dozens of Muslim players in the premiership alone.

Are we really saying they are part of the problem and in some way to blame for terrorism? We don’t want to be part of creating an atmosphere where any one section of the community feels under siege.

And while John Meighan has raised the idea of a “Football Families Alliance” he is missing one simple fact. Some 26 percent of those attending Premiership games are women. Maybe football isn’t just for “lads” after all.

There were times back in the “bad old days” when the far right used to see football fans as their key recruiting ground and football supporters as their potential cannon fodder. The EDL tried to play the same trick but their support has fallen away as their nasty, fascist politics was exposed  by anti-racists.

The EDL tried to create a street movement to intimidate and terrorise Muslim communities. The vast majority of supporters across Britain rightly completely rejected their extremism.

This time around we can’t allow supporters to be used by those who would seek to use the tragedies at Westminster, London Bridge and Manchester for their own political ends. That means not allowing Muslims or any other group in society to be targeted.