Thank God for the sports section. You’ve read the politics. You’ve found out again how depressing the world is and now you get the escapism. Unless of course you’ve come straight to the sport. Get the fun out of the way and hopefully you’ll have to get back to work before you’re forced to read the serious news.
There is of course no link at all between sport and politics. Both exist in entirely separate vacuums. And that is how it should remain. As a sports broadcaster who has ventured a few – hopefully informed but probably biased – political opinions on social media, it has got to the point where muting the phrase “stick to football” would certainly clear up my notifications. And as Jonathan Liew explained earlier this week, steering clear of politics is the safest way for sports people to have an easier life. Whichever side you support, there’ll be a backlash.
Yet that hasn’t stopped Andy Pilley, the chairman of Fleetwood Town. In an exhaustive two-tweet video thread on Tuesday evening, Pilley (6,800 followers) explained why it was entirely appropriate for him to use the club’s social media account (83,000 followers) to share his support for the Conservatives.
“It’s my role to do what is in the best in interests of Fleetwood Town. I’m the business owner and I care deeply for the town of Fleetwood and for the club.”
All seems fair so far and Pilley has been instrumental in taking the club from the ninth tier of English football in the early 2000s into a side punching well above their weight in League One. He has invested millions of pounds and transformed the stadium. He is Fleetwood’s Jack Walker, their Sheikh Mansour. A local hero.
“Now what would happen to the football club is it will virtually, definitely lose its league status if the Labour Party was to be elected because the football club would lose its funding …”
You what now? Fall out of the league? Lose its funding? Overnight? How does that work? Are Labour pulling funding from lower-league football? How did we not know about this? Fleetwood are on the verge of the play-offs. Does Joey Barton know? That will be quite a blow.
I should probably let Pilley finish the sentence. “… the football club would lose its funding from BES which is my core business. So it’s very much in best the interests of Fleetwood Town that the Labour Party are not elected and the Conservatives are elected and they continue to back business and ultimately Fleetwood Town.”
Hold on a second. This is the grown-up version of “it’s my ball and I’m taking it home with me”. Is the Conservatives’ entire plan based on ultimately backing Fleetwood Town? It seems pretty niche.
Clearly Pilley is a successful businessman and he can choose to do what he likes with his money and his company that operates out of Highbury Stadium. He knows more about business, the north-west and Fleetwood Town than a Guardian journalist who – in an almost cringeworthy cliche – is writing this while drinking a £2.50 Americano at a hipster cafe in the Islington South constituency.
What connects us as football fans though, regardless of background or geography or whatever, is an unconditional love of our club. He must love Fleetwood Town. He has done so much for it, so surely he would cope with the inevitable financial crisis he implies would happen. Or at least wait and see if it did happen.
Locally his intervention may well be unsuccessful, given the number of rival supporters who live in the constituency of Fleetwood and Lancaster, where the sitting Labour MP won by more than 6,500 votes in 2017. And it seems harsh on Fleetwood fans, who have less than 24 hours to get out to those marginals across the country. Quick, book an away coach to Esher and Walton to make sure Dominic Raab sees off the Lib Dems. Otherwise, it’s back to the North West Counties League for us.
It would certainly be a strange story on Friday morning if Fleetwood suddenly dropped out of the league because Jeremy Corbyn was the prime minister. The club should at least announce it as early as possible, so Gillingham fans can make alternative plans on Saturday.
Yet Pilley’s intervention doesn’t appear to be sport’s most curious of this final week of campaigning. Test Match Special’s Dan Norcross spotted an interesting name among those on Twitter pretending to be friends with a nurse at Leeds General Infirmary.
“Very interesting. A good friend of mine is a senior nursing sister at Leeds hospital – the boy shown on the floor by the media was in fact put there by his mother who then took photos on her mobile phone and uploaded it to media outlets before he climbed back on his trolley” – a widely circulated message exposed as completely fake. What began from an unknowing middle-aged lady’s Facebook account ended up being tweeted by lots of “people”, including the now defunct account @joetulip.
There was a footballer with the name Joe Tulip, best known for his time at Queen of the South. He was one of the first Englishmen to play in the Scottish League. Apparently he was spotted by a Dumfries policeman who was on holiday south of the border and made his debut in November 1933 against Rangers. Despite his death in 1979, he was evidently contacted by his hospital friend and felt the need to tweet from beyond the grave.
If the polls are to believed, it seems the late interventions of a League One club chairman and a dead footballer will get the Conservatives over the line and then we can move on to the much more important inevitable voting scandal that will affect all our lives for decades – Sports Personality of the Year. If it goes to another rower or a cyclist the BBC will virtually, definitely, lose its funding. Unless of course it doesn’t. Until Sunday then.