What prompted you to start Football Lads & Lasses against Fascism?
The Football Lads Alliance (FLA) March in London last October was a wake up call. It attracted people the EDL and SDL could never reach. We know people who went on that march thinking it was ‘a march against extremism’. About 15,000 gathered at Hyde Park Corner to hear speakers who were careful to avoid explicit racist statements. But patriotism, nationalism and opposition to immigration were repeated themes. Labour MP Diane Abbott, who is black, was a particular target.
It was a worrying development. The Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) are a relatively new organisation. They split from the FLA and are organised by fascists and Loyalists. Leading members of the DFLA are from the National Front, the British National Party, Combat 18 and the Ulster Defence Association.
They claim to represent working class fans but in reality they are the puppets of the Tories and big business. They are attempting to harness people’s anger over a range of issues and focus them in a racist, Islamophobic direction. They are focussing on football clubs to recruit from disaffected football firms to try and build a violent right wing movement. They feed the idea that white working class people are marginalised and are victims of a cosmopolitan left agenda. They rally around symbols of national identity that reinforce the state which is responsible for many of the crimes against working class people. They want to mobilise people behind the Union Jack and British Nationalism. Their marches have been the largest far right marches in Britain since the 1930s.
A few ex football casuals met and decided something had to be done to stop the FLA and DFLA. The Football Lads and Lasses Alliance is our response.
What sort of response have you had so far?
We’ve all been really heartened by the support we have received. Over 9,000 people have identified with us. The Football Lads and Lasses emblems with club crests have gone viral and international. We have groups emerging across England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. These groups are at the moment producing stickers to cover DFLA material and show we have a presence at clubs. The next stage is leafleting the football grounds. At the end of September we will have a team of black, white, and Asian Luton Town fans and local trade unionists leafleting a home game. Luton is where Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon (Tommy Robinson) built the EDL. It’s where he thinks his base is. Most Luton Town fans are unaware of this or don’t want anything to do with him and his right wing agenda. We think it’s important to expose him and the right wing, racist agenda of the DFLA. Tackling the DFLA at Luton will show there aren’t any no-go football clubs for anti-racists and anti-fascists. We will be setting up similar initiatives at football clubs across the country.
What are you hoping to achieve?
We want to smash the DFLA. We want to stop them building a fascist street movement at our football clubs. They are manipulating people and turning their anger against the Muslim community. They are selectively using child abuse victims to fuel an Islamophobic agenda. If they’re not stopped they will start attacking other minorities, the left and the labour movement. At their last demo, the assistant general secretary of the RMT and other trade unionists were attacked by DFLA thugs. Initially, our focus is on stopping the DFLA. We want to stop the DFLA organising at any club in the country. We will do this by exposing the DFLA’s real agenda and isolating them. If needs be we will also confront them. We want to build anti-racist and anti-fascist cultures at football grounds. We want to rebuild a counter-culture at the football that challenges the far right and corporatism in football.
How do you relate to the wider anti-racist movement?
We are an independent group and we’ve only been in existence for a few weeks. We want to support any genuine anti-racist and anti-fascist activity. Recently we worked with the Merseyside Together group who leafleted Liverpool and Everton games. We will work with other anti-racist and anti-fascist groups where we believe their activities are contributing to the wider struggle against the far right and the DFLA. We want to build alliances with working class communities and the labour movement.
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First Published: September 13th 2018