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World Cup

Putting cash before ethics in Qatar

England players take the knee before a game last year. Neil Hall/Pool/Getty

English footballers used to have “an exemption from the realities of life”, says Will Lloyd in The Times. “Nobody expected them to produce anything but disgraceful tabloid headlines.” But today, every player has a “cause”, be it wearing rainbow laces in support of LGBTQ rights, taking the knee to support Black Lives Matter, or, in Marcus Rashford’s case, haranguing MPs into “excruciating policy U-turns” over free school meals. “This is not politics,” Rashford tweeted at the time, “this is humanity.” It’s a nice line. Just a shame it almost certainly wasn’t his.

Rashford’s campaign was “designed by his personal publicist”. The “impression of spontaneity” that made him so much more likeable than politicians was carefully calibrated by 20 “subject matter experts” at his PR agency’s office in Fitzrovia. Their efforts helped secure Rashford a 65% uptick in Twitter followers, a Vogue cover and an MBE. This was “business, not activism” – a fresh way to market footballers and “bank millions” while doing it. The Qatar World Cup is final proof that money always comes first – an unknown number of migrant workers died building stadiums in this “micro sharia state with a track record of beating its gay subjects”. Morally, it’s simple: “English footballers’ social consciences should stop them from playing.” Instead, they have put cash over ethics. They’re not even hypocrites; “they’re smaller than that”. They’re just athletes doing what their sponsors and PR companies tell them. We should go back to expecting nothing from them “other than disappointment”.