County Boundaries – the case for and against Yorkshire’s national football team

Bridlington v Whitley Bay

Yorkshire has a national football team, no really. Formed last summer, with the aim of becoming part of CONIFA – the international governing body for Non-FIFA affiliated Associations for association football – its existence has already split opinion, including here at popular STAND fanzine. Here, first printed in issue 93 of the fanzine, Jack Peat and Glen Wilson argue the cases for and against Yorkshire’s national side.


The case for Yorkshire, by Jack Peat

A regionalist, narrow minded, petty attempt at perpetuating an assumed regional superiority. It’s Yexit, and given the current political climate, it’s all a bit yawn.

At least those are some of the arguments waged against the Yorkshire international football team that made their debut last month at Hemsworth. The game, which drew 500 spectators, ended in a 1-1 draw against the highly-rated Isle of Man, but it was less the action on the pitch and more the subtext of what is happening off it that really drew the attention.

That Yorkshire would consider itself part of a world league of stateless peoples is the first point of contention. Does it really have just cause to compete with the likes of Tibet and Darfur, which have actual, real problems? Or is it an ego-driven two fingers to the rest of the UK in the same way a strong Yorkshire makes a strong England in cricket and our medal hauls often compete with other nations at the Olympics?

Well, I would argue that their/our beef is justified. Yorkshire has a larger population than Scotland and a greater economic weight than Wales and Northern Ireland, and yet it gets largely overlooked by Westminster in comparison. Bereft of its own parliament we have had to watch by as billions of pounds gets pumped in to a high-speed rail connection for London while pacer trains and redundant District Line carriages get sent north.

But sputtering transport aside, the main reason why Yorkshire is currently getting a rotten deal is because of its sputtering devolution process. While other areas are much further along the devolution path and have unlocked more government funding as a result, Yorkshire is at a stand-still, and public spending per head of population is therefore far lower (£8,791 a year) than in London (£10,129), the North-West (£9,387) and the North-East (£9,472) as a consequence.

Not that that matters in the eyes of Whitehall where ambitious plans for devolution have been superseded by the Northern Powerhouse. The brainchild of George Osborne, who now edits London’s free rag, was supposed to unite the great cities of the North to create a rival to the economic might of the south east, but without the infrastructure to support it, the wheels have both literally and proverbially fallen off.

So you can hardly blame YIFA for trying to raise the profile of the region. As its website reads, the objective of the football team is to empower Yorkshire and to raise awareness of the county to help it become an internationally renowned region to visit, invest in and watch sport in. What they forget to mention is that if we get independence, we’ll also have £350 million to invest in our local health services….. maybe.

 

The case against Yorkshire, by Glen Wilson

A regionalist, narrow minded, petty attempt at perpetuating an assumed regional superiority. Aye, I’ll go in for that Jack. Saves me rummaging round for an opening line.

You can always tell a Yorkshireman but you can’t tell him much. From beyond the county’s borders, the perception of Yorkshire folk is one of a people who are brash, stubborn, insular, petty minded and parochial. In setting up a Yorkshire national football team the only message we’re sending to government, the south, or indeed anyone who’s bothered to listen, is yes, all you’d ever thought of us is true.

CONIFA, the body to which the Yorkshire International Football Association have affiliated exists to offer international competition for the world’s unrepresented nations, and displaced people. So though the people of Tibet, or the Rohingya are unable to cement their nation on land due to political oppression, they can at least represent their homeland in a sporting contest. For people like the Chagossians – forcibly removed from their islands after they were acquired by Britain in the 1960s – their football team is pretty much the only opportunity to fly their flag.

Pitching Yorkshire into such company is frankly crass and culturally and politically naive. Cue YIFA chairman, Philip Hegarty in The Guardian. ‘Every single one of these regions, to some greater or lesser extent, feel like their culture isn’t being given a voice or representation in some way, whether that’s to the extremes of Tibet, [or] to Yorkshire, which is having a fight against the government’s version of devolution’. Come on Phil, I mean we’re all pissed off at the empty tokenism of the Northern Powerhouse, but it has no place on a spectrum with the mass deaths and cultural destruction of Great Leap Forward.

But then only Yorkshire, with its mix of arrogant partisanship and peculiar celebration of suffered hardship could make such a claim. Our pitch for inclusion was presumably Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen in actuality. ‘Forcibly removed from your homeland to make way for a US military presence? Oh aye, we used to dream of being forcibly removed from our homeland.’ ‘Trapped in a near century-long Civil War to try and gain recognition for your state? You were lucky’.

Thing is, the footballers of Yorkshire already have a chance to play international football for their nation. Indeed four of them – Stones, Walker, Rose, Vardy – are doing so as I type this sentence. And the suggestion that anyone needs to be made aware of Yorkshire is frankly laughable. When was the last time any of us didn’t make someone aware of Yorkshire?

Of course there is no denying that our county, and indeed the rest of the North, have been, and continue to be, fucked over by this government. That is a concern, and it is just cause for protest, and it is just cause for action. I just can’t see what sticking eleven lads from the ninth tier of football on a pitch in Fitzwilliam helps in anyway. It just makes us look even more Yorkshire; a parody of an already existent parody.


 

This article first appeared in issue 93 of popular STAND fanzine, a football fanzine for the likes of Doncaster. Subscriptions to popular STAND for the 2018-19 are now available. Interested? Find out more, here.

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