Criticising UK’s Brexit difficulties is like following a crap football team

4th September 2017

Once upon a time Aston Villa were the winners of the European Cup.

A year later Villa defeated Barcelona for the European “super cup”.

Those were the days.

Villa are now in the bottom half of the “championship” (the old second division), after a decline over many years.

Most Villa fans will have their view as to the biggest marks of the decline.

Mine, for what it is worth, was the awful, unforgivable decision in 2009 to field a weakened side in Moscow.  Other Villa fans will have their examples.

But nobody will suggest that such criticism means that Villa fans are not really Villa fans and that they actually want opposing teams to win.

Following an under-performing football team is not fun, but it does not make you any less of a fan when you point out the under-performance.


Watching the UK government deal with Brexit is a lot like watching Aston Villa in decline.

Unforced error after unforced error, as the side does ever more badly over time.

The memories of greatness only making things worse.

Some suggest that criticising the UK’s many mistakes over Brexit is to be on the side of the EU.  That one is “talking down” the UK and “cheering on” Juncker, Barnier, or whoever.

But a person can be critical of a thing, and express that criticism, without it meaning that the person is opposed to it.

One suspects the people expressing such views have never followed a crap football team.

There is no pleasure in watching the government’s foreseeable difficulties on Brexit, just as there was no pleasure in watching Aston Villa’s foreseeable relegation.


For email alerts for my posts at Jack of Kent – including for Brexit updates – please submit your email address in the “Subscribe” box on this page.


header banner image

Regular blogging at Jack of Kent is supported by the kind sponsorship of Hammicks Legal Information Services. 


Comments are pre-moderated and will not be published unless they are polite or interesting/informative (and preferably both).  

18 thoughts on “Criticising UK’s Brexit difficulties is like following a crap football team”

  1. A very good analysis.

    What’s really shocking is that this process is finally destroying the idea that the UK Government is competent. As we saw before the Position Papers came out there was the view across Europe that the months of inaction and confusion were all a bluff. That the UK Government were doing a great Columbo impression and would show up in the autumn with brilliant papers fill of clear, pragmatic solutions.

    Instead, they clearly don’t have a clue. Yes this is down to the impossible situation the Cabinet has put the Civil Service into. But regardless of the reason, the idea that the Government is able to be trusted to deliver sound decisions is long over.

    With it is the idea that the economy is safe in the hands of the Conservatives. How times change.

  2. …yes but the economic wellbeing of a nation doesn’t rest on a soccer team. Economics and our industrial future are themes that the British have rather left out of account for a long time, helped by a media uninterested in wealth creation.

  3. I disagree. Here is a radical statement, actions have consequences. The people were told that Brexit would be a disaster and they voted for it anyway. It isn’t the government’s fault this is happening it is down to the people who voted, something I doubt is true of Aston Villa fans.

    1. It was, however, the Government’s choice to go for the hardest of all Brexits. There was no need to do so – most Leavers would have been more than happy with membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union, as the Leave leadership repeatedly promised. Meanwhile, most Remainers would have grumbled, but settled. But May seems obsessed with reducing immigration, to the detriment of business, finance, and the nation in general. One can only hope the Tories get rid of her at conference and get in someone with more ability to compromise and who can take a pragmatic stance.

    2. I don’t think that holds, it’s rather like blaming the people who bought the season tickets on the grounds that the team manager was promising that even though the team would be withdrawn from the qualifying competition they would still be allowed to compete in the final

      his strikers Boris, Fox and Davies would easily score the goals needed to lift the Trophy. Instead we find that our vaunted attacking force has all the pace of a Sunday morning pub team

  4. Not a bad analogy. Clearly though, it is time for Team Brexit to change tactics (one can’t actually surrender in a game of football, can one?), we urgently need to bring on the subs in the hope of injecting new ideas into a stale team. Whilst it is not cricket to sack the manager in mid-match, surely she needs to go if we are to have any hope of avoiding relegation…

    With the publication in the Guardian of a YouGov poll which shows a clear majority in favour of continued migration of skilled workers and their less skilled bretherin for doing jobs we just don’t fancy (fruit picking, building (apparently) care home work etc), the idea of an uncontrolled border (our only land border with the EU), the tacit acknowledgement that we must pay for any deep access to the single market and that the ECJ will have (indirect!) jurisdiction, can anybody actually point to a single, tangible benefit of this disasterous course of action? All of our strikers seem hell bent on netting at our end of the pitch!

  5. Of course there’s pleasure! There must always be pleasure. You just have to eschew patriotism, accept that your savings are going to take (if they haven’t already), a 40% hit or more, your job’s at risk, your children’s futures have been compromised and your rights will soon expire. Then you can enjoy Brexit. You can embrace the schadenfreude of it, of Davis in particular. The method is clear. It has to be a form of out of body experience. If you stay in your body, it will hurt. Perhaps the coming of our brave new world is best experienced on mescaline.

  6. Yes, indeed! As someone who is not at all interested in football, it’s still painful to watch from the sidelines. I’ve just read Michael Lewis’s and it’s sobering to read about the errors of judgement humans make individually. What the outcome of collective errors of judgement about the European project will be nobody knows, but it is not a happy prospect. I think obscure backwaters rather than sunlit uplands.

  7. Didn’t even work as Villa then conceded two very late goals to draw with Stoke in the next league game. And then the season dribbled away, and we’ve never really recovered. I think the problem with Villa has, for many years, been the manner of O’Neill’s abrupt departure and the subsequent division of the club and supporters into pro- and anti- factions on his achievements and legacy. Draw your own parallels!

  8. One further aspect of the analogy is the expectation of some supporters that their club is a ‘big club’ who ‘ought’ to be in the top division (or Champions League) ‘because history’ or ‘because supporters’ – even if the recent evidence says otherwise, and the club makes ‘[u]nforced error after unforced error’. It would have been galling for such fans to have seen the likes of say, Wimbledon, in the top flight when their club was in the old Division Two (or lower…). ‘Getting behind the team’ is not a tactical plan.

  9. Disagree with the post and most of the comments.

    The post presupposes that there are things the UK government could do that would improve the negotiations, but realistically, there aren’t. The EU is intent on imposing a settlement on the UK that will demonstrate to other nations that they cannot walk away and prosper. This leaves just one option, which is to walk away, as if we accept an imposed settlement then we are on a slippery slope to federalism and direct control by a central European political group with no means of resisting. We will forever be on the receiving end of “an education” from our continental superiors. So unless we are prepared for the talks to fail, there is no way they can succeed from a UK point of view.

    As anyone who has worked in a large organisation knows, if you want to become good at something, you have to keep doing it. If you have never run a Disaster Recovery test, then when you have to do it for real, you will fail in multiple ways. Hence it is no surprise that the UK government is not good at some things it has never had to do for the last forty years because the EU “did it for us”. We have to start doing basic parts of self-governance again and learn from our mistakes.

    @ Michael Wells funnily enough I’ve just re-watched “The Big Short” and got that same feeling but from the other side. The feeling that inevitable disaster is waiting us if we stay in the EU, and that all those who ridicule the Leave decision simply haven’t done the analysis and have not been paying attention.

    1. Yes, I think you’ve got something there, but I voted Remain because I think we had a better chance of changing the EU from the inside. After all the UK has always had its cake and eaten it since we joined. The bendy bananas and diktats from Brussels were to a significant extent national propaganda, when governments did get quite what they wanted from the EU. Remember Cameron’s Balance of Comeptences review. That said the balance was about right, so Cameron buried it and pursued the anti-EU wing of his party.
      Pursuing David’s football metaphor, we (as in Mrs May and her mates) seem to be scoring own goal after own goal, because we/they’re facing the wrong way!

  10. As a Dundee United fan – not quite old enough to remember the playing days of Andy Gray, but having enjoyed many a memorable victory – all I can say is I feel your pain.

    Now if only we could find a manager who evokes the memory of Jim McLean in the same way as Brexiters revere Palmerston, Rhodes and Clive…

  11. I wondered what happened to Villa. Here in Australia many years ago I recall the BBC World Service (a once great contributor to the UK’s “soft power” all over the world) used to announce the results of all football games and Villa’s name used to feature prominently among the leading teams. After being steeped in the best of British culture, English law and democratic institutions we in the “colonies” are aghast at how a narrow faction of a political party has hijacked a whole country and is propelling it to an uncertain and poorer future. Not only that, they are jeopardising the peace and stability of one of the the UK’s poorest regions Northern Ireland, and risk damaging the UK’s relationship with its nearest neighbour, the Republic of Ireland.

  12. My team once gave Villa a big fright when, on the crest of a wave, they got to the playoffs for the premier division, and almost knocked Brian Little’s men out of the League Cup. Now they’re struggling in the Vanerama conference. It’s not been a good 15 years to be a fan of Tranmere Rovers.

    And really, I haven’t. I’ve looked out for their results, but scarcely bothered to go and watch them. I voted with my feet and did other things with my Saturday afternoons.

    Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have that option with regards to Brexit, regardless of whether it ends well or ill.

    Perhaps sacking the manager will help? I’m not sure it always makes a lot of difference.

  13. Good analogy. I’m thinking as a lifelong Wimbledon supporter when the club was ‘relocated’ in 2002 to become MK Dons. We had a proud heritage from 1889 and had been in the top flight for 14 years before relegation in 2000 and close to promotion back to Premier League in 2001 and 2002. Yes, we had some complaints but then the money men in sharp suits radically changed our world. In short, they sold our soul, made their money and we were left to start again. No big sponsors, incomes decimated and treble miserys all round. We had to change our name and start from the bottom and here we are, 15 years later still below where we were when we were mugged. If we could turn back the clock would we want to go through it all again? What do you think?

    Brexit seems to be all about the fat cats playing us against each other to get themselves fatter by pulling whatever strings they can. Immigration, casual racism, sense of identity, a return to the glory days or a a better share of the spoils. We are petty little pawns in a game being played by Robert Mercer (look him up), Rupert Murdoch and the Tory right wing. We won’t come out of it with better jobs, better NHS, a safer UK or even more pride. We will be Wimbledon AFC scratching around for many years cheering every promotion and pretending it’s all for the better. Well, 52% of us will, the other half will be reminding us that Brexit really did mean Batshit.

  14. Switzerland and Norway happen to both not only be outside the EU but also have a higher gdp per capita than the average. Ending free movement was what working class Leave voters voted for in particular and cannot be ignored, indeed had Blair imposed the transition controls most EU nations imposed on the new accession nations in 2004 it may not have been an issue

    I doubt Brexit will make much difference either way to Britain’s global position, an upper first division side as it has been ever since the independence of India and decolonisation and Suez meant it left the Premier League.

  15. I can (and do) analyse and criticise my own team, but that doesn’t mean the opposition shouldn’t come in for the same treatment. The UK negotiating stance is underwhelming and does not inspire confidence; but the EU position is no better and only highlights the many deep seated flaws which lead to widespread dislike of the EU in the UK.

    First we heard repeated claims that the UK is not taking negotiations seriously, now it appears that any actual negotiation is likely to cause distress to EU “negotiators”, who simply desired continued commitment to subsidising an unreformed EU.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *