Scrap 'God Save The Queen' at Windsor, report urges

'God Save the Queen' should be replaced with a more neutral 'national' anthem at Windsor Park, according to a wide-ranging report into the future of Northern Ireland football.

'God Save the Queen' should be replaced with a more neutral 'national' anthem at Windsor Park, according to a wide-ranging report into the future of Northern Ireland football.

The 39-page document commissioned by the Irish Football Association also recommends ending the ban on Sunday soccer.

The report, written by the think tank Democratic Dialogue, argues for the creation of a trade union for Irish League players linked to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. While praising the IFA's 'Football for All' campaign, the report's recommendations urge the association to go further.

'Building on the major achievement of the campaign in transforming the atmosphere at internationals, the proposed new stadium heralds a fresh start.

'The IFA should consider a public competition to see if a more widely acceptable anthem can be found to the playing of "God Save the Queen", in line with practice in Scotland and Wales,' the authors of the report suggest.

Throughout the report Catholic football fans cite the playing of the UK national anthem as one of the reasons why they don't travel to Windsor Park for Northern Ireland internationals.

At the Millennium stadium in Cardiff, Welsh fans sing 'Land of My Fathers' instead of 'God Save the Queen'; at Hampden Park the Scots sing 'Flower of Scotland'.

Dropping 'God Save the Queen' will be the most controversial step for the IFA given Northern Ireland's support base within the loyalist working class.

The report, however, makes no recommendation on where exactly the new 'national' sports stadium should be built. The government's preferred option is the Maze prison site, which it already owns. An overwhelming majority of fans connected to the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters' clubs preferred to see the stadium built in Belfast.

Scrapping the 'never on a Sunday' ban will also provoke widespread opposition from the evangelical Protestant lobby, including leading figures in the Democratic Unionist Party.

The report also urges the government to do more to combat intolerance in sport. It calls for the Football Offences Act to be extended to Northern Ireland, allowing anyone found guilty of singing sectarian songs to be prosecuted.

In the report Jim Rainey, of the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters' clubs, argues that ground stewards needed 'legislative backing' to confront those singing sectarian and racist songs.


Henry McDonald, Ireland editor

The GuardianTramp

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