Stand Up To Racism published the following article on 9 January 2018.
The Football Lads Alliance (FLA) have increased in their Islamophobia and racism, in recent weeks. John Meighan, FLA founder, revealed his true colours in defending Donald Trump after even Theresa May had criticised Trump for retweeting the fascist group, Britain First. That Meighan chose to back Trump’s racist stance, says much. Meighan, over Xmas, posted an openly Islamophobic post, see here:
Below is a post by Meighan which many suspect shows he has been talking to ex EDL leader, Tommy Robinson, concerning FLA troubles. If so, this would be notable for many reasons, not least, that any link up with Robinson, would mark a qualitative shift rightwards, by the FLA. Some in the FLA might flinch at such a move, but many would welcome linking up with Robinson, given his Islamophobia, shared by so many FLA members.
2018 sees the FLA getting to grips with a faction fight. Two admins from the FLA social media have been dropped and have savaged Meighan. Moreover, a leading player in the Scottish FLA has admonished Meighan. The FLA were set to announce the location of their next march in early 2018, but as a result of internal tensions, this was released earlier. Bowing to pressure, from Birmingham FLA supporters, this will now be in the city on March 24th. The FLA are also backing the right wing, Veterans Against Terrorism event in Newcastle, in February.
Meighan and the FLA leadership have let the mask slip with posts like the above. It reflects a hardening up of the FLA’s racism and confirms Stand Up To Racism’s analysis of the dark politics of those who run the FLA. Sickening posts attacking refugees finds favour with many in the FLA, Open fascists now post on the FLA wall, and are not removed or blocked by the admins. Their anti extremism is a sham.
Those in the FLA who back far right groups and want to confront the left are one factor in this. Another is the accusation that Meighan is taking much of the FLA merchandise for his own largesse. Meighan has partly blamed people from within his own football ‘firm;’ Spurs, but a number from several hooligan firms are critical of the FLA. FLA members have spoken of the heavy handed way the FLA is run, and of a heated meeting in Birmingham where Meighan had to be embarrassed into handing money over.
Some FLA members claim that they have been physically threatened by those loyal to Meighan. Meighan has blamed FLA members in the West Midlands for insisting the next march is in Birmingham. Rival camps may be forming, the FLA slogan, Together We are Strong, sits somewhat uneasily. Former members of the FLA, from two notorious, hooligan firms have talked of ‘settling scores’ with Meighan, Queensbury rules, it will not be.
Information received by SUTR is of younger FLA members wanting confrontation with Muslims in Birmingham, on their March demonstration. Comments from football firms, linked to the FLA reflect such remarks made on the ‘secret’, FLA Facebook site.
The FLA have also linked up with a tiny set of Islamophobes, calling themselves Make Britain Great Again. The latter had no issues with fascists being on a recent event of theirs, in London.
It was a different story for the FLA in October, when their 15,000 strong demonstration showed them confident; however, the march also revealed much about the FLA. Ostensibly, a demonstration against extremism, it attracted known racists and various fascists. Ex EDL leader, Tommy Robinson attended for some of the march, and was treated like a celebrity by many, who took selfies with him. Friend of fascists, Katie Hopkins also tweeted support for the FLA.
Speeches by Meighan and Phil Campion, an ex soldier, were reminiscent of UKIP rhetoric eg “We want our country back…political correctness has gone too far…we’ve lost freedom of speech. I’m not allowed to say anything anymore”.
Meighan had earlier criticised Diane Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary, who had signed with others such as Show Racism The Red Card, a SUTR statement, expressing concern over the nature of the FLA. From wanting to supposedly meet Abbott, the FLA have turned their fire on her.
Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) supporters took an anti racist message to the FLA demo as it went past Downing St. They included NEU joint general secretary, Kevin Courtney. Some FLA people took leaflets from SUTR but FLA marchers often displayed hostility towards SUTR. Racial abuse was also directed at trades unionists in SUTR.
Meighan attempted to gatecrash the SUTR conference. The previous day had seen him express support for a small, fascist led march in Whitechapel, East London, aimed at the East London Mosque. When challenged on this and being made aware of who had organised the islamophobic provocation, he replied that he “supported anyone demonstrating against Islamic extremism”.
Meighan knew the politics of those behind Whitechapel but chose not to condemn open fascists.
The FLA have linked up with Veterans Against Terrorism, supporters of ex UKIP, Anne Marie Waters, led by an Islamophobe. The FLA supported and attended a Veterans demonstration in Edinburgh in November. Work done by Scottish SUTR members saw good press articles locally, pointing to the darkness within the FLA. Contrary to FLA claims of being against the far right, Meighan rubbed shoulders with Toni Bugle, a former candidate of the far right, English Democrats. Moreover, the FLA speaker that day was Bill Weir, known as an EDL supporter. So much for the FLA’s anti racism.
SUTR supporters have leafleted a number of football grounds over the FLA issue. Results vary, but mostly, we have had a warm response. In some areas like Cambridge, Sheffield and Scotland and London, supporters from various clubs have met to discuss their attitude to the FLA. The Mayors’ of Tower Hamlets and Newham have written to West Ham United, regarding their own and fans worries over the FLA’s presence in the ground.
Show Racism The Red Card got behind SUTR over this issue and spoke at our October conference.
The FLA have a foothold at some clubs, throughout the divisions, but apart from banner drops, are relatively quiet at many games. One area of activity at matches has been collections done for the Justice for 21 campaign, for the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings in the 1970s. Many give, not knowing that ex Loyalist gun runners, for instance, are holding the buckets!
They have taken a hit in Scotland, but Meighan is looking to move forward after the recent rows. Of note is a number of BME fans who the FLA courted, distancing themselves from the FLA.
FLA splits are to be welcomed, as the nature of the organisation spews forth. Anti racists however will keep campaigning, as the mainstream islamophobia the FLA feed off, intensifies.