I’m a QPR fan and have decided to create a substack blog about following the team this season. After 16 months of writing about COVID-19, I thought it would be a blessed relief to write about football for a change. Although having said that, no aspect of our lives is unaffected by the virus and the English Football League may well insist on vaccine passports as a condition of going to games. On London Calling a few weeks ago, James Delingpole and I had a discussion about what would persuade us to get jabbed. He said he wouldn’t do it for £50 million, whereas I said I’d do it if it was the only way I could go to QPR games. I’ve had COVID-19 (been there, got the antibodies) so pose less infection risk to other football fans than someone who’s been double-jabbed. But if the EFL, in its wisdom, decides that a recent antibody test or a recent negative test isn’t sufficient and only those who’ve been fully vaccinated will be admitted, I’m still not 100% sure what I’ll do.
The blog is free to subscribe to, although if you become a premium subscriber you can access the full archive – and if you become a founding member I’ll take you to a QPR game. Way-hay!
I wrote the first post last night, which you can read here. Here’s an extract:
England’s three lockdowns didn’t cause me much suffering. I don’t have a shop selling ‘non-essential’ goods (e.g. books) that has now gone out of business. As a freelance journalist, I was never at risk of losing my job and didn’t need to take any hand-outs from the Treasury. I don’t have a life-threatening disease so I was never going to die because my local hospital wouldn’t admit me. I only have one elderly relative and she was in our ‘support bubble’. The biggest downside was the intermittent closure of schools, not least because one of my children was doing her A levels and another his GCSEs. No end-of-exams celebrations for them. But I was probably better off than 95% of the population.
The one thing I really missed was going to the football, which I had naively thought might be possible in the 2020-21 season. I even bought two season tickets to my beloved QPR – one for me, one for my 13 year-old son Charlie – and nonchalantly ignored the deadline for applying for a refund. At one point, the club announced that a few hundred fans would be allowed into the ground and Charlie and I eagerly put our names in the hat, only for the offer to be withdrawn when the ‘rule of six’ was introduced. The next best thing was going to the stadium’s posh restaurant on match day – which the club made possible for our game against Cardiff on October 31st. But it was £60 a head and we were told we wouldn’t be able to go over to the window to look out over the pitch. We would have to make do with a big screen. That sounded even more frustrating that watching the match at home, knowing the ground is only a mile away. (Although we did beat Cardiff 3-2.)
It was only when football started being played behind closed doors that I realised how much I valued the weekly ritual. And I say ‘weekly’ because Charlie and I had taken to going to away games, too, criss-crossing England by train. QPR’s away record isn’t great, so more often than not we’d find ourselves on Saturday evening in a carriage strewn with empty beer cans and KFC boxes, listening to middle-aged men in QPR shirts grumbling about missed chances and poor substitutions. Before the second half of the 2020-21 season, our home record wasn’t great either. We finished 13th in the table in the 2019-20 season and 19th in the season before that. Why, then, did I miss it so much?
Worth reading in full.