Forest Green Rovers’ chairman and owner Dale Vince has waded into the debate on politics in football by accusing the Football Association of hypocrisy.
In an open letter to FA CEO Mark Bullingham, Vince, who is no stranger to controversy for his support for veganism, Palestine and eco activists Sea Shepherd, has accused the FA’s boss of operating to double standards.
Vince hit out in the wake of FA complaints over FIFA’s Qatar’s clampdown on 2022 World Cup players wearing the LGBTQ+ One Love armband.
In a letter to Bullingham, he stated: “I felt compelled to write to ask you if you are aware that the FA itself has acted in the same fashion towards FGR as FIFA have towards the FA.
“Several weeks ago, we played a first-round FA cup against South Shields, ahead of that game we reached out to the FA to seek permission to wear warm-up T shirts bearing the words – Just Stop Oil. The FA refused permission, describing the words as political.”
Vince added: “Just Stop Oil is of course an environmental campaign and slogan. The people behind it and those that support it are apolitical. They seek the ending of exploration for new sources of fossil fuels, because of the climate crisis.”
He went on to stress that Just Stop Oil is also a human rights campaign, given the “massive impact of the climate crisis which is felt (but not caused) disproportionately by the global south.”
“The situation mirrors the situation we found ourselves in a few weeks ago except in this case the FA played the role of FIFA. In England where the FA has jurisdiction, it banned our intended act of solidarity and we also faced unlimited sanctions.
“At best,” he added, “the FA’s ruling at South Shileds is an example of double standards, at worst it deserves to be called hypocrisy.”
A spokesman for the FA has denied the suggestion, however, that the organisation threatened sanctions.
“The FA has clear kit and advertising regulations for all club matchday kits. Prior to the match, we informed Forest Green Rovers that using the logo they requested on their warm-up shirt would be in breach of these regulations, on the basis that it constitutes a political message. At no point did we suggest or refer to any sanctions in our communications with the club.”
Vince’s letter to Bullingham comes in the wake of Forest Green’s Saturday triumph at the Bolt New Lawn in the latest round of the FA Cup, which saw the home team kill the dreams of Cheltenham Town-slayers Alvechurch FC, thanks to a game-changing header from FGR striker and former Alvechurch player, Josh March.
In a pre-match interview for BBC1’s live coverage of the clash, Vince explained how the New Lawn’s pitch is solely sustained by seaweed from Scotland and discussed the proven merits of vegan nutrition for athletes.
“We can see that the way that we live is not sustainable on this planet for future generations, so we have to change that very quickly.” he said.
And while the FA may have banned Just Stop Oil slogans for now, the maverick boss had the last laugh on Saturday: electronic billboards throughout the live BBC1 game displayed the message “FFS, Just Stop Oil”.
FGR’s stance over its support for Just Stop Oil may not, in fact, be as controversial among fans as outsiders might imagine. On social media, reaction to Saturday’s ad displays was scant.
Ardent fan Martin Hynes, a regular visitor to the club’s South Stand, told Stroud Times: “Just Stop Oil are not popular due to the general public being in complete denial about climate change and the environment in general. From my point of view, the weird thing is that we aren’t all going nuts.”