TIME United Kingdom

Why a British Politician Resigned Over This Tweeted Photograph

Then-Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry in 2013.
Then-Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry in 2013. Yui Mok—Zumapress

The image showed a house, a van and English flags. What's so controversial about that?

After all the verbiage expended and hot air vented ahead of the Nov. 20 by-election in a constituency in southeast England called Rochester and Strood, a picture turned out to be worth a thousand words — and then some. On the day of the special election, prompted by the defection of a sitting Member of Parliament from the ruling Conservatives to the insurgent United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), a prominent member of the opposition left-of-center Labour Party tweeted a series of photographs as she toured the area canvassing support for her party’s candidate. One apparently innocuous post encapsulated so many uncomfortable truths — about Britain, its old wounds and new fractures, and the global crisis of trust in the political mainstream — that within hours the tweeter, MP Emily Thornberry, had resigned as a member of Labour’s front bench team. The controversy eclipsed a result that in its own way told the same story of fragmentation and tumult: victory for the anti-immigration, anti-European Union UKIP.

Here is Thornberry’s tweet. Look closely. If you even begin to understand why this picture caused offense, you are either from the U.K. or have spent more than the occasional vacation in its temperate, if increasingly distempered, climes.

So why did this tweet do so much damage?

One answer lies in the medium not the message. The digital revolution is transforming not only methods of communication but the world itself. Politicians have barely started to comprehend what this means for the business of politics, much less for wider society.

Such profound changes have left the slow-moving political mainstream floundering. The Labour Party has its roots in the labor movement and purports to be the party of working people. In finding the sight of a modest terraced house festooned with England flags and with a white van parked on the forecourt noteworthy enough to tweet, Thornberry highlighted the gap between the Westminster elite and ordinary voters. As Britain’s largest red-top tabloid, the Sun, put it, she was “seeming to sneer at a White Van Man’s England flags.”

White Van Man is the Joe Six-Pack or Walmart Mom of U.K. politics, representative of a segment of the electorate mainstream parties are eager to court but find increasingly hard to reach. The White Van Man in this case turned out to be a car dealer named Dan Ware who revealed in a brief interview with the Daily Telegraph that he didn’t even know a by-election was taking place. He said: “I will continue to fly the flags — I don’t care who it pisses off. I know there is a lot of ethnic minorities that don’t like it. They [the flags] have been up since the [soccer] World Cup.”

After more than four years of austerity policies imposed by Britain’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition, Labour should be in pole position to win the votes of White Van owners across the nation when Britons elect a new government in May 2015. Instead it is struggling under the hapless leadership of Ed Miliband and a band of metropolitan parliamentarians as apt to flinch from the classes who once were their mainstay as to engage with them.

But this isn’t just a problem of the left. Margaret Thatcher made an easy connection with so-called Middle Britain. Britain’s current Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, posh and urban, has tried unsuccessfully to outsource that job to spin doctors, tabloids and the few members of his team not to come from privileged backgrounds. The Liberal Democrats, who used to attract protest votes that might otherwise have gone to Labour or the Conservatives, sacrificed those potential votes as well as the support of their own well-meaning grassroots by deciding in 2010 to enter coalition with the Conservatives. The outcome of the Rochester and Strood by-election illustrated the scale of their plight: their candidate Geoff Juby got only 349 votes and lost his deposit.

Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system favors big parties and majority governments. When the current coalition took office in 2010 it was the first such arrangement in 70 years. But the weakness of those big parties is making space for others to flourish, such as the Scottish National Party, which came close in September to breaking up the United Kingdom and may yet succeed in that aim; and, in England, UKIP, which is pushing for a break with the European Union. UKIP’s rhetoric on restricting immigration chimes with voters who have seen competition for jobs and housing intensify and the strain on public services increase as the U.K. has battled to reduce its debt and ride out a prolonged period of economic instability.

England’s Cross of St George, the flags that caught Thornberry’s attention with such dramatic consequences, have become symbolic not only of England but England’s struggles — with identity and between increasingly diverse populations. Far-right groups such as Britain First have sought to co-opt the flag, and that may be why Thornberry took the snap. It is often hard to distinguish England flags hung in support of the soccer team from England flags hoisted in anger.

Britain First’s candidate Jayda Franzen took a laughable 56 votes at the Rochester and Strood by-election. By contrast UKIP, which always insisted it is anti-Europe not xenophobic, has shed some of its harder-right elements and has professionalized and broadened its appeal. Mark Reckless, the MP whose recent defection to UKIP from the Conservative Party sparked the by-election, won the ballot comfortably with 16,867 votes (42.1%), compared to the Conservatives’ 13,947 votes (34.81%) and Labour’s 6,713 (16.76%).

Like Thornberry’s tweet, the meaning of the results is open to several interpretations but all of them point in the same direction: to the possibility that the U.K.’s May 2015 elections won’t grant an overall majority to a mainstream party and could leave smaller parties such as UKIP holding the balance of power. The Conservatives have promised to hold a referendum on Britain’s relationship with Europe if they win and to try to renegotiate that relationship. UKIP simply wants out, and across Europe parties with similar messages are growing in strength. It may prove, and in more than one sense, that the center cannot hold.

TIME European Union

Is It a Bird? Is It a Plane? No, It’s Captain Euro

But is he in time to save the European Union and the world?

You might think there were enough cartoon characters in politics already. Apparently not. Enter Captain Euro, flexing his pectorals and multilingual skills as he battles to save the European Union.

The self-styled leader of Europe, the Captain sees himself as the first point of contact for any U.S. President seeking to speak to Europe.

But the Captain isn’t a superhero. He’s just drawn that way (though he and his team of ardent Europhiles in matching blue and gold outfits might also be mistaken for the flight crew on a European no-frills airline.)

The son of Brand EU, an initiative that tries to do exactly what the name suggests, itself the brainchild of a think tank called Gold Mercury, the Captain first strode to the rescue of Europe in 1995 but fell into obscurity until desperate times and rising euroskepsis—boosted, of course, by the flailings of the Captain’s namesake currency—necessitated his recall. So since Nov. 18 he’s been back in action, deploying his sole special power: the power of persuasion.”Together we are one of the world’s strongest powers. Separately, we amount to far less in this newly globalized world, where size is everything,” says Nicolas de Santis, President of Gold Mercury and thus the Captain’s real daddy. “Armed with this knowledge, Captain Euro will continue on his heroic mission to promote the values of a united EU which we all share: peace, solidarity and sustainability.”

To the Captain and his creator, the baddies are evil-minded euroskeptics dressed in UKIP purple who threaten that vision. Their leader is called Dr D Vider (see what they did there?).

And this is where our hero gets a little confused and confusing. His backstory is puzzling. Called Adam Andros, he’s not a David standing up to goliath globalized corporations. We are told he inherited his own giant corporation, Sustania. An avatar of vested interests, he seeks to rally to his cause some of the real-life leaders than some Europeans might see as part of the problem rather than the cure.

In real-life Jean-Claude Juncker, who has just embarked on a five-year term as President of the European Commission, already faces a motion of censure in the European Parliament after allegations that during his previous incarnations as Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Luxembourg, he helped global corporations to minimize their European tax payments. In a Captain Euro strip, Juncker is a unifying figure working to persuade Prime Minister David Cameron to keep Britain in the E.U..

The coalition of anti-Europe, anti-immigration parties seeking to censure Juncker includes a fair sprinkling of cartoonish characters, but they are successfully positioning themselves as the good guys to a broadening swathe of European voters. If Captain Euro really wants to counteract the misinformation such parties spread, he’ll need to recognize the parts of their message that resonate. The time is ripe for a hero who is pro-Europe but not identified with the European elite. Before Captain Euro can redraw the continent’s fracturing politics, he may have to redraw himself.

All cartoons courtesy of Nicolas de Santis/ Gold Mercury International.

TIME U.K.

Terrorism Suspects to be Excluded From U.K Even If It’s Their Home

Counter-terrorism legislation aims to halt jihadis who want to come home from Syria and Iraq

As an idea it appears beautifully simple: stop potential terrorism by stopping potential terrorists at your borders—even if they’re your own citizens. Canada has already started revoking the passports of its nationals who are thought to have traveled to join Islamic extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. Australia is piloting new legislation to impose prison sentences of up to 10 years on anyone returning to the country from overseas conflict zones who cannot prove a legitimate reason for the trip. And on Nov. 14 during Prime Minister David Cameron’s sojourn in Australia for the G20 summit, he unveiled his own plans to limit the increasing flow of “gap-year jihadis” by preventing Britons from coming home to the U.K. after a spell in the ranks of ISIS or some other violent Islamist organization.

Australian lawmakers warmly applauded Cameron’s proposals, whilst calls for the U.S. to adopt similar measures are growing louder. Yet reactions back in Britain are mixed. Three overlapping concerns dominate the debate: are such measures just, do they square with international law and would they really work?

Nobody denies the scale of the problem. The U.K. authorities estimate that between 500 and 600 Britons have traveled to Syria and Iraq to wage jihad. More than half of these have already returned to the U.K. while a further 25-30 are thought to have died in battle. That leaves around 250 whose eventual homecoming presages a raft of possible dangers and pressures. The security services are already stretched thin trying to keep tabs on radicals whose foreign travels have furnished them with the contacts and the skills to launch attacks at home or narratives to help the ISIS recruitment drive. Deradicalization programs have proved effective but struggle under the weight of numbers.

From that perspective, says Jonathan Russell, the political liaison officer of the counter-terrorism think tank Quilliam Foundation, there could be short term gains from restricting the influx of returnees. The British government plans to publish its proposed new bill before the end of November and get it onto the statute books by January, enabling officials to turn away suspect Britons for two years at a time if they refuse to submit to tough re-entry conditions such as facing prosecution or submitting to close supervision. The law is also expected to penalize airlines that fail to observe no-fly lists.

“It’s likely to stop dangerous people entering the U.K. and ease the pressure on the security services and their surveillance operations and make sure they can’t commit terrorist attacks in the U.K. in the two years they’re held up.” says Russell, but he is unconvinced by the move. “If we’re looking for longterm security I can’t see why it would have any impact.”

Russell is concerned that a large number of the Britons trying to return home would likely do so via Turkey, and find themselves stranded there, creating fresh problems and a diplomatic headache with Turkey which is likely to be at best an unpredictable partner in any resulting negotiations. Sara Ogilvie, policy officer for the U.K.-based human rights organization Liberty raises a different objection: excluding Britons from Britain is, she believes “clearly unlawful.” “If the result is to render someone stateless that will be a breach of our international obligations and will be subject to challenge,” she says.

Britain’s Supreme Court is already testing a related case, of a Vietnam-born naturalized Briton, known for legal reasons only as “B2,” who was stripped by the British government of his adopted citizenship in 2011 because of suspicions he was an al Qaeda supporter. Vietnam refuses to accept he is a Vietnamese national, so the British decision made B2 effectively stateless, in potential contravention of a key United Nations convention. When the Cameron first mooted new, tougher counter-terrorism laws in September, he floated the notion of permanently disowning British-born U.K. nationals involved with ISIS but has since accepted that there is no legal way to do so. The idea of two-year renewable exclusion orders to keep out British jihadis is intended to comply with international law. Ogilvie is skeptical: “If you’re a U.K. citizen but you can’t get into the U.K. what’s the point of you having U.K. citizenship? You don’t get the value of it. So we think that will definitely be challenged in the courts.”

The issue of the U.K’s relationship with the European Union is also complicated. Currently U.K passport holders have the right to travel throughout the E.U. but it is not clear how exclusion orders will affect their rights to remain in the E.U.

Ogilivie also argues that the proposed law infringes the values of democracy and the rule of law that it purports to safeguard. This is an issue Quilliam’s Russell also raises. The measure and the rhetoric around it “feeds into the narrative of the West being at war with Islam,” he says, adding an important clarification. “I wouldn’t say that counter-terrorism legislation makes people radical. It is a grievance that is exploited by radicalizers.” In his view, rather than seeking to exclude returning fighters, the U.K. authorities should do as much as possible “to engage with them ideologically, change their views and deradicalize them.”

On this point Margaret Gilmore, senior associate fellow of the Royal United Services Institute, RUSI, agrees, but she sees a potential benefit from the measure. “There’s been a lot of discussion in the Muslim community here, with some people saying if people want to come back it’s going to be more difficult now because they will be stopped and questioned,” she explains. “Yes they will be stopped and questioned but there will be some who welcome the fact that they will be stopped and questioned and can say ‘look I really have moved on, these are the reasons, I want to go back to my family, move back into the mainstream of thinking’.”

In this scenario, the kinds of returnees who are susceptible to rehabilitation will find it more easily. “It’s a very clear route to come back in and be helped back into the mainstream,” Gilmore says. The jury is out on that point, or may be soon enough.

TIME Germany

Angela Merkel’s Sweet Overtures to Angry Punk Rocker

Leaders of the Christian Democratic Union sing with Chancellor Angela Merkel as they celebrate the exit polls in the German general election at the party headquarters in Berlin, Sept. 22, 2013.
Leaders of the Christian Democratic Union sing with Chancellor Angela Merkel as they celebrate the exit polls in the German general election at the party headquarters in Berlin, Sept. 22, 2013. Kai Pfaffenbach— Reuters

German Chancellor's apology illustrates that politicians and popstars often don't mix

She has won three elections and seen her popularity soar by rarely putting a foot wrong and learning from her mistakes when she does. Yet German Chancellor Angela Merkel appears to be just as fallible as other politicians when it comes to annoying one of the smallest but loudest segments of the electorate: musicians.

Campino—real name Andreas Frege—has revealed that Merkel made a personal apology to him after television cameras caught her and her colleagues thoroughly mangling a tune by his band Die Toten Hosen (the literal translation is “the dead pants”; the phrase also means “deadly dull”). This karaoke-style crime against music (the song is “Tage wie diese”, days like these; lead vocals by Volker Kauder, chairman of Merkel’s CDU parliamentary party) wasn’t the issue. Campino minded seeing—and hearing—his punk-y, spiky, counter-cultural music co-opted by a political party.

Disharmonies often resonate between the political classes and the music industry. A campaign adopts an anthemic track or a politician confesses in an interview to loving a particular band only for the musicians to repudiate vigorously any connection to the party or politician. In 1984 Bruce Springsteen complained to Rolling Stone magazine about Ronald Reagan appearing on the stump to the strains of “Born in the USA”: “I think there’s a large group of people in this country whose dreams don’t mean that much to [Ronald Reagan], that just get indiscriminately swept aside.” In 2012 Tom Morello, guitarist of Rage Against the Machine, also turned to Rolling Stone to throw some rocks at a leading GOP figure, in this case then Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. “Paul Ryan’s love of Rage Against the Machine is amusing, because he is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades.” Ryan finally hit back this year. Rage “never were my favorite band,” he said.

And so it goes in the U.S. and Europe. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, schooled at the impeccably posh private school Eton College, once declared that the Jam’s “Eton Rifles”, a biting critique of the privilege represented by Eton, was his favorite track. “Which part of it didn’t he get?” asked the Jam’s former front man, Paul Weller.

That Merkel fell into the trap for a second time is more of a surprise. Her 2005 brush with the Rolling Stones might have been expected to alert to the dangers of relying on rock for an electoral boost. Back then, during her first campaign for the Chancellery, TIME wondered if Stones knew that their 1973 hit “Angie” had become Merkel’s de facto theme tune. They did not. “The Rolling Stones are startled to hear that the track from their album Goats Head Soup has been pressed into service,” we reported. “’We didn’t grant permission,’ a spokesman for the musicians told TIME. ‘We are surprised that permission was not requested. If it had been requested, we would have said no.’”

A CDU spokesman insisted the party had cleared usage of excerpts from the song with the German music-distribution rights regulator, GEMA, but that of course was not the point. TIME had highlighted that the Stones weren’t on her side, setting off a crescendo of dissonant headlines. Die Toten Hosen raised their own noisy protest when the CDU first started using their music in the run-up to Germany’s 2013 election. The band members issued a statement on their website to ask that the CDU stop playing “Tage wie diese” at campaign events: “The danger that people might get the idea that there is a connection between the band and the content promoted at these events makes us furious,” said the statement.

Merkel may finally have learned that bands and bandwagons are a dangerous combination. A new book about Die Toten Hosen, excerpted in the German news weekly Der Spiegel, reveals Merkel’s sheepish phone call to Campino a few days after the election night singalong. “Mr Campino, I’m ringing because last Sunday we trampled all over your song,” the Chancellor said. She offered praise and a reassurance as well as an apology. She found his song “very lovely” but promised “it would not become the next CDU hymn.”

Campino describes his response as “a mixture of surprise and alarm. Alarm that she didn’t have anything else to do except call me. But also touched that she explained all that in such a relaxed and humorous way.”

 

TIME U.K.

Soccer Star Convicted of Rape Returns to Training Amid Angry Debate

Ched Evans playing for Sheffield United in 2012.
Ched Evans playing for Sheffield United in 2012. Stu Forster—Getty Images

More than 163,000 people have signed a petition against his return

Correction appended Nov. 15.

The story told by Ched Evans in an Oct. 22 video statement posted on YouTube features two victims. First among these is his girlfriend Natasha, who nestles alongside him in the film and remains in the relationship despite the crime Evans committed in a Welsh hotel room in 2011 which he terms “my act of infidelity.” The second is Evans himself. The soccer player, released from prison last month, uses the video to deny the rape verdict that put him behind bars. “The acts I engaged in on that night were consensual in nature and not rape,” he says, pledging to “continue to fight to clear my name.”

There is, of course, another victim—the unnamed 19-year-old woman Evans assaulted. Since Evans left prison, heated debate around whether or not he should be allowed to return to work at his former club Sheffield United risks creating further victims still. “Jean Hatchet”—her name is a pseudonym—has been subjected to online abuse since starting a petition calling on Sheffield United to drop the player.

And on Nov. 14 police started an investigation after a Twitter troll posted a tweet about Jessica Ennis-Hill. The Sheffield-born athlete, who won gold in heptathlon for Britain in the London 2012 Olympics, has threatened to remove her name from a stand at the Sheffield United grounds if the club reinstates Evans. “Those in positions of influence should respect the role they play in young people’s lives and set a good example,” she said in a statement. “I hope [Evans] rapes her,” the troll responded.

Heat and hostility threaten to obscure the deeper questions at the heart of the discussion. Evans has served his time—or at any half of the five-year term originally meted out—and now seeks rehabilitation. Isn’t that the way the justice system is supposed to work? Evans seems to think so. “It is a rare and extraordinary privilege to be able to play professional football,” he says in his YouTube non-mea culpa. “Now that I’ve served the custodial part of my sentence of two-and-a-half years, it is my hope that I’ll be able to return to football. If that is possible, then I will do so with humility having learned a very painful lesson. I would like a second chance but I know not everyone would agree.”

That last point is undeniable. More than 163,000 people have signed Hatchet’s petition in support of her view that “to even consider reinstating [Evans] as a player at the same club is a deep insult to the woman who was raped and to all women like her who have suffered at the hands of a rapist.” Charlie Webster, a sports television presenter, lifelong fan of Sheffield United and patron of the club, resigned that after learning that the club had allowed Evans back to train. A victim of sexual abuse as a teenager, Webster has used her public profile to try to encourage other victims of sexual abuse to speak out. In her view Evans’s public profile means that he cannot simply be allowed to return to his old life. “We cheer him on as a role model and he’s influencing the next generation of young men who are currently making their decisions on how to treat women and what sexual mutual consent is,” she told the BBC.

Neither Sheffield United nor the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), the players’ union, accepts this view. Sheffield United issued a statement on Nov. 11 confirming that Evans was back in training, but denying any final decision about his future. “The club rejects the notion that society should seek to impose extrajudicial or post-term penalties on anyone,” the statement said loftily. “In a nation of laws, served by an elected parliament and duly constituted courts of law, there can be no place for ‘mob justice’. The club believes that the only penalties following from a conviction on any charge should be those set forth in law and deemed appropriate by a court of competent jurisdiction.”

PFA chief Gordon Taylor made a similar point in more demotic language: “I didn’t know there was a law that said once you come out of prison you still can’t do anything.”

Such discussions are hardly unique to English soccer. Across the Atlantic two prominent National Football League players are currently serving suspensions after admitting acts of violence. In September, the Baltimore Ravens dropped Ray Rice, already suspended by the NFL for hitting his then-fiancée, now wife, after publication of a second and more graphic video of the attack. Adrian Peterson, running back for the Minnesota Vikings, is waiting a decision on his status as a player after pleading no contest to one count of misdemeanor reckless assault for whipping his four-year-old son with a switch.

Sporting history is garnished with individuals who serve as role models not only in their chosen disciplines but through their life choices: philanthropists, activists and all-round good eggs such as Ennis-Hill. But the same history is also full of flawed heroes and monstrous egos and yet darker tales. A question largely ignored in the current discussions is why that might be. Is sport simply a microcosm of the world, for good and ill, or might the people who run sports bear a greater share of the responsibility?

Football teams—soccer and American football—recruit kids young and work the raw material to create winners, but not necessarily rounded human beings. Joey Barton, a soccer player who returned to the professional game after serving a jail sentence for assault and affray and now aims to be a manager, gave a revealing interview when he retired as a player in September.

“I used a lot of the dark energy to make myself a footballer,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “If I’d been a balanced person I’d never have been an elite-level sportsman. There were a lot of players more technically gifted than me but what I had was an ability to harness my anger at the world. I used anger like a fuel, a propellant, to turn in to performances.”

He argued that his flaws—and criminal record—should not rule him out as a role model. “I realized, wow, I can’t be a role model for the squeaky clean because I’m not squeaky clean. There are a lot of kids out there who feel disconnected, a bit lost. They relate to me.”

That, of course, is only a good thing if the lesson they draw from Barton is to learn from mistakes, or hopefully to avoid them in the first place, because such mistakes often take a toll not just on the person who commits them but on other people.

These are lessons team managements and sports bodies must do better in imparting to their rising stars. Their messaging must be clear and unequivocal. That is why many people believe Sheffield United should not reinstate Ched Evans.

Correction: The original version of this story mischaracterized the career of Joey Barton. He is currently a player with Queens Park Rangers.

TIME Soccer

Soccer Governing Body Wins World Cup for Chutzpah

FIFA President Sepp Blatter holding up the name of Qatar during the official announcement of the 2022 World Cup host country at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Dec. 2, 2010.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter holding up the name of Qatar during the official announcement of the 2022 World Cup host country at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Dec. 2, 2010. Philippe Desmazes—AFP/Getty Images

FIFA's announcement clearing the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding processes scores a series of spectacular own goals to clinch the title

Fans know football as “the beautiful game,” not just a sport but a metaphor in which—given a level playing field, clear rules (well, and this one) and an impartial referee—the best team wins. Ugly scenes sometimes mar the romantic vision, but players who commit fouls are duly punished.

It can often be hard to square this ideal with the off-pitch maneuvers of the bodies responsible for the sport but a Nov.13 statement by the ethics committee of FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the Zurich-based governing body of world soccer, took the World Cup for chutzpah. The statement purported to summarize the investigation commissioned by FIFA into numerous allegations of irregularities behind bid processes that decided Russia would host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar—where daytime temperatures during the summer months of the competition routinely exceed 40°C (104°F)—would stage the tournament in 2022. The announcement trumpeted findings that put Russia, Qatar—and FIFA—in the clear. England’s Football Association (FA), by coincidence one of the organizations to raise concerns about the bid processes, came in for criticism. The FA had tried to “curry favor” with a key official as part of its doomed efforts to win the 2018 competition for London, said the ethics committee statement.

FIFA welcomed “a degree of closure.” The FA rejected FIFA’s criticism. Social media erupted with a mixture of bemusement and contempt. “Is there any grouping of 3 words more certain to induce tears of laughter than FIFA Ethics Committee?” tweeted British journalist @BryanAppleyard. Gary Lineker, a former top soccer player-turned-NBC pundit, also took to Twitter to launch a series of well placed kicks against FIFA and its autocratic President Sepp Blatter.

Lineker may have captained the England team in an earlier life, but some of the angriest responses to Fifa came from people without a dog—or country—in this particular fight. The most startling emanated from Michael Garcia, the former New York district attorney mentioned in one of Lineker’s tweets, who conducted the two-year investigation on FIFA’s behalf. FIFA’s interpretation of his report “contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions,” Garcia complained in a statement of his own. He plans to appeal—as Lineker wrote—to FIFA.

Meanwhile Russia greeted news that its bid had been cleared with equanimity. It had failed to provided much documentation to the investigation because, said FIFA, “computers used at the time by the Russia Bid Committee had been leased and then returned to their owner after the bidding process,” without preserving the email correspondence on them. “We were always sure that they would not find anything unlawful,” Alexei Sorokin, head of Russia’s World Cup bid, told R-SPort news agency.

 

TIME england

How English Soccer Could Take a Page from American Football’s Playbook

Manager Chris Powell during a Huddersfield Town home game on Oct. 21, 2014 in Huddersfield, England.
Manager Chris Powell during a Huddersfield Town home game on Oct. 21, 2014 in Huddersfield, England. Gareth Copley—Getty Images

Advocates look to NFL to address racial disparity in coaching ranks

It’s not often that England’s football clubs look across the Atlantic for answers, but a new report suggests doing just that. Ethnic Minorities and Coaching in Elite-Level Football in England: A Call to Action, launched on Nov. 10, highlights a glaring whiteness in the upper echelons of management at England’s 92 professional football clubs. There are just two black or mixed race managers in English football, Chris Powell at Huddersfield and Keith Curle at Carlisle, and although as many as 30% of players come from minority ethnic backgrounds, only 3.4% of top coaches—13 of the 552 individuals employed running first teams, developing young talent and in other, similarly key roles—are non-white. The report holds up the National Football League’s Rooney Rule as a possible way to redress than imbalance.

The procedure—nothing to do with Manchester United and England player Wayne Rooney, but named after Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers who helped to formulate the rule and get the NFL to adopt it—requires all NFL teams to interview at least one black or minority ethnic candidate for any head coach and general manager vacancy. In 2003 when the rule came into force, only 6% of NFL head coaches were of black or minority ethnic heritage. Within three years, the proportion had risen to 22%. This has not been the only bonus, says Piara Powar, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), co-publisher of the report. “The research from the U.S. tells us that if you implement the Rooney Rule, which is in essence about putting capable and qualified people in front of the people doing the recruiting, that opens up the system even to capable white coaches who might be excluded.”

English football recruitment lacks transparency. Positions are rarely openly advertised and often work through existing contacts. Jason Roberts, a former elite footballer and founder of the Sports People’s Think Tank, joint publisher of the report with FARE, told the British Sunday newspaper, the Observer, that he believes this system allows racist assumptions to go unchallenged. “It starts when black players are characterized by their athletic ability. You will not hear a black player referred to in the same sentence as the words ‘intelligent’, or ‘technique’. It’s always power and pace. This narrative goes right the way through. We’ve seen it in the past – ‘black players are not good in the cold’, ‘not good at certain positions.’ You can see how the decision-makers look at it and say: ‘Well, he’s just not the type.’”

Other prominent non-white figures in English football have expressed skepticism that a Rooney Rule would work in the English context. The former England striker Les Ferdinand doubted that clubs would open up their interviewing process sufficiently. Carlisle’s Curle fears black candidates might be called in “just to tick a box.” Researchers, who spoke to Rooney and many other key figures in the NFL in compiling the report, did encounter similar worries in the U.S., says Powar, but overall the feedback was positive. “There are always suspicions that some people are being interviewed for the sake of it, that some franchises could do more, but in the end this one mechanism has led to a very clear change of the type we want to see here.”

FARE will be publishing more research later this year that surveys the situation across Europe. France and the Netherlands both do better than the U.K., says Powar, who has already seen some of the data. He argues that this represents “a bigger failure” by the English game because “English football is the wealthiest in the world; we have the biggest TV deals here; we have the most international league; the brands are bigger and they’re more well known across the rest of the world.”

Richard Bates of the anti-racism organization Kick It Out sees another problem in English football’s monotone appearance. There has been significant progress in combating racism on the playing field and in the stands, and in that respect “English football is certainly further ahead than a lot of countries on the Continent”. But, he says, the delay in mirroring the diversity of players and fans in football’s board rooms and back rooms risks undermining those advances. “The more diverse the game becomes off the pitch, the more aware people will become in terms of those who watch the game of the need to be fully inclusive.”

Bates argues that not only the football clubs but the governing bodies in English football, in particular the Football Association (FA), the Premier League and the Football League, need to spearhead the drive for better diversity. If so, these bodies should make a start by looking at themselves. Research undertaken for the report shows that a mere 1% of administrators in English football are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. In October 2013, Heather Rabbatts, simultaneously the only black and only female board member of the FA, made public a letter criticising her own organization after a commission it set up to look at ways of improving the performance of the England team in a spectacular own goal failed to include any black or female members.

England last lifted the World Cup in 1966. Rabbatts pointed out that Andros Townsend, a black player, had just helped England towards qualifying for the 2014 World Cup tournament in Brazil. “It is therefore particularly ironic that a commission to look at the national team has been formed with absolutely no representation from the black and ethnic minority communities, many of whom play such an important role at every level of our game.”

TIME U.K.

Far-Right U.K. Group Gets Millions of Hits and Expands Into the U.S.

Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First, speaks during a march in Rochester, England, Nov. 1, 2014.
Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First, speaks during a march in Rochester, England, Nov. 1, 2014. Guy Corbishley—Demotix/Corbis

It's a tiny, accident-prone extremist group. So why is Britain First reaching millions of social media users in the US and UK

Britain First should be too small and too slapstick to matter, and perhaps it is. The organization has fewer than 1,000 paid-up members according to the U.K. antifascist group Hope Not Hate. Its views lie so close to the outer-right edge of the political spectrum that Britain First’s co-founder and self-styled leader, Paul Golding, describes the U.K.’s governing Conservative party as “left wing.” Nevertheless he rejects a “far right” label. “We deal in right and wrong,” Golding says, and he and his deputy Jayda Fransen go on to prove the second half of that sentence during a lengthy conversation with TIME at a hotel in Dartford, southeast of London.

Yet the doll’s-sized political organization with an extra-large capacity for unintentional comedy has a surprisingly pervasive online presence. If you frequent Facebook, you may well have browsed material posted by Britain First. Perhaps you “liked” or shared Britain First’s posts. That would put you in broad and — if you do not subscribe to Britain First’s politics — befuddled company. Some 22.5 million Facebook users in the U.K. and 43.7 million in the U.S. interacted with Britain First last month. “Even my mother has posted stuff from Britain First on her Facebook page,” says Hope Not Hate’s Matthew Collins, who has written a research paper on the group.

Some of my friends have made the same mistake, liberals and feminists who would in other circumstances recoil from Britain First’s patented brew of Bible-quoting, fear-mongering, foam-flecked foreigner bating and probably wouldn’t be any happier to learn that the online savvy that snared them was honed in the service of U.S. anti-abortion campaigns. Several such friends were among the 273,979 Facebook users to repost a Britain First item earlier this year that purported to show “Muslim girls being lead [sic] off in chains to meet their new husbands”. It would have required only a minute or two on Google to establish that the image had been taken from a passion play staged to mark the Shi’ite festival of Ashura. Still, it’s hardly surprising that the social media platforms that Islamist jihadists are becoming increasingly expert at using to recruit and propagandize should also become the vehicle of an Islamophobic backlash. In both cases, the toxic messages are spread not only by their originators but by innocent dupes.

To understand how this works and to get a clear-eyed view of the nature and aims of Britain First, I asked Golding and Fransen for an interview. This took place on Oct. 31 and at first glance it would have been easy to mistake the pair for trick-or-treaters. They and their burly, shaven-headed bodyguard sport matching clothing from Britain First’s own range of leisure wear-cum-battle fatigues emblazoned with a lion, a union flag and the slogan “taking our country back.” Confusingly, it turns out that Britain First aims to take back more than one country. Golding is in the process of launching America First, a movement aiming to reclaim the U.S., undeterred by the fact he has never visited the U.S. or by the inconvenient fact that the U.S. already boasts a political party called America First, established in 2002 “to put America and all Americans first.” “We have no connection with Britain First and no one from that group has contacted me,” emails Jon Hill, national chairman of the American America First.

Britain First’s America First Facebook page went live on Nov. 3 and this is where any comedy starts to curdle. As of Nov. 6 the new page already had more than 6,000 likes. Its content is similar to the original Britain First site, an inchoate mix of patriotism, Christian imagery and repurposed content from other pages, much of it inviting clicks and shares: “Share if you’re a warrior for Christ”; “Like if you agree: We cannot forget our veterans”; “Clint Eastwood says ‘Obama is a fraud’. Do you agree?”

Well known figures often appear on Britain First’s Facebook page—Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, the Queen. It’s safe to assume Her Majesty’s endorsement hasn’t been sought. A post featuring the British comic actor Rowan Atkinson—best known as the bumbling “Mr Bean”—carries a quotation from a speech he made to the House of Lords in 2005, in opposition to a badly drawn piece of proposed legislation that risked criminalizing mockery of religions. “What is wrong with encouraging intense dislike of a religion? Why shouldn’t you do that, if the beliefs of that religion or the activities perpetrated in its name deserve to be intensely disliked?” Atkinson asked. Of the nearly 5,000 people who “liked” the post, at least some will have assumed Atkinson’s words to be directed against Islam.

Britain First posts frequently on Facebook and its own website, often with a spin on breaking news and a good sense of what may go viral. Hope Not Hate’s Collins ascribes slickness of the operation to Britain First co-founder Jim Dowson, a Briton with marketing skills polished during time spent promoting U.S. anti-abortion groups and also helping to build up the British National Party, a predecessor to Britain First that at its 2009 peak attracted almost a million votes in the European elections. Dowson quit Britain First in July but Golding and his group continue to carry out the online model he established.

There’s little apart from bad punctuation to indicate the gulf between that online presence and the real-world reality: that Britain First are the accident-prone Mr. and Mrs. Beans of the U.K.’s radical political fringes. When the broadcaster Channel 4 shadowed the group, the Britain First Land Rover, theatrically decked in military camouflage, took too speedy a turn into a car park, snapping off the barrier.

Paul Golding, leader of Britain First seen during a march in Rochester, England, Nov. 1, 2014. Guy Corbishley—Demotix/Corbis

Democratic politics both sides of the Atlantic is “a big, giant, meaningless circus” in Golding’s phrase, yet Fransen is standing as Britain First’s candidate in a U.K. Nov. 20 parliamentary by-election caused by the defection of a sitting MP—the appropriately named Mark Reckless—from the Conservative party to the euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party, UKIP. Fransen’s message to voters is not what you might expect. “Vote for UKIP,” she says, “because we fully support them.”

If UKIP is queasy about that support—characterizing a photograph of one of its campaigners posing chummily with Fransen as an “ambush”—that’s not surprising. Britain First translates the anti-immigrant rhetoric of UKIP into direct and unpleasant action, participating in so-called “Christian patrols” through areas with significant Muslim populations and staging “mosque invasions.” In May, Golding and four companions barged into the East London Mosque, trampling across prayer mats in their street shoes and demanding to see the imam. “They left in a hurry because there was a traffic warden,” says Salman Farsi, who witnessed the incursion. “He’d pulled up outside to their car and was about to issue a ticket.”

That may seem pretty funny but, says Farsi, “the community is fearful of individuals like this.” Collins suggests the greater risk comes not from Britain First but the responses the group may provoke: “I think they are very very dangerous. Not in the way they would probably like me to say but they are capable of causing a reaction from the people they’re harassing, which would totally outstrip what Britain First is doing.” In May, Britain First surrounded the home of a controversial preacher Anjem Choudary, the former British head of the now banned Islamist group al-Muhajiroun. The British authorities evacuated Choudary and his family. Collins worries that Britain First, far from containing radical Islam, “is acting as a catalyst and recruiting agent for these people.”

The brutal murder in 2013 of off-duty soldier Lee Rigby in London by two assailants, one with links to al-Muhajiroun, certainly helped to kindle the sorts of fears and prejudices towards Muslims that Britain First seeks to exploit. Rigby’s family complained after Britain First co-opted Rigby’s name during the May 2014 European elections, registering the slogan “Remember Lee Rigby.” The U.K. Electoral Commission apologized.

Towards the end of TIME’s conversation with Golding and Fransen, a man who has come to the hotel to use the gym facilities recognizes the Britain First leadership. “What do you stand for?” he asks. “We’re pro-British, we don’t like political correctness, we want our own people put first in our own country, we don’t want mass immigration,” summarizes Golding.

“Does that mean immigrants have to leave then? My wife’s Jamaican,” says the man, kicking off a discussion that becomes increasingly heated. Golding calls his interlocutor “you donut” at one point; the Britain First bodyguard moves to stand menacingly behind the newcomer. The real flashpoint comes when Fransen asserts that immigrants have been given housing that should have gone to ex-servicemen. “I’m an ex-serviceman, don’t talk to me about ex-servicemen. Please do not talk to me about ex servicemen,” says the man who later identifies himself as Geoff (he declines to give his surname), a former paratrooper.

“We’ll talk to you about whatever we want sir, frankly. We’ll talk to you about anything we damn want,” replies Golding, but he’s obviously rattled.

Face-to-face Britain First has no arguments that stand up to Geoff or to other voices of reason. In the online space, the voices of reason are easily drowned out in a flurry of ill-judged “likes” and shares. Always think before you click.

Read next: Russell Brand Joins Thousands in ‘Anonymous’ Protests in London

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