Minute's silence for Margaret Thatcher: Hillsborough group says tribute would be 'insult to fans'; former sports minister warns silence would backfire; Saracens and Exeter to mark death of former Prime Minister

Football clubs will not mark the death of the former Prime Minister

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The Independent Football

The decision by the Premier League and Football League to not formally ask clubs to mark the death of Baroness Thatcher is receiving overwhelming support, including from the Hillsborough Family Support Group.

There had been suggestions that a minute's silence could be held around football grounds for the former Prime Minister, who died on Monday, although such a move has been rejected by the Premier League and Football League.

The weekend's FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley, which come under the jurisdiction of the Football Association, will not make any reference to Thatcher either, it has been confirmed.

However, Aviva Premiership rugby sides Saracens and Exeter have announced they will hold a minute of silence before their games this weekend.

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The decisions from the football authorities have been supported by the Hillsborough Family Support Group who have said any silence in honour of Thatcher would be "a disgrace and an insult to all fans".

Margaret Aspinall, chair of the HFSG, spoke out amid growing pressure for some sort of mark of respect during this weekend's games. The Football Supporters' Federation has also voiced its agreement with the stance taken by the football authorities.

"The FSF backs the decision made by the football authorities not to impose a minute's silence across all fixtures this weekend to mark the death of Margaret Thatcher," read the statement.

"Should individual clubs wish to hold a minute's silence or commemorate the passing of Margaret Thatcher in their own manner that is a matter for them."

Reading are due to hold a minute's silence ahead of their game against Liverpool at the Madejski stadium on Saturday, however this will be a mark of remembrance for the 96 fans who died at the Hillsborough disaster. The 24th anniversary of the tragedy is on April 15.

Hillsborough also featured in the FSF statement, which added: "We would expect that most fans' thoughts this weekend will turn to the friends and families of those 96 fellow supporters who lost their lives at Hillsborough 24 years ago."

A statement on the club's website confirmed: "Supporters of Reading Football Club and Liverpool Football Club will hold a minute's silence before Saturday's fixture at Madejski Stadium as a mark of respect for the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

Reading's statement read: "With the game falling two days before the 24th anniversary of the tragedy, plans began last week for a fitting tribute to the 96 supporters who lost their lives. The Royals contacted Liverpool FC; spoke to the Premier League and they of course agreed it was absolutely correct to pay respect on such an occasion."

Madejski had earlier heralded Thatcher's achievements and spoke in favour of making a gesture on behalf of the football world.

"We have got to appreciate that Margaret Thatcher was a world leader who did so much for this country. So much that she deserves a minute's silence," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"The funeral's going to take place at St Paul's (Cathedral), attended by the Queen and Prince Philip, so I think it would be a fitting tribute from the world of football to Margaret Thatcher, one of our greatest leaders."

The likelihood of Liverpool fans, hardly Thatcher's greatest supporters as a group, observing such a moment appeared remote, but Madejski argued in favour of respect.

Reflecting on the possibility of a silence being spoiled by dissenting factions, Madejski added: "Obviously I can appreciate that perhaps some people won't pay attention to it, which is sometimes the way at football, but I just think she was such a colossus in terms of the world stage that she deserves that respect from the whole nation.

"No colossus like that strides the world's stage without disenfranchising people at some stage or another, however the positive things that Margaret Thatcher achieved for our country speaks volumes and I think that outshines things that might not be considered so brilliant like the poll tax and so on."

Former sports minister Richard Caborn said Thatcher had "not been forgiven" in many communities and that any attempt to hold a minute's silence at football matches would backfire.

Caborn is quoted as saying: "In many places, especially in the north, Margaret Thatcher has not been forgiven for what she did to industry, to the miners and their communities which suffered immensely under her.

"To then ask for a minute's silence at a game of football is the wrong thing to do.

"I think the FA and Premier League have acted pragmatically and correctly.

"It's a pragmatic decision they could not control the fans if they decided not to respect the minute's silence, as would almost certainly happen at some grounds."

Aviva Premiership rugby club Saracens have announced they will hold a minute of silence to "respect the memory of Baroness Thatcher" ahead of their game against Worcester at Allianz Park on Sunday. Exeter Chiefs will also hold a minute's silence ahead of their game against London Irish.

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