On Sunday I tuned in to the football, hoping to see England beat Italy in the final of Euro 2020 and win their first major tournament in 55 years.
Unfortunately, it was not to be…
Despite a fantastic performance by the England squad, Italy managed to match us and edged through to lift the trophy via penalties. Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, three of England’s youngest players, showed immense courage in stepping up to take penalties, and should feel nothing but pride for representing their country so well. The whole team should hold their heads up high - as the Prime Minister said “They made history. They lifted our spirits – and they brought joy to this country.” With so many highly-talented young players like them, the future looks very bright for the England Team – bring on the World Cup next year!
It has been fantastic to see the country get behind the team so enthusiastically and showing their pride in the team’s performances. Sadly, whilst this is true for most of the country, a small minority of people subjected members of the England team to completely unacceptable racist abuse online. For many footballers and athletes, representing their country is a dream, something they’ve worked hard for their whole lives – and it is appalling that they should achieve this dream, only for it to be tainted by racist trolls on social media. Thankfully, these trolls are in a significant minority.
On Wednesday, I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister say that the football banning order is to be changed so that online racists will be banned from attending games. This is absolutely the right thing to do, people who racially abuse players should not be allowed to attend matches.
Further to this, the Government is addressing online abuse via the Online Harms Bill - which could see social media companies fined 10% of their global revenues if they don’t remove hate and racism from their platforms.
We must do everything we can to tackle online abuse and racism, and I am pleased the Government is looking at clear and pragmatic steps to achieve this.
On Monday, Stage 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown begins – something I know many have been looking forward to, me included.
The rule changes mean that from Monday, restrictions on how many people can meet in any setting will be removed; nightclubs will re-open, and large events like music concerts and sporting events can resume without attendance limits; all restrictions on life events such as weddings, funerals, bar/bat mitzvahs and baptisms will be removed; the Government will no longer instruct people to work from home; social distancing rules will be lifted, and the legal requirement to wear a face covering will be lifted in all settings.
While the easing of restrictions is exciting, we must still exercise some caution. Unfortunately, we can’t immediately revert to life as it was before Covid and we must continue to carefully consider the risks of close contact with others, particularly if you’re clinically extremely vulnerable or not yet fully vaccinated. The Government has also said it expects and recommends that you wear a face mask if you are coming into contact with people you don’t normally meet in crowded, indoor areas like public transport.
I am pleased that we will shortly see the end of these difficult, but necessary, restrictions.