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Who are the Football Lads’ Alliance?

There seems to have been little media (either social or mainstream) coverage of the Football Lads’ Alliance, but apparently their march in London today attracted a very large turnout. Judging from the pictures I have seen ‘lads’ means just that – I spotted very few women in the crowd of marchers.

The group was apparently formed in response to the terrorist attacks in the UK. Here’s some more background.

The FLA is non-political, and the founder John Meighan says “the FLA aims to raise key issues about extremism and terrorist attacks. Law abiding people here and in Europe have had enough and we needed a way to show that extremism is a threat to our society and is only getting worse.”

EDL Mark 2? one tweeter asked today.  The EDL, and many similar groups across Europe, have sought to distance themselves from a charge of racism, and FLA of course do the same. They have links with veterans’ groups and are very positive about the Gurkhas.

The FLA is inclusive of people of all faiths and colour, is not racist and does discriminate in any way, shape or form.

They also flag their opposition to all forms of extremism:

“When the FLA states all forms of extremism, we mean all forms of extremism, which includes terror attacks on our communities, far left extremism/far right extremism.

“Extremism breeds extremism, and as a whole is intolerable, and a threat to society.

Although in practice Islamist terrorism is a key focus for FLA, I noticed a prominent banner with the message ‘Justice for the 21′, a reference to the Birmingham pub bombings. And their observation that ‘extremism breeds extremism’ indicates an awareness of the way the far right and Islamists feeds off each other and a wish to distance themselves from that vicious cycle.

UAF and Stand Up to Racism have quite a bit to say about FLA; however it’s interesting to note that Hope Not Hate seem to be keeping quiet on the issue.  Presumably this means they feel that the FLA, while probably not a group they find at all congenial, should not be on their radar.  This is also interesting, from what seems to be quite a mainstream antifascist account:

[Edit: 'Far Right Watch' has in fact modified their view of FLA since that tweet, and now sees more evidence (both on social media and the ground) that they are attracting EDL and Britain First type followers.]

It’s also worth noting that their twitter account has only mentioned Islam on five occasions, always within a context of rejecting a special focus on Islam.

I’ve found it difficult to evaluate this group – I don’t want to gloss over any problems with them but I don’t think it’s helpful to exaggerate these.

Given its position on the spectrum I suspect it might be counterproductive for anti-fascists to make FLA a focus for their campaigning. Such a move might just lead to still further divisive polarisation on these issues.