The English Defence League is being thanked for bringing Friday night football forward, and it has been suggested that in doing so they may be giving Manchester United's Champions League campaign a helpful kick forward.
United's Premier League match against Aston Villa was moved to Friday at the request of police because the EDL is hosting a march in Walsall on Saturday, protesting against the town becoming a "hotbed for Islamic terrorism" and inaction over Muslim "child abuse gangs".
In March a report revealed that almost 500 children across the West Midlands were victims of, or vulnerable to, sexual exploitation in the first half of last year. It found some children were trafficked by gangs and often passed between offenders and that a "disproportionate" number of men from Asian Pakistani backgrounds were suspected of being involved.
The re-scheduling, it has been suggested, means United will have an extra day to recover before their Champions League play-off first-leg against Club Brugge on Tuesday, boosting their chances of victory.
The match was originally billed as Sky’s Saturday Night Football 5.30pm fixture. Because United are also playing on Tuesday, the game could not have been put off until Sunday. There are no other Friday night fixtures this season but 10 are scheduled for the 2016-2017 season.
A Premier League statement said: “A Saturday 5.30pm kick-off was initially suggested for this match and West Midlands police confirmed that, under normal circumstances, that would be acceptable.
“However, due to a planned English Defence League march that will take place in the region on Saturday 15 August, and will require police resource, they requested that the Premier League consider avoiding scheduling the match on that date. Manchester United’s participation in the Champions League, and a potential European match the following Tuesday, means that a Sunday slot could not be scheduled with any certainty.”
@Whitton_8 I got a bit excited too - probably the only positive to come from an EDL march ever!— Mindsport Consulting (@Mindsport_Ltd) August 14, 2015
EDL have joined Sky and Bt in dictating when matches are played 😂 Bet them cartoons that went to the future didn't picture 2015 like this— Jamie (@jamie95mufc) August 14, 2015
@PeteOfTheNorth EDL should be blamed for a lot but football kick-off not top of my list!— Anthony J My (@ajmy) August 14, 2015
About 200 EDL supporters are expected to take part in the march while at the same time local community groups are reportedly going to stage a celebration of diversity outside St Paul's church.
An EDL March in Walsall in September 2012 resulted in 30 arrests.
The Birmingham Mail quotes West Midlands Police as saying it will be "business as usual" in the town on Saturday, with EDL members assuring them of a peaceful protest.
Chief Insp Martin Hurcomb, of Walsall Police, told the newspaper that a lot had changed since 2012 and police now had much better links with protest groups, "negotiations have really matured".
However, he added: “Make no mistake that if we do witness any incidents of violence we will act swiftly to nip it in the bud and push for prosecutions against offenders."
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West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said that Walsall was a "diverse borough in which people from different backgrounds and cultures get on and work together".
He added: “In the West Midlands we respect the values of each other and the right that we all have to worship freely in whichever way we chose."
According to an EDL media briefing about the march, Walsall has become a "hotbed for Islamic terrorism" and the protest is against "official cover-ups of child abuse" by Muslims, and the Muslim community's "inaction about the abuse".
The group also claim there are a growing number of "Muslim-only no-go areas" in the town.
The briefing ends by saying the EDL "refuse to resort to racism". Shortly before the statement claims Islam "could be the fountainhead of rape gangs, misogyny, violent jihad, the London bombings, intolerance and killing homosexuals and apostates".Suggest a correction