Remain or Leave - EU or Euros 2016?

22/06/2016 11:41 | Updated 22 June 2016

As a "majority female", I must confess I'm not into football and haven't been following the Euros tournament in France, but day by day it's been linked to something I am very interested in - the EU referendum campaign and the outcome of Thursday's vote.

I was first drawn into the coupling of the two events by the cover of Private Eye as I passed my local newsagents last week. "England Backs Brexit " was the headline above a picture of the England team on the steps of a plane about to fly off to France accompanied by a speech bubble saying "We'll be out of Europe in no time!" So far so good - they'll still be in the competition after the Brexit vote, the nascent football fan in me thought.

Typical Private Eye I thought, but then I realized there is a connection between the two events - I even briefly wondered whether David Cameron deliberately decided to stage the vote during the tournament. After all, the press refer to the England team's qualifying "campaign" just like the Remain and Leave "campaigns".

An after work drink at a Wetherspoons in central London last week compounded the connection. There's no escape from the referendum for football fans cheering on the home nations at any one of the 900 odd JD Wetherspoons pubs across the country, which have been flooded by 200,000 beer mats pressing the Brexit case and signed by its founder and chairman Tim Martin.

The pub was also littered - literally - with a Wetherspoons News EU Referendum Special magazine spouting the views of the most prominent Remain and Leave supporters, albeit not particularly balanced; of 15 pages, 12 are pro-leave, including the first two pages by Mr Martin, and one (this is not a joke) by the deceased Labour MP Tony Benn! Martin has form on this issue - some years ago his pubs were bombarded with beer mats raging against the Euro (the single currency, that is, not the tournament, "fellow" females).

Somehow, I don't think the footie fans crowding the Wetherspoons pubs to follow England - and Wales and Northern Ireland - were that interested, even, dare I say, aware of the names on the beer mats, including Christine Lagarde and Mark Carney, George Osborne's "cronies ", according to Tim Martin, or references to the IMF and OECD. And during my visit I didn't see a single person in the pub reading the EU Referendum Special.

Football fans headed to France on Ryanair couldn't escape the referendum either with the some of the Irish budget airline's planes plastered with pro-EU stickers on their fuselages. And the stay-at-home Ryanair customers got e-mails offering flights booked before the June 23 vote at £19.99 accompanied by a request by the boss Michael O'Leary to put their cross in the Remain box.

That got me thinking (alright, googling), and I discovered that the dominant vote fishing theme of the Brexit Boys (immigration) is probably more of an issue for the Premier League than almost any other industry, with two thirds of its players (more than 450) coming from abroad, mainly Europe and some playing in the Euros, possibly against England before they return to the Premier League next season to be cheered by the same England fans!

Currently anyone with an EU passport can play in the UK but those who do not have one, say from South America, must meet very stringent Home Office requirements. So European footballers in the Premier League are migrants (albeit multi-millionaires) just like Poles working on Lincolnshire farms and Bulgarians washing cars in supermarket car parks.

Then as I lay in bed listening to Radio 5, I heard the chairman of the Premier League Richard Scudamore, supporting the Remain campaign and saying he has the backing off all its twenty clubs.

This single market freedom of labour, that allows European footie stars to play in the Premier League, irks Sol Campbell, the former England player. "If we want to see more English stars like Harry Kane rise through the ranks, we should take back control and leave," he said. Campbell is not, however, a typical ex-England player, having unsuccessfully bid to be the Conservative London mayoral candidate.

I must admit I knew nothing about Campbell until I googled, but a footballer I had heard of - David Beckham - came out in support of the Remain camp saying the country should be "facing the problems of the world together and not alone." From a football angle I think this is: Beckham 10 - Campbell 1.

I think that's enough googling. I think I might actually go to my first football match when the season begins. And guess what? I've discovered my local team is... Millwall!