Football star hushed when talking about his faith at press conference
From The Guardian. Just as New Labour didn't do God, until Gordon Brown discovered the value of his family connections, neither, it turns out, do the FA. Mark Whittle, the FA's head of media relations, stopped Wayne Rooney talking about his cross, rosary and Catholic faith in a press briefing, with the calculated Campbellism, "We don't do religion".
The perils of mixing sport and religion are not immediately obvious. A political party might lose support if voters fear an overly religious leader will be told by God to invade a foreign country. But if Rooney talks about his Catholic faith and associated jewellery, are England really likely to lose support out of fear that the Holy Spirit will persuade him to bring down Slovenia's Robert Koren in the penalty area? It seems a somewhat unnecessary precaution.
In the same way, you can understand politicians worrying that banging on about their faith might alienate those of a different persuasion. But what are the chances that the chanting of England supporters will suddenly sag when Rooney gets the ball, as Protestants and humanists recall his comments about the Blessed Virgin and tut sadly? Relatively small, I should have thought, outside Glasgow.
Mark Whittle's intervention could just be a bit of random weirdness. It could be an attempt to follow Alastair Campbell into the quotation books, though if so a misguided one, as quotable sayings are rarely just other quotable sayings slightly rephrased.
Maybe it's evidence of a kind of unreasoning phobia of religion in British public life, but then that seems hard to reconcile with the fact that, apart from politicians, everyone goes on about it all the time.
So let me suggest an alternative crackpot theory. Could it be that the FA's unhappiness about its stars endorsing Christianity comes from a sense of rivalry?