Council leader’s World Cup gamble

IT’S a bit of a World Cup gamble for council leader Georgia Gould tomorrow night. She has personally played a big role in ordering two giant screens to show England’s semi-final match with Croatia in Talacre Gardens and Russell Square, tapping into the feverish spirit that some people are feeling about England’s chances in Russia.

Camden hasn’t said how much its football parties will cost and whether booze will be allowed – we’ve asked – but the online reaction has generally been positive since the New Journal revealed the plan earlier. ‘I love you Camden Council’, said one tweet. This is set against some local authorities dithering about to handle requests for public viewing areas. Meanwhile, the sold out showing of The Wizard of Oz on the privately-managed jumbo screen in King’s Cross at the same time as the match has raised some eyebrows.

Cllr Gould’s move here is both an opportunity and a risk, because as each victory follows another, the celebrations in the streets of London have turned more raucous. On Saturday, an IKEA collection point in Stratford was invaded by football fans leaving the shop assistants looking bewildered (IKEA, because England had beaten Sweden). An ambulance was broken, so was a bus windscreen and a few shelters.

In Camden Town, the most exuberant did little physical damage to the surroundings, but risked their own well-being by dancing in front of cars hoping for a beep-beep salute and, in at least two cases, made carefree leaps into the canal waters. In some cases, you wonder whether social media metrics are fuelling the wild celebrations as much as the goals; how many likes did your roar get etc? The backflip off Camden Lock bridge, dangerous as it is, is winning so far.

The council leader, a big, big football fan despite supporting QPR, views the slightly rougher behaviour as a ‘tiny minority’ of people going too far – but as a whole she sees the city watching and celebrating football together as a unifying force. You don’t need any money or a ticket to turn up.

Camden police made no football-related arrests at the weekend. Cllr Gould must, however, hope for the same tomorrow night after inviting hundreds, if not thousands, to the parks on a ticket-free basis. She has set up a pretty unique event here, a positive, community-minded one, but doesn’t want to be known as the council leader who arranged her own riot.

Russell Square is particularly high profile should things get naughty. In Talacre, an England victory would help calm any irritated neighbours of the gardens, who will only have learned that the screens were being erected this afternoon.

We’ve seen how dizzy it can get in the streets when England win. Let’s hope we don’t see what happens if England lose.

* Tomorrow evening’s scheduled licensing committee meeting, which was due to start at 7pm, has been ‘cancelled as there were no items of business’, according to the council 
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