In a freezing and windswept Halifax, on the evening of Saturday the 21st of October i stood braced against the horizontal rain of storm Brian, surrounded by the majesty of the newly restored Piece Hall. I had two things on my mind, firstly why does Halifax have no cash points and secondly just how fitting the atmosphere was for the events due to occur that night.
I was in Halifax to witness and be a signatory to a brilliant initiative to bring together the people of our historic and vast county, the official formation of YIFA and the Yorkshire representative football team. By some quirk of fate Yorkshire is internationally recognised as the birthplace of Association Football and for many decades had a schoolboy representative team but somehow has never managed to bring together the entire county at senior level. There have been attempts before, notably in 1924 and again in 1935, though these eventually became playthings of the West Riding County Football Association and latterly was dubbed simply ‘West Yorkshire’ despite having players from Sheffield United called up. However, this is the first time that the region has been formally brought together as one, under the leadership of YIFA. In my opinion this is important for a number of reasons.
At a time when ‘brand Yorkshire’ is ever growing on the world stage, with the successes of companies such as Yorkshire Tea and sporting events such as the Tour de Yorkshire our region is re-establishing our collective might. In recent years it has become a bit of a tongue-in-cheek joke, on BBC sports coverage of international events such as the Olympics, to point out where Yorkshire would be on the medal table (always highly placed). As i type this my phone has just vibrated to let me know that sport mad Harry Gration of BBC Look North has just Tweeted me to let me know his opinion on the newly launched Yorkshire football shirt. “Love it.”
In other sports, cricket being a prime example, Yorkshire has a representative team that is established on the national stage. Simply put, Yorkshire has a sporting pedigree that binds together far flung areas of the county in a way that those in favour of a ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution deal can point to as proof of our shared regional identity. We may all follow different clubs and teams but we are all Yorkshire too. And this is no storm in a teacup, there is real interest in what YIFA are trying to do, big things are planned. One worry i held personally was that people would see YIFA as an forerunner to a claim for independence for Yorkshire, Chairman Phil Hegarty made it clear this is not the case. YIFA is seeking to affiliate a senior team with the CONIFA organisation, who support representatives of international football teams from nations, de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples and sports isolated territories. Without a doubt Yorkshire has a clearly defined history, regional dialects, defined borders (not withstanding modern changes to those borders), a distinct flag and now a representative football team. As an executive member of the Yorkshire Party i can firmly state that the party fully endorses and supports YIFA.
Next up, i hope, is a regional assembly or parliament for the whole of Yorkshire…