Ten’s To See: ‘Shut Up And Stick To Football’ At The Bomb Factory

This weekend, the 2024 edition of the UEFA European Championships, or Euros, will kick off in Germany, meaning that across the British capital, football fever is spreading quick. While the championship tournament won’t actually land in the Big Smoke, London-based art foundation, The Bomb Factory, is tapping into the bubbling anticipation by demanding the public to confront the interplay between football and politics. Opening tomorrow, Shut up and Stick to Football is the gallery’s new exhibition holding a mirror up to football fans across the political spectrum through the curation of paintings, sculptures and installations created by 11 different artists and collectives. Featuring the work of seasoned artists like the Turner Prize-winning Mark Wallinger and contemporary creatives such as multi-media artist Dion Kitson and cartoonist Janette Parris, it’s set to be a good ‘un. 

In June 2021, the England men’s team was booed for taking the knee before a match as a gesture of solidarity against police brutality and systemic racism following the murder of George Floyd. This generated debate around whether or not footballers should involve themselves in politics on the pitch. The consensus among many right-wing politicians and commentators was that they should “shut up and stick to football”, declaring that sport and politics don’t mix. Following the 2020 Euros final at Wembley Stadium, Black England players Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were subject to an onslaught of racist abuse after they missed penalties in the shoot-out.

In the ’20s, the Football Association (FA) – English football’s governing body – instated a ban on professional women’s football and in the years that followed, the world bore witness to incessant sexism against women players and teams. During the FIFA World Cup in 2022, there was vast criticism of the Qatari government’s alleged human rights violations as it banned the use of LGBTQIA+ symbolism and mistreated migrant workers and women. As long as the ‘beautiful game’ has been around, there have been damning reports of racism amongst fans in the stands. “Sports is always to do with politics. Sports is part of our society. And the society is political,” says Ewald Lienen, technical director of FC St. Pauli. 

Plainly, the politics that flare up around football is not a new phenomenon. For years the sport has bore witness to nationalism, racism and violence. With Shut Up and Stick To Football, The Bomb Factory is insisting that football is indeed political, as is everything. To quote Gloria Steinem, “Everything is political.” Exploring this through satirical lens and and an open criticism of the sport’s problematic culture, the exhibition intends to stimulate conversation amongst the British public.

Curated by London-based group Wankers of the World – a “global network of professional wank spotters, spotting wankers and calling them out for what they are…..wankers!” – whose satirical work consists of false tabloids calling out public figures, especially Conservative politicians, for their discrepancies, the exhibition features works by painter Connor Rogers, who illustrates everyday life in Britain while exploring cultural identities, class inequality and stereotypes within the UK. You’ll also be able to see works by Sarabande resident Emmely Elgersma, Dominic Allan (AKA Dominic from Luton) and Ed Gray, as well as satire savant Darren Cullen, the ever-elusive Foka Wolf and Jamie Holman.

Photography courtesy of The Bomb Factory. Catch ‘Shut Up And Stick To Football’ between June 14 – July 14 at The Bomb Factory in its Covent Garden exhibition space, 99-103 Long Acre, WC2E 9NR. Discover the display here. 


Shopping cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping