Organised sport and religion are the two ways that communities most frequently come together; and particularly so during the Christmas season. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, families and friends gather at their local church for the Nativity and the service at the crib. On Boxing Day, people flock to sporting events such as the serious Folkestone versus Hythe league football match, the fun Marrieds versus Singles game at Folkestone rugby club, and the traditional meeting of the East Kent hunt in the village square at Elham. Whilst Boxing Day sport might be seen as a good way of getting some fresh air and a bit of exercise, after the celebrations of Christmas Day, it also brings people together.
We live in a nation whose institutions have been founded by the guiding principles of the Christian faith, but also one where the values of good sportsmanship; like personal courage and respect for others; are seen as a model for daily life. How appropriate it was that the informal Christmas truce between British and German soldiers in the First World War, exactly one hundred years ago, was marked with a game of football. Appropriate too, that by all account the Germans just edged the game 3-2; at least it didn't go to penalties.
I believe that by standing up for local sports we are supporting the strength of our community. It is also one of the reasons that I have taken such a tough position on dealing with allegations of corruption around leading sporting organisations like FIFA. It is harder to instil the values of sport in our young people, if those who run the game around the world are constantly mired in allegations of corruption. The money in football today is considerable, but comes from the people around the world who pay to watch it being played, either on television or live at a stadium. It rightly angers us when we see this wealth being used to try to buy the support of football administrators on decisions like where the Word Cup finals are played. In 2015 there is the chance for new leadership at FIFA and with it the opportunity to clean out its rotten internal culture; I hope this is seized with both hands.
The festive season is also the busiest time of the year for our postal services. Last week I visited the Royal Mail sorting offices in Folkestone, Hythe and New Romney to thank everyone for all of their hard work over the Christmas period. They all reported that volumes of post were higher than last year, and in particular the number of parcels from internet shopping through companies like Amazon. However, our postmen and women are making sure that everything goes out on time.
Last Friday I joined the many hundreds of mourners at St Leonard’s church in Hythe, for the funeral of the former Town Mayor Keren Belcourt. She was given a fine send off from the great many people whose lives she touched. Our thoughts are particularly with her family this Christmas, and with everyone who has recently lost a loved one.