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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 September 2007, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
A respectful round of... applause?
By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine

Everton players
Rhys Jones was an Everton fan
The minute's silence for those who have recently died is being replaced by 60 seconds of enthusiastic clapping.

A dignified silence used to be how people paid their respects to the dead in public. But when athletes at the Great Yorkshire Run on Sunday commemorated fundraiser Jane Tomlinson with a minute's applause, they were sharing in an increasingly popular ritual.

The tribute to Tomlinson, who had raised more than a million pounds for charity through running, comes days after moving scenes at Goodison Park, where 33,000 football fans rose to their feet to applaud 11-year-old Rhys Jones. The schoolboy, an Everton fan, had died after being shot in a car park.

In the last few months such applause has also been forthcoming for England World Cup hero Alan Ball and 18-year-old QPR striker Ray Jones, who was killed in a car crash.

Perhaps as a sign of the uncertainty people feel about how best to pay their respects these days, when cricketing giant Fred Trueman dies last year he was granted a minute's silence and a minute's applause.


For years a minute's silence has been the traditional way to show respect, but it is increasingly being replaced by applause in sporting arenas.

It's hard to pinpoint when it started to be adopted in the UK but it is only in the last few years, says Guardian sports writer Richard Williams.

One of the first noticeable times it was used was when footballing legend George Best died in 2005. Crowds in stadiums around the country paid homage to him by clapping for a minute.

Jane Tomlinson
Applause 'celebrated' Jane's life
"I think it's a good idea when the person is someone whose achievements were accompanied by the cheers of vast crowds," says Williams.

"For people like George Best applause will always seem far more appropriate than silence."

While it is a recent phenomenon in this country, it has been the conventional way of saluting recently deceased sports men and women in Italy for years.

"It's a long established tradition for the Italians," says Williams. "But it is specific to sports and not common at other large gatherings. They would not applaud in a church."

Organisers of the Great Yorkshire Run say they wanted to celebrate Jane's life and achievements and decided applause was the most appropriate way to do that.

In football it is something that appears to have grown from the terraces, rather than from officials. The Premier League says it has no official line on how football clubs should pay their respects.

"It is down to each individual club," says a spokesman. "Often applause is an impromptu reaction from the crowds and not something that's premeditated."

The other main factor in the growing popularity of a minute's applause is that it cannot be spoilt.


"Applause is impregnable," says Williams. "Often when there was a minute's silence at a football match there would be one idiot who would spoil it."

It is also more practical. "If you have thousands of runners at a start line it is really hard to get silence," says a spokesman for the Great Yorkshire Run."

But applause is now starting to be used as a mark of respect outside the sporting arena. School friends of Rhys marked the first day of the new term at his former primary school with a minute's applause in the playground.

Some regret the passing of the dignified tradition of a minute's silence in any area of life. At the time of George Best's death broadcaster Nicky Campbell wrote that applause was "no substitute" for the sound of silence.

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