Sunday, November 19, 2006


Don't blame the fans...

First it was Roy Keane and his famous quote about the prawn sandwich brigade at Old Trafford impacting the atmosphere. More recently Jose Mourinho has had a whinge about the vocal support down the King’s Road and now Thierry Henry has added his twopennyworth.

Anyone who knows anything about football, sorry I’m not talking about the TV pundits here, will agree with Keano, the Special One and TH14. The atmosphere that once made our football so special is being watered down as those who run the game seek to forever sanitize our game and repackage it to a new breed of fan attracted by fine dining and comfy seats. Last Saturday against Liverpool there were many empty seats in the closing minutes as the new breed fan, gorged on bagels, headed for home before the rabble so much so any latecomers flicking through the channels would never believe some 60,000 fans had moments earlier been watching the game.

Football sold its soul years back. It eagerly accepted all seater stadia, SKY TV and ‘alternative revenue streams’ as it saw an opportunity to replace the working class, loyal but prone to misbehave working class support with a more discerning type who wanted more comfort, warmer pies and theatre type seating.

Perhaps instead of complaining to the fans about the atmosphere in the stadium Henry should have a word with the board, the people who proudly boast that the cheapest seat at Highbury is 35 bloody quid. Proposals have been put to the club by fans about how to improve the atmosphere but the club don’t give a monkeys scrotum. They have binned all sensible suggestions including eminently sensible suggestions like having open seating behind the goals or special enclosures where like minded souls can try and get behind the team without some Tarquin telling them to sit down and shut up.

But the club aren’t serious. They don’t want open areas behind the goals because they are premium sites highly sought after by season ticket holders who pay huge sums up front. They won’t allow flags in the stadium citing safety regulations but just watch a German match on TV. They have terracing, they have flags. They don’t even muck the fixture list round too much. They recognize the importance of football being at its heart a simple game that grew popular on the back of a working class support.

No, Mr Henry, don’t blame the fans. The new breed want this. Blame the club. This is what they want. They have priced most of the very fans who make an atmosphere out of the game. Those left are being stifled by regulations, stewards and apathy around them. Thierry, your love for Arsenal seems apparent to all and it’s shared by many who no longer go to the ground. But if you loved the Highbury of recent years then you would go ape over the Highbury me and many others grew up with. Talk to Charlie George and Liam Brady. Ask them what the North bank was like when it was all terracing. Ask Bob Wilson about the night we won the Fairs Cup in 1970. Ask Peter Shilton about the good natured abuse he got about Tina. Ask Jimmy Rimmer about the reception he got from the North Bank whenever he returned to Highbury. And ask the board why they don’t want anything like that again…


I really enjoyed reading your entry about football consumerism. Would you be interested in publishing any articles regarding sports?
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