By Tony Attwood
And thus here I am in Norfolk, a diminutive and rather flat state separated from England by language, and its vision of life, the universe, and reality. Although never given formal independence from the UK, the fact that no member of the government has been here since the days of Edward and Confessor has left the local folk to evolve a life of their own. Not to mention their own language.
So we strolled to the local pub, beside the North Sea with its limitless off shore wind farms briefly glimpsed between the mists, and partook of a very pleasant Sunday lunch, during which I read the only national paper available at the local newsagent: The Sunday Telegraph.
And thus it was I was able to read the absolute contempt in which Arsenal fans are held by the paper.
With just one day left in the January transfer window, (they tell us) Gunners across London are on tenterhooks as they anxiously wait to see if their club will make any last-minute deals.
Now this is mindless gibberish on several accounts. Vast numbers of Arsenal fans, indeed vast numbers of Arsenal season ticket holders, do not live in London. People like me who were born and brought up near Highbury, but for whom life has taken us on a trip around the multiverse. We can still be season ticket holders attending most matches, spending a fortune on travel, and still utterly devoted to the club BUT WE DONT ACTUALLY LIVE IN LONDON you stupid idiots writing in the Telegraph. And we are not on tenterhooks, whatever they are.
(A tenterhook is, according to Google, a hook used to fasten cloth on a drying frame. Make of that what you will.)
Anyway, today they tell us that “Ahead of the end of the transfer window, Youtube pranksters Woody and Kleiny have mercilessly preyed on the insecurity of Arsenal fans by posing as a new player, Fernando Wwirst, aka ‘Transfer Window.’
Ah, so we are insecure. Unlike the writers of the Telegraph who are utterly secure, is that it? What basis, I want to know, does the Telegraph have for being able to tell my level of security or insecurity? Are they personality telepaths who can look at my mind (a murky place if ever there was one) and tell me exactly what I am thinking and worrying about? What of their endless anxiety that the great hordes of migrants are about to rush from Calais to England and wipe out all traces of Englishisity?
Secure, I think not. Telepaths, I think not. Because what is on my mind is the utter gibberish that the Telegraph publishes. Here is what they publish today…
Fernando arrived at the Emirates complete with shades, baseball cap and a WAG in-tow as fans did their best to get a glimpse of the new mystery signing. Excited Gooners flocked to their false Messiah, requesting photos and posing for selfies with the prankster. One fan even hailed Wwirst for his ‘searing pace,’ and predicted his arrival at the Emirates would ‘signal the end for Theo Walcott.’
Really? How many? Three? Four?
The people who write this tripe are, in my own personal view, and of course it is just my view having travelled to Norfolk and engaged in a rather fine seaside late luncheon complete with a (shared) bottle of Merlot, idiots.
Best move on to something else.
Despite the efforts of the Telegraph, arrests at football matches have fallen and have reached their lowest level on record – although you probably will not read about it elsewhere, as football arrest figures only really seem to grab attention when they go up.
Statistics released by the Home Office show that the 2014-15 season there was an 18% decrease in arrests on the previous season (the previous record low). Public disorder (34%) and alcohol-related (22%) made up the majority of them.
Which tells us once again that the key issue – ticket touting – was not being targeted at all.
However Melanie Cooke at Football Law Associates has said, “We have noticed an increase in fans arrested for the first time being prosecuted in cases where they would have been eligible for a caution or out-of-court disposal had it had not been football-related.” So it includes being arrested with a match ticket in your pocket travelling home hours after a match? Yep, it is enough to deem it football-related.
Now I have been on a train home from a game, and had a load of hearty roughs shouting and chanting in the carriage. Unpleasant, and it stopped me focussing on reading whatever book I am halfway through but hardly a criminal offence. But someone reports them, the guard calls the police, they think “football” and the oiks are yanked off the train and charged. A football offence.
Some crimes, (such as having alcohol on a coach travelling to a game, drinking alcohol in sight of the pitch or being drunk entering a stadium) are football specific. They don’t exist in the UK other walks of life. Fans are not only open to the regular sneering of the Telegraph but are criminalised because of they support a football team.
The police in England ask for football banning orders as a matter of first option irrespective of the offence or previous convictions. Even if you have no criminal history and end up before the courts following a football-related arrest we are hearing that the police will almost always ask the court to consider a football banning order application regardless of the risk you pose.
If you get a banning order you have to surrender your passport and/or report to a police station either side of a game involving England or Wales or if your club happens to be playing in Europe. This is not just if you do travel abroad, it hits everyone. Ah, the land of the free.
Meanwhile being in Norfolk reminds me that Norwich confirmed they are investigating videos that show their goalkeeper John Ruddy in a scuffle while on a night out. What they are not doing is investigating the clear and obvious TV footage that shows that their ground is dangerous to players because of the proximity of the TV cameras to the pitch.
I asked a local copper today what he would do if a visiting player falls down into the pits dug around the ground to house TV cameras. “Arrest him for drunkenness,” was the reply.
Actually I made the last bit up, but quite a few of the bits before that are true.
- 31 January 1893: Stephen Dunn born. As a goalkeeper he played 44 times for Arsenal – but also played as a full back when his sprained wrist meant he couldn’t play in his normal position, but needed to fill in because of injuries elsewhere.
- 31 January 1919: “The Sportsman” reported details of Tottenham’s letter to league clubs admitting that there were no league rules for deciding on how the league should be expanded next season. This letter is a definitive element in showing there was no conspiracy to demote Tottenham and promote Arsenal.
The Untold Books
Untold Arsenal has published four books, with a fifth coming shortly.
The latest is Arsenal: The Long Sleep 1953-1970 with an introduction by Bob Wilson. Details of this and our other titles can be found Arsenal Books on this site.