By Dr Billy “the dog” McGraw OBE.
Senior psychiatrist at the University College Hospital of the North Circular Road.
I left Arsenal Stadium yesterday deeply, deeply concerned, worried that unless urgent action is taken we will soon see bloodshed.
For it is quite clear to me that at yesterday’s game neither the players nor the supporters had proper psychological support, and this I think, is extremely dangerous.
Now I must admit this is an issue that has been worrying me for some time, as the number of emails that pour into Untold telling us that we are idiots or words to that effect, rises day by day.
Occasionally such people turn up in my consulting room and I always ask, “why do you write to a publication and tell the editor he is an idiot? Is it that you think no one has written to him in this way before? Is it that you think he is so demented that he will publish your rude and possibly obscene missive in his own publication? Or is it perhaps, that you have not thought?
And here we come to the crux of the matter: people don’t think, either before they go to a football match or before they turn on their TV or start following Twitter.
But really, it must be self-evident to everyone now that within every game we will see some refereeing decisions that are dubious, either because the referee is incompetent or because he was appointed by Professional Game Match Fixers (PGMF) who now seem to have taken control of Premier League football.
Arsenal stadium should be repainted in calm pastel colours
Thus we saw it last night. The referee made a decision that could not possibly be right and trotted away upfield, leaving Arsenal players and the fans aghast at what they had seen. The fans across the stadium booed and the players protested (although you won’t of course have heard or seen any of this on TV if you were watching through that medium because of the skillful editing and sound filtering).
And that is the problem – I doubt that any players went into the match thinking, “there will be some curious decisions tonight” having been trained in suitable techniques in how to handle them. I doubt that many of the supporters entering the area would have been thinking, “what incompetence or deliberate fraud will Professional Game Match Fixers serve up today?”
As a result there were extremely high levels of bewilderment and tension, and this is never good either if one experiences it at work, as the players do, or in a leisure activity as supporters do.
Good psychological support is hard to find.
But that is only the start of the problem. None of the people in the stadium will have had any chance of getting proper psychological support simply because there is a two year waiting list to get medical help for mental health conditions unless you kill someone or do something appalling to a child (and then under UK law you are deemed to be wholly responsible for your actions and so are put in a regular prison – it raises the number of people locked up, but gives the other prisoners something to do in beating the new arrivals up, and does reduce the waiting time for mental health services).
If the players at Arsenal could be counselled properly before and after each game so that they are prepared for the incompetence and general antics of PGMF employees they will be more relaxed, will be able to see if they have in front of them a Type III match fixer or a gross incompetent, and adjust their game accordingly.
Of course when faced with an incompetent (such as the referees we have seen recently who have managed to get a decision accuracy rating of under 50% – the level that would occur if the referee gave out decisions at random) it is difficult to adjust – but I do not believe that with all the analytical resources at their disposal Arsenal could not spot the refs in advance and then counsel the players accordingly.
The crowd should be counselled to expect referees whose competence is below that of randomness.
As for the crowd – this is more difficult, but if only people would go into football matches understanding that the number of Professional Game Match Fixers who are your actual fixers and the number who are incompetent to the level that is frankly beyond belief, then there would be a greater calmness.
But game after game after game after game both players and fans start of expecting decent refereeing. Yet all you have to do is look at the analyses we produce week after week to see that this is not what we get.
So urgent work is needed and if we don’t get it there are going to be problems. For a start the number of players will to come to Arsenal (already small because of the actions of the media and aaa in battering and criticising Arsenal day after day) will dry up. It is all very well for the gentleman and his son who sit behind me in the East to scream abuse at Wenger and the players game after game, but what they never seem to realise is that every time they do this they make it a little less likely that a top player, any top player, will ever again sign for Arsenal.
Top players invariably have the choice of where they play their football, and they don’t like the abuse of players and management that has become part of the off-site support at Arsenal, and does sadly exist to some degree within the stadium, and so they go elsewhere.
And the same is true of the management. Arsene Wenger will pack up and retire at some stage in the near future and then we shall be casting around for another manager. If anyone really thinks that a manager who has a choice of clubs (remembering that around 30% of PL clubs change their manager each year so there’s a lot of jobs going) is going to come to a club where there is such a vitriolic atmosphere from the fans?
There is a need for saunas
No, what Arsenal must do is spend money and spend money now. The club should recognise that they have only two choices. One is to become involved in match fixing in the way that many others are (Professional Game Match Fixers is obviously there to oblige if there is such a change of mind), or to hire an army of psychologists to help fans come to terms with the current situation.
In this regard I would recommend that the stadium’s colours should be changed to calmer pastels and more neutral hues, that there should be enough saunas and relaxing bubble baths around the ground so that fans can use them without queuing, and that there should be one psychologist for every 30 fans in the stadium.
The referee’s changing room should have piped into in calming music, with subliminal messages slipped in between saying, “I will be fair to Arsenal, I can be fair to Arsenal, I do know the rules of the game, I am not bent, I am not incompetent,” over and over again.
Such investments will be costly, and will also reduce the capacity of the stadium greatly, but last night, looking at the fragile mental state of the people around me, I can only say that this action is urgently needed. If the club refuses to take it, it will be liable for all the mental harm that comes to its supporters.
On this day when mental calmness was needed
- 3 March 1993: Norwich 1 Arsenal 1. This was the 12th consecutive match in which neither Arsenal nor their opponents scored more than one goal. It was also the end of a run in which Arsenal only won two league games in 15.
- 3 March 2009: WBA 1 Arsenal 3. After five draws (four of them 0-0) Arsenal started a run of seven wins and one draw in the next eight.
- Arsenal Swansea 1-2: When refs & woodwork conspire things can go horribly wrong.
- Arsenal v Swansea: every option explored every possibility explained. Or not as the case may be.
- Arsenal under pressure
- So here we are at Article 6000 on Untold Arsenal. What have we learned so far?
Insult of the day
She’s the kitchen went and all grease: and I know not what use to put her to but to make a lamp of her and run from her by her own light. (A Comedy of Errors)
3 March 1991: Queen Elizabeth II incurs a wound to her finger requiring three stitches while trying to break up a fight between corgi dogs in the grounds of Windsor Castle.