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By Tony Attwood
As you will know by now the kick-off time for the Community Shield match against Manchester City on 6 August has been moved from 5.30pm to 4pm, after Arsenal Independent Supporters Association (AISA) and some Manchester City fans complained and stated they would not attend.
The statement from the FA said that, “The new earlier kick off time for the traditional ‘curtain raiser’ of the domestic season has been agreed following the FA’s consultation with broadcast partners, the local authorities, police, and the competing clubs.
“The decision to move the kick off time has been taken following full consideration of the transport challenges for fans returning to Manchester after the match.”
But the fiasco raises three questions. One is why on earth anyone with an ounce of sense would ever organise a match at Wembley which won’t finish until 7.30pm or later, on a Sunday. The second is why they ever thought they would get away with it. The third is why the media are not asking those first two questions.
As some Manchester City supporters groups have pointed out the situation is still crazy, and one group added that they will “make a stand until the FA has fully considered the needs of fans rather than treating matchgoing supporters as an afterthought.”
So since no one else is asking the main questions, it’s down to us to have a go.
Why on earth anyone with an ounce of sense would agree to organise a match at Wembley which won’t finish until 7.30pm or later, on a Sunday?
One answer of course is that no one even thought about the supporters. The TV companies said, “We’ll offer you £xxx for TV rights, but we need kick off no earlier than 5.30pm,” and the Football Association just bent the knee and said, “OK” without a moment’s thought.
Another might be that they said, “The fans won’t like it, give us some extra money to compensate for the flack we’ll take.”
A third might be that some of the FA officials said, “We don’t want a half-empty stadium at kick off – that looks bad on TV, so with all these train strikes on we’d better give them plenty of time to get here. And we need them pissed out of their skulls because that will make them noisier. 5.30pm is good,”
Why the FA ever thought they would get away with a 5.30pm kick off
The most obvious answer to that one is that the FA didn’t think at all. After all there is no one within the FA seriously representing ordinary paying supporters nor is there any concern for publicity.
Here we have to remember that for years the FA illegally titled the match the “Charity Shield” and then in direct contravention of the very fundamentals of charity law in the UK failed to keep proper records of who benefitted from the money raised, and how much. They were found guilty of serious breaches of charity law in 2012.
But the media made little of the matter, most not even reporting the issue, nor worrying just how much money the FA had kept for themselves and how much had actually gone to any charities at all.
So why are the media are not asking those first two questions?
Because by and large the media don’t question the FA. The FA are responsible for media tickets for England matches, and since journalists like to hop around the globe covering England matches at other people’s expense, they really don’t want to get on the wrong side of the FA. So it is down to people like us, who get nothing out of the FA to ask the questions.
The fact is that the FA has a long history of gross incompetence over handling anything from child sex abuse cases to stadium safety, so expecting anything resembling sense from them is going too far.
The FA were extremely grateful to the media for the way it failed to put the blame for the chaos at the Euro 2020 final and instead reverted to the old favourite of blaming drunken fans. Of course, people are responsible for their own behaviour – we all accept that. But organisations are responsible for the way they organise matches, and it was clear from the start that there was a huge dent in the FA’s planning for the game which large numbers of fans could see but the men in suits couldn’t.
(In case you missed it, the problem was that normally for a Wembley match, every seat is sold, so if someone gets in and sits in a seat that is not their’s the purchaser of the seat complains. But for the Euros game a fair percentage of seats were not sold because of coronavirus restrictions therefore people getting into the match could find a seat once inside.)
But as ever the media bent the knee to the FA, and instead focussed on the old “mindless hooligans” headlines, rather than directing the “mindless” comment at the organisers.
So you might think a national disgrace like the Euro final and not keeping records of which charities got the money raised by the Charity Shield game would be enough to see off the FA, but no they are still there, and the media still ignore their past failings.
‘Twas ever thus.
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