Football for the fans: the visions of three Arsenal supporters.

By Tony Attwood

Recently, Walter, Blacksheep and I started to talk about the changes we would like to see in football.  Changes not for the benefit of Arsenal, but for the benefit of us – the fans.

Changes that would make our watching of football more enjoyable, and which might encourage more and more people to go to football matches.

Given that the Premier League has just announced that it is giving away some of its money (I’ll come back to this in another article shortly), and given that the FA is making its usual quarterly statement about some revolution or other which will never happen (because it has no money), we thought we’d pull together our own vision of how we thought football could change for the better.

1.  Don’t change match days for TV

There is no evidence that football on TV affects football crowds but the old rules are still there saying you can’t have football on TV saturdays at 3pm.   Of course you can – or at the very least you could try it out just to prove that it has no impact.

People go to football for the fun of it, for being with their mates, and to see their team, not because there isn’t anything on TV.

This all goes back to the 1930s when clubs (sadly led by Arsenal) rebelled against football on the radio.   Then they argued against live football on TV.  Now we are faced with the insanity of Friday night football, based on the notion that we all just live round the corner and can drop in to the Emirates any time we wish.

In our case two of us live in Northants and one near Antwerp.   Football, saturday afternoons, 3pm, both televised and not.

We travel huge distances to go and see Arsenal play, even when the time of the game is inconvenient, and the match is on TV.  The number of people who go to Arsenal doesn’t drop when the game is on TV.  Nor does the crowd level drop at matches involving Europa league clubs played on a Sunday because they clash with televised games.

2.  The referees’ association, PGMO, should make its data public.

If you want one reason why we go on and on about refs here it is: each year the PGMO tell us that refs get something over 95% of decisions right.  When Walter and his team do an analysis they find a much, much lower figure is right.

That is worrying, so we should know what’s what.  There is no reason why PGMO analyses should not be as open as the ones we provide on Untold, line by line showing decision by decision.

Failing to make the analysis public merely fuels the feeling that football is fixed and some referees are open to corruption.  It doesn’t prove that is the case, but it makes a lot of us feel something is not right.

It also doesn’t give anyone any sort of positive feeling about referees or the integrity of football – in fact it does the reverse.

3.  Mic up the referees, as in rugby, so that we can hear what their decisions are.

While rugby has become public with everyone able to hear what the ref decides, football has gone in exactly the opposite direction, with refs putting their hands over their mouths so we can’t lip read them.

Worse, this is now accepted as normal.

This is utterly crazy – how are we, the paying public, the people who make it possible for football to be played at the level we see (because never forget, without the paying public there is no professional football), being forbidden from knowing why the referees’ decisions are made?  Why?

Just think on that for a moment.  We pay to go and watch, and then we can’t be told why some sort of decision is made.  How sane is that?

4.  Bring in a proper FFP for the Premier League to help reduce the influence of oil billionaires

We really thought FFP was going to start last August in the Premier League, with the first decisions being made last December.  That is what the publicity said.  Any now?

No one knows.   No newspaper covers the story (either because they think it is too complicated for us poor mortals or else they know a good bit of backtracking when they see it, but don’t like to make waves), and we can’t get any information.

Or maybe the Premier League asked them not to carry the story and they obliged.

At the very least the Premier League should tell us why it has backed down on this issue.  We have FFP in the Champions League, in the Championship and in League’s One and Two.  The Premier League has already made it clear that it is not going to enforce any fines the Championship imposes on clubs like QPR, and now it seems it is doing nothing about expenditure at all.

The argument is probably that FFP is not needed as the clubs together are now in profit – but that is a dubious argument, given that much of the profit overall is provided by just a couple of clubs and all it will take is another billionaire to come along and take over a club, without worrying about the Champions League, and we’ll be back where we started.

5.  Give a proper summer break for players – so players don’t come back to their clubs in dribs and drabs 

We now have the regular occurrence of the Premier League starting with half its players missing, because they are still coming back from world cup “duty”.

This is quite crazy –  the best league in the world (or so they say) and players are not playing in it, because they were playing for their countries.

What should happen is that all players should get a break at the same time, sufficient to restore their health, and give them a proper holiday, and allow them to get back into training again.


That is our starter.  We’ve got another five points (or maybe six or seven) and I’ll publish them shortly, but that was our start.  All other ideas welcome.  We might even turn it into the Untold Manifesto.


Anniversary of the day

27 March 1909: Sunderland 1 Arsenal 0.  James Maxwell’s final appearance.  After the game, annoyed by his lack of appearances, Maxwell met up with his wife and absconded from the team. and played in Scotland.  Arsenal extracted a £50 transfer fee from him, after a tribunal to settle the matter.



18 Replies to “Football for the fans: the visions of three Arsenal supporters.”

  1. Safe standing as soon as possible;
    Match tickets available on matchday, which should be Saturday;
    Alcohol allowed within sight of the pitch. This is allowed in all other spectator sports but Thatcher’s prejudice against football is still evident in this one act that has persisted although she resigned as Prime Minister in 1990, (the last time Liverpool were Championsof England)

  2. Unfortunately we and other clubs still have yobs who can’t be trusted not to throw beer around.

    If you can’t go 45 minutes without alcohol, you need help.

  3. I shouldn’t really question what you say in your posts, Tony, because invariably you can produce facts and figures in support of your treatise.
    But I wonder whether a NLD on TV, at 3pm on a winter Saturday, would attract a physical full house at the Ems or WHL.
    I like the idea of safe standing and no alcohol pitch-side. As Harry B says, if you can’t do without a drink for 45 minutes, (plus time added on) you need help.

  4. How is it possible to implement a “proper summer break” for players who are regularly involved with their national teams for long periods during the summer months? Employment laws entitle them to four weeks holiday per year, and FIFA says they can have five weeks off following a tournament, so there is no way players are going to be ready for team duties at the same time as none international colleagues following a WC or Euro .
    There’s just not enough weeks in the callender to give the top players the break they need without it affecting team performance.

  5. Speaking only for myself here, but as my attendance at games is subject to domestic negotiation, I confess that I AM influenced by whether or not a game is on TV. If it is, I am more likely to relinquish the opportunity to attend in person.

    Of course, if my time was my own, I would attend every game (possibly not some Euro away ones) in person, but it is not… I used to be an away scheme member!

    Related to this, I find it easier to attend midweek games than weekend games. So a Friday or Monday night works better for me than a Saturday (especially) or Sunday. But, as I said, I am speaking for myself here.

    That said, most PL games are near capacity so I don’t think it is an issue for them. The problem comes lower down the pyramid where (i) games are rarely sold out and (ii) clubs are far more dependent on gate revenues as an income stream than those higher up. I don’t know, but I wonder whether League 1 and 2, and semi-pro, gates are impacted by clashing with live football? I suspect they might be. Why go to watch, say, Barnet when your “big” team (say Arsenal) are live on TV? As Barnet charge £20+ for some tickets that is an interesting trade-off. And, once you have paid your (very expensive) subs, the marginal cost of watching a game on TV is free.

  6. Regarding international tournaments, I think more attention should be given to harmonising domestic calendars so that the tournaments can start earlier – say late May. They should all be done by late June at the absolute latest.

    I know that the Spanish domestic season often extends into early June for example. Why? Actually, I believe I know the answer in that August is very hot in Spain, but, but…

  7. And stop ballooning the size of international tournaments. Heard that FIFA is thinking of expanding the World Cup to 48 teams. Madness. Bigger, longer and more players involved. It will have no effect on the eventual winner (or even last 8).

  8. 1. A more sensitive on-field punishment system than the current binary yellow/red card situation.
    2. Multi-ball in the EPL to reduce time wasting.
    3. Video support to referees (and fans)during the game and to aid more retrospective punishment afterwards.

  9. Very good article.

    It seems strange to me that the Guardian went to such extreme lengths to see private letters from HRH Prince Charles to Government Ministers and yet they totally ignore the undeclared secret machinations of the controversial and self-compromised PGMO.

  10. Nicky / Harry B.

    i think alcohol should be allowed, its not about going without it for 45 minutes that is the issue. The problem is that if you want to get a drink at half time unless you choose to leave your seat before the end of the first half theres not enough time to queue and then consume before the start of the second half. Having the bars open would relieve much congestion at half time.

    Furthermore you can watch Cricket, Rugby and all other sports and have a drink in sight of the pitch. Its an outdated policy.

    In terms of people throwing beer, its simple, ban them!

    Think safe standing is a great idea. This would increase capacity and therefore increase ticket availability. Whilst i would still choose to take a seat (as i have my children with me most of the time) it would make getting seated tickets easier.

  11. All the points are quite valid, but my fav for immediate change is #1, #3, we need to hear what refs are saying, and #5, reduce the games in UK to allow a summer break. They all complain that UK is having it hard in Europe, surely it is clear that this is one of the causes for that?

    I find beer and large crowds are a very dangerous mix especially if children are around, but if it is done successfully in rugby maybe football should not be disadvantaged.

  12. Excellent article. Standing should be reintroduced. Consumption of alcohol during matches in the stands is a debate that needs to include unsocial behaviour. Match times should take availability of public transport into consideration.

    To enhance the fans value for money, minimum waste of time will be enhanced by the following. On field, shielding of the ball should only be allowed after ‘touching the ball’ or physically bringing it under control. ‘Throw ins’ must be taken within minimum time (15 secs) by closest player holding the ball & not passed to another player to take the throw. Multi-ball may not be the solution but unsporting behaviour of time wasting is available to officials. A synchronised on screen match time clock can be displayed so that fans are aware of stoppages.

    Officiating is a very important area that Football needs to address, including the democracy of appointment & transparency for fans including open broadcast of on field radio communication. The Football Association needs to be included in this (transparent & democratic). Introduction of sin bins so that immediate impact is felt rather than future teams get benefit.

    Media should have strict rules with regard to ‘lies’ used to procure publicity (I suppose pigs might fly).

  13. My change would be.

    on 80 mins the 4th official puts up the time added on board (say 4 mins). He then starts a stop clock with the last 10 mins plus time added on making a total of 14 mins to play. For this period the clock is stopped every time there is a break in play. This would mean fans would get the full 14 minutes of play. This would immediately stop any time wasting and would make the end of the game more entertaining and exciting and would stop the frustration within the crowd and players at the time wasters.

  14. Amen to that 🙂 Very valid points, that even achieving half or a third of these will go a long way in normalising football.

  15. Tony

    1. The concern about the impact on attenadences has nothing to do with either the game being showed live or indeed other PL games the concern is , with justification, that when games particularly at non league clash with games shown on TV attendenaces drop dramatically. Whereas since the introduction of live football on Sky/BT/Sentana etc attendances at the

    2&3. Some merit in your suggestions

    4. FFP within the PL was introduced for season 2014/15. Clubs had till 1 March 2015 to submit the first set of applicable accounts. I believe that the first set of sanctions will be handed out in December. the Championship has effectively abandoned there version of FFP and will be adopting a model very similar to that of the PL

    5. Not quite sure that this proposal is anything other than pie in the sky but till clubs stop engaging in pre or end of season money making tournaments then I have little sympathy with the clubs.

  16. I would do away with throw ins and restart with a (?) kick in . After all it’s called football ! And this would make it easier to explain the games rules to newbies .
    I know that this would render the long throw specialists redundant , but hey , they could always take up the javelin or shot putt !
    Beers or wine ( slurp!)( or for Tony – cappuccino.) in very lightweight environment friendly and biodegradable cups , which could also double up as advertising space.
    So light ,that even disgruntled and unemployed ex-long throw specialist couldn’t get in unto the pitch !

  17. Mike T

    “5. Not quite sure that this proposal is anything other than pie in the sky but till clubs stop engaging in pre or end of season money making tournaments then I have little sympathy with the clubs.”

    Up until recently Arsenals pre season consisted of a match at Underhill, a few games in Scandinavia and a Tournament at the ‘Ems.

    It’s only over the last couple of seasons that the desperate need to generate finances has led to Wenger reluctantly conceding the need to tour the Far East etc.

    Another result of trying to keep up with Clubs ‘doped’ with oil money.

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