I noticed a thread on Twitter the other day that interested me. One or more people were tweeting in reaction to Arsenal’s acquisition of the French forward, Alexandre Lacazette and changes to the backroom staff.
Someone named @KennyKen1972 posted:
AFC being seemingly active in this transfer window, apparent changes behind the scenes, funny what the “muggy pointless” protests achieved.
For those of you wondering what “muggy” means I can explain this has little to do with the seasonal weather but is ‘yoof speak’. It means being rude or disrespectful towards someone as in ‘are you mugging me off?’ Quite why we need to keep inventing new versions of ‘are you disrespectin me bruv’ I’m am not sure but I will consult Mr Rees-Mogg (should that be Mugg? – ed) next time I am in my club, because Jacob is sure to know.
Anyway, it got me thinking about protests and their efficacy.
As a teenager I enjoyed a good protest or three. I marched in favour banning the bomb, I danced in Stockwell park and other public places in support of Rock Against Racism, and I protested loudly in Trafalgar Square at the passing of the Public Order Act (which wanted to restrict exactly the sorts of protest I felt I was entitled to take part in).
England has a long tradition of popular protest stretching back over centuries. In 1780 rioters destroyed houses and property in the City during the Gordon Riots, others protested against the Corn Laws in the 1800s., or the treatment of Queen Caroline. At Peterloo in 1819 a demonstration (one of many) demanding the extension of the franchise (the vote) was brutally put down by the authorities. In 1887 protesters complaining about austerity and poverty were assaulted by Charles Warren’s Metropolitan Police in what was termed ‘Bloody Sunday’.
In Cable Street in 1936 local people were joined by socialists, anarchists and the wider Labour movement to oppose the march of the British Union of Fascists (led by Oswald Mosley), through a largely Jewish working-class district. And in 1968 thousands besieged the American Embassy to voice their opposition to the war in Vietnam.
So those brave men (and women – although I think I only saw men) who marched proudly around the perimeter of the Emirates Stadium displaying their ‘Wenger Out/No new contract’ banners in the second half of last season are part of a long tradition of peaceful protest for the Common Good.
The question remains though, whatever you think of them, were their efforts effective? Is @KennyKen1972 right in suggesting that the protest (which he says he was involved at every stage) instrumental in forcing Arsene’s (or Arsenal’s) hand in forking out a record sum for our new signing?
Let us look at the facts as we know them.
Over the last five seasons we have bought quite a few players. Tony and Andrew would have better data to hand than myself but I think the highlights are as follows:
2012/13 Ooo Santi Cazorla (£16m), Lucas Podolski (£13m), Oli Girooooooouuud (£10m), Nacho Monreal (£8.5m)
2013/14 Mesut Özil (£40m), Yaya Sanogo (free), Matthieu Flamini (free) and Kim Kallström (injured)
2014/15 Alexis (£36m), Calum Chambers (£17m), Danny Welbeck (£17m), Gabriel (£13m), David OoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooospiiiinA! (£3.4m)
Now it may be my fading memory but I can’t recall the protests in 2012 or 2013, there were one or two last year but nothing sustained. So Arsenal FC shelled out considerable amounts of money on some top players (ok, Sanogo excluded) without KennyKen and his chums forcing them to do so.
But cause and effect are notoriously difficult things to measure (unless someone points a gun at your head and blows your brains out – then I think we can be fairly clear what the cause of your demise would be).
And the protests were about sacking the manager or at least not renewing his contract. When I marched with CND we wanted Britain to sign up to a process of unilateral nuclear disarmament. We still have a nuclear deterrent; we failed in our protest, or we failed to convince anyone. The Public Order Act remains on the statute; we failed there as well. The Countryside Alliance, despite huge numbers, failed to allow the ritual dismemberment of foxes by trained packs of dogs supported by over privileged tw*ts in pink to continue. Millions marched in protest but the war in Iraq carried on with fatal consequences for so many, then, now and in the future.
The vote wasn’t won in 1819 despite the deaths in St Peter’s Square, Manchester. It was only ‘won’ in 1918 when universal suffrage was legislated into being at the end of the First World War. That had little to do with protest and everything to do with events elsewhere (the war and revolutions in Russia and Germany).
Most victories that stem from protest come as a result of a combination of events, action and pressure. Apartheid collapsed because of the pressure applied within and outside South Africa; I still struggle to buy SA produce even though I know it’s now fine to do so, it had become so engrained in my psyche. Now I routinely boycott all Israeli goods; not because I am an anti-Semite, but because I object to the way the Israeli state occupies the West Bank.
I suspect the board, Wenger, Gazidis et al (who is this Al bloke? – ed) did hear the protests and (as Gazidis pretty much admitted) it upset them. No one wants the fans to be upset because that usually means the team aren’t doing very well.
But the evidence rather suggests that we were pursuing changes anyway. Arsenal are always looking to recruit and Lacerzette’s signing probably has more to do with team strategy, the potential loss of our highest scorer, and missing out on Champions League football than it does on the sterling efforts of comrade Ken and his merry band of banner waivers.
But, as I told him, he could be right, it could have them wot done it. Only Arsene knows after all.
In case you missed it…
That was one of the most thoughtful and well written football articles that I have read in months. Scary that it came from a Gooner, but credit where it’s due – nice work.
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