By Tony Attwood
A comment from Stefan Melzak really set me pondering, and although I replied to it I thought I would add a few further views.
Stefan Melzak wrote
“According to your logic, if you went into a reputable restaurant, ordered a steak and received a plate of burnt gristle, you would not complain, but would actually return to the restaurant and continue paying for bad food. In your world complaining to the proprietor of the restaurant would only demoralise the poor chef and make his cooking worse.”
It’s a strange philosophy, it really is, because leaving aside whether that is a fair representation of my “logic” (and I am not sure I gave an indication of my “logic” in the article) it seems to me to engage in a notion of support that I simply do think should go by the name of “support”. If that’s not clear give me a moment and I’ll try to explain.
In life in capitalist countries one can be a consumer if one wishes, and in so doing, have a certain amount of choice. Choice of which restaurant you go to, which film you watch, and if you are lucky which employer you work for. Or indeed the choice of becoming an employer oneself.
But when it comes to football clubs, does one have that choice? Does one read a set of reviews concerning the various clubs on offer and say, “oh I think I will support that club?” Well yes, I guess some people do, hence the upsurge in Man City support.
But football should not be the equivalent of choosing a restaurant. I have within walking distance of my house two restaurants. One I won’t go to because I really don’t like the quality of everything from the food to the gents toilet, the other is not my favourite but if we both want to have a drink, we’ll walk there and have a meal. But if we want a quality meal out, no, we’ll choose one of half a dozen other restaurants. We have to drive, but we take it in turns as to who can have some wine with the meal. And yes, if I got a rotten meal, I’d complain.
Now is football like this? Well, for me, no. And not for any of the friends I either go to the games with, or meet at the matches. We are Arsenal because that is our heritage. It is part of who we are.
I am Arsenal because my parents and all my grandparents were Arsenal. We lived about the same distance from both Tottenham and Arsenal, when I was a child so there was nothing in it in terms of proximity. No, I followed the family and my dad took me to games. I could no more change to support another club that fly in the air.
Yes I support the local teams in the areas I have lived as I’ve moved around in my life. Corby Town, Torquay United, Poole Town, Guernsey. But that is a reflection of my view that one should try and support the local lower league club, because without the smaller clubs football as a whole would die.
But I could never say I was a customer of any of these clubs, because I don’t have a choice. It is emotion pure and simple. I committed to Arsenal aged 7 and I am still here 63 years later supporting my club and my team.
If I were a customer and Arsenal served up bad fare (as in the equivalent of the analogy given by Stefan) I would complain, and taking the analogy of the restaurant further, I would go elsewhere.
But I can’t. I am Arsenal. Just like I can’t give up my support for Torquay United, which arose from my three years of living in south Devon, and the fact that the last matches I went to with my father before he passed away, were at Torquay. Torquay are in a hell of a bad state just now, but I don’t switch allegiance and support Exeter or Plymouth. Of course not.
Likewise Guernsey. I support them because part of my family heritage is Guernsey, and I’ve even travelled across the country to watch them play away games in the south of England. Because it is part of who I am and where I came from.
Football isn’t a consumer activity. It is, at least in my world, and the world my friends exist in, a passion for a club and it continued through the near relegation seasons with Bertie Mee in charge.
So what should one do when things don’t go well? For me the answer is, carry on supporting the club and everyone who pulls on an Arsenal shirt. To do otherwise is to treat your football club as a restaurant, and I am not going to do that. We might moan a bit in the pub between each other, but basically we support the club. We don’t do “Wenger out” things at matches. We don’t just go when things are going well.
We are Arsenal. That is what support is all about.