By Tony Attwood
I must say I was singularly surprised by the large number of comments Untold received from Manchester City supporters after I commented negatively on the ownership of that club.
Most of these comments were to my mind of very little merit being simplistic and/or crude, and so did not get published, and indeed a quick look at our automatic systems showed a fair number of other such comments that I had not originally seen which were deleted by the software, saving me a lot of time.
But it really made me wonder – do people really go out and buy products and services created by the sponsor of the club they support, irrespective of any moral or political point of view? Do people change their views in order to find the behaviour of their sponsor acceptable?
Let me try and put it another way. If the Conservative and Unionist Party of the UK (that’s the party of government in my country) were for some bizarre reason to sponsor Arsenal, would it mean that I would change the habit of a lifetime and vote Conservative? Absolutely not. Would it stop me supporting Arsenal? Absolutely not. Would it stop me criticising the Conservative Party, certainly not.
I am sure many people do purchase services and products made by a sponsor of a club (including its stadium sponsor) because it is the sponsor, and I guess if all other things are neutral one might do that. But otherwise to me it seems a bit dumb.
So, because I have, through my life, been active in supporting movements in favour of ever greater democracy, and against those regimes that I feel are repressive, I’ve not been motivated to change my airline habits when flying overseas. As it happens I did fly Emirates once simply because there was no way around it, and I was inwardly amused to find that my dislike of the airline because of its owners’ association with stoning, torture, lack of freedom and a total disregard for what in general might be called democratic values, was also justified by an appalling service, ludicrously delusional self-promotion and high prices.
Now of course perhaps my attitude towards club sponsors comes from the fact that I was a supporter before we had sponsors – in fact a supporter through the era when no company in its right mind wanted to be linked with 1st division football.
But now it is different. And maybe I am just stupid and in a tiny minority in trying to avoid products and services that are sponsored by or associated with things I find morally repugnant, but that just seems to be how I am.
So Arsenal have accepted money from what I consider to be an awful denier of human rights. I regret that and occasionally write an article on the fact, but I still support Arsenal. The FA has accepted their sponsorship too. But I still celebrate Mr Wenger’s record breaking seven wins of their cup, and each of our victories. I’ve still gone to Wembley for the games, but along the way made a little fun of them for utterly failing to keep their website up to date in terms of who the winners of the FA Cup actually are.
And it doesn’t stop me criticising the FA and its support of the appallingly corrupt Fifa.
Thus these days I call the ground we go to, Arsenal Stadium, as in fact it is called on European nights. For quite a while I called it on Untold, the Ems, largely because that amused me as the bar on trains from the Midlands to London (which was utterly inadequate and often ran out of anything one wanted) was known as the Ems Bar.
And yet here are all these Man City fans writing in and telling me I’m stupid for criticising the sponsor of Man City when the same appalling country sponsors Arsenal Stadium.
I don’t understand how they don’t get it. I support Arsenal, and always will do, but that doesn’t stop me from criticising or laughing at or indeed just ignoring their sponsorship deals. I don’t make a big thing of it every article, because if I did most people would probably stop reading and I’d get utterly bored writing it. But then again I didn’t actually write positively about Mr Wenger in each article – although some readers like to pretend that I did.
I don’t actually crticise PGMO in each article either come to that, although I have had a few digs against their sponsors over time, and maybe that helped encourage them to pull out.
Manchester City, in my view, deserve criticism for building their entire club on the wealth of a country that pays no heed to human rights. Before this decade they had won the league twice – and on one of those occasions they were relegated the following season. Arsenal, without any sponsorship money and living entirely from gate money and the sale of programmes, won the league five times in the 1930s alone.
All the clubs have sponsors now – that’s how it goes. But why on earth should one not criticise what sponsors do and what they are associated with – irrespective of whichever club they sponsor?
Of course Arsenal aren’t going to be sponsored by Sea Shepherd as Forest Green Rovers are. Indeed if there was money to change hands it would probably be Arsenal sponsoring Sea Shepherd. But calling out really awful sponsors, directors, owners… that seems to me to be part of the raison d’etre for running a blog while supporting a club. I choose not to criticise our manager or players because that seems utterly counter productive. But as for the rest – it seems to me fair game.
I can understand that many Manchester City supporters welcome the money from what I perceive to be the appalling Abu Dhabi regime has put into the club. I on the other hand choose not to. Mind you, I’m also with Rowan Atkinson when he said, “As a lifelong beneficiary of the freedom to make jokes about religion, I do think that Boris Johnson’s joke about wearers of the burka resembling letterboxes is a pretty good one. All jokes about religion cause offence, so it’s pointless apologising for them.”
Judging by the news broadcasts of late, I’m in a minority supporting Mr Atkinson too.
Today I see we’re running adverts supporting a TV channel that is not my cup of tea. It seems I can’t win.
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- So it wasn’t so bad after all. Arsenal still five points clear with a game in hand
- WSL Round Up – West Ham v Arsenal Sunday 18:45