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Worrying times for Arsenal and the wider world

By Tony Attwood

To say that the line up on Sunday was not what we had initially expected was an undertstatement.   Maybe half this team would be expected to be in the side if all were fit.  And so to get a win away from home and equal last season’s record of the number of away games without conceding was something.

You’ll have probably seen the game and read other reports, so I won’t go through it all again, but instead focus for a moment on the fact that Ozil and Kolasinac did not play because they were seemingly being targetted by a criminal gang, and the police suggested the players’ safety could not be guaranteed.

Of course it could be a one off, but whether it was or not I suspect it was a first.  Two players not playing because their safety before or after the match could not be guaranteed.  That’s probably a first.

Those of us who live in England and follow the news will know a fair bit about this sort of thing, and will have seen the reports of how the maintenance of law and order has declined following years of the austerity package from the government.

But in case you don’t follow English politics and economics, the idea was that by cutting the cost of public services by reducing the number of medical staff, teachers, prison officers, social services employees and the like, while not investing in new buildings or building maintenance, was a good thing that would make the country better by reducing the national debt.  And more – it was a good idea to do it quickly.

Cause and effect in such matters are always hard to discern because we are looking at whole social situations, but many do seem to agree that as a result of these policies we have not only rising crime figures, and rising numbers of crimes unsolved, but also a growing social problem all round.

The number of police officers in England and Wales has dropped by 19,000 since 2010 according to FullFact, the fact checking charity which really does dig into figures like this and whose figures tend to be very reliable.   That is a drop of around 15%.

At the same time as this drop in the number of police officers there was a 13-14% increase in gun and knife crime in 2016 alone, according to the latest police-recorded crime figures as reported in the Guardian.

So England and Wales has become a more violent part of the world than it used to be, so it is perhaps inevitable that it should reach footballers sooner or later.

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But the direct impact of a criminal gang upon the ability of a Premier League team to pick the players it wants on the pitch, is something new.  One begins to wonder if in fact it will start to spread, with threats to clubs from gangs that Player X will be harmed if a ransom is not handed over.  In such cases they don’t have to seize the player and hold him hostage – they just let it be known he is a target.

Of course if that did happen – or if it has already happened  – we wouldn’t know because no club is going to publicise what is going on – this event only became public because of the pictures of the car jacking.  But it does bring home to us that there is a fundamental change happening in our society, and we cannot escape the fact that the Arsenal team selection was directly influenced by the activities of a criminal gang.

Arsenal has been quite rightly proud of the fact that its own staff “police” matches at the Arsenal Stadium, and that police normally only operate outside the area of the stadium.  However what it also means is that certain supporters are given free reign to behave how they wish on their way to and from the match.

This has not particularly bothered me over the years since my friends and I involved in Untold meet at one of the more civilised pubs before the game, and make our way to the ground along streets which are normally perfectly peaceful – and leave by another, but equally peaceful route.

However last year, for reasons I won’t bore you with, my route changed for the Tottenham game, and I took the tube to Arsenal station.   I’ve been a supporter for very many a long year, including back in the days when ant-Semitic chants were fairly commonplace, but it was a shock to hear so much chanting of that nature on the train and at the station.   It was, for me if for no one else, a reminder just how little progress has been made over the years.

There’s nothing I can do to reverse the decline in the number of police operating in England and Wales other than vote for a party that was not part of the decision to reduce the number of police in the first place.  There’s nothing I can do to stop anti-Semitic chanting, since at my age I am not going to remonstrate with a substantial number of Arsenal supporters in an enclosed space.

But at least I can express my views on this page, and hope it maybe rings a bell with you as a reader.   We really cannot accept a situation in which a gang of armed thugs threatens players to such a degree that they cannot play.  We really should not be allowing anti-Semitism to rage in the name of Arsenal, or indeed in the name of anything else.

I took the decision a little while ago to stop going to Arsenal for Tottenham games, because of the nature of the support.  Maybe that’s just me being a little delicate, but really, I don’t want to be part of what it has become.  Perhaps I’ll change my mind next year, but for this year, I’ll give it a miss.

15 comments to Worrying times for Arsenal and the wider world

  • Alan Hardy

    I think you should try and get a job with the BBC with you anti Conservative rhetoric and the promotion of how the Labour/Liberal democrats are wonderful.
    Didn’t expect a party political statement on a football outlet.

  • Very much a personal opinion Alan. Sorry you can’t see the difference between a party political issue and an individual writing about his own feelings.

  • Pendar Sillwood

    Actually, I don’t see this as personal opinion. Most of it is statement of fact, then objective reporting of witnessed behaviour, then lastly personal opinion. The personal opinion is clearly stated, such that the viewpoint of the author is clear, unlike most newspapers which disguise personal or corporate bias as fact. There was no specific mention of political parties, just on the link between lower police numbers and rising crime. If this is perceived as a criticism of the current government, then the fault is not with the author but with the current government, who are in charge of the country and are responsible for this.

    The issue raised in this article i.e. how football is reflective of society, is a valid one and rarely commented on, so the author should be lauded for doing so. If there are ills with society, then there will be with football as well, as has been the case with Ozil and Kolasinac.

    Overall, yes, the headline is entirely accurate.

  • Menace

    The rhetoric was not party political but the bias of the brain can make it so.

    The reality of what has happened to Arsenal because of criminal activity is a reflection of the state of society. The behaviour of fans on public transport is nothing new but the fact that it hasn’t been arrested by the introduction of cameras is surprising.

    Racism has not gone away, it just appears when groups get dutch courage to vent their bile.

  • Mark Mywords

    I live in South London and can’t remember the last time I saw a uniformed policeman. Actually that’s not entirely true. Very occasionally a couple might come down our street on horseback! I can only assume they’re giving the animals some exercise. Either that or they don’t want the bother of picking up the manure that they create. A whole lot of police sometimes congregate on Blackheath to check vehicles, but that might be a training exercise. If you report a crime, they very rarely turn up, but then I’m not a high profile professional footballer. Our police force, as such, is virtually non existent. Meanwhile, kids walk around with knives, even the girls.

  • Minesy

    I agree … this is a perfectly reasonable article making a valid point … the rhetoric, bias and clear prejudice come from you comments, Alan … and no I’m not a Labour or LibDem voter for what it’s worth

  • Now that the subject has been raised, I hope no one minds if I take this debate a bit further.

    I believe that the truth is that the steady increase in technology means that fewer people are required for the job required.

    That is why armies need less foot soldiers, because of the ability to strike an enemy using drones and long-distance weapons.

    Computers and CCTV and other equipment mean that less staff are needed for many jobs the police do.

    It seems to me that the removal of the bobby on the beat predated the drop in numbers simply because the powers that be perceived it was not achieving anything or enough to justify the cost of providing the service.

    The same applies to investigate burglaries and minor thefts, as well as criminal damage. I suspect that they perceived that the chances of finding the culprit and recovering the stolen items were so small that it was not worth the effort in doing it.

    When we had a burglary 36 or so years ago, the policeman who came, actually a friend, told us that half an hour after the burglary the items that were stolen would already have been sold in a pub a few miles away.

    I reckon, that regardless of numbers of staff, policy decisions were made that crimes that by their very nature were difficult or even impossible to solve, would be downgraded and even ignored.

    If the insurance companies will cough up, provided the matter is reported to the police, then all they will do is take the report and leave it there.

    The problem seems to be how the police have chosen to prioritise what they will and what they will not work on.

    A few years ago, a friend of mine, a man in his 80s and in poor health, caused some damage with his car to another car. He left a note to apologise and to say that, as he runs a car repair garage, he will repair the car for nothing.

    The other party was unhappy with that and pursued an insurance claim. He says that the real value of the damage was about £200.

    A few weeks later. before 7 am, he was woken up by bang on the front door. When he opened up, there was 7 policeman outside who came to arrest him for alleged criminal damage.

    Why this particular force prioritised this crime of minimal importance, and possibly not even crime but merely a civil dispute, is something that only they can explain.

    So, my view is that it is not so much the reduction in staff that is the cause of the problem, but the way the police prioritise their resources. This has been going on for many years, including during the Blair/Brown years, so I reckon the problem will be the same even with the additional 20,000 policemen.

    So it is not a political matter, but purely an operational one.

    Concerning the matter of anti-Semitic chanting,

  • GoingGoingGooner

    @jigsol

    I agree with much of what you say but I do want to add one thing. Police forces in the Western World also have a preventative role. Their presence on the streets, in communities, talking to teenagers, pensioners, whomever, deters crime and builds community. It is hard to quantify this but it is important for the police to be seen as ‘on the side and part of the community’. Remove their presence and their humanity (drones?) and we all suffer.

  • GGG. I note what you say, and you are right, but the removal of officers on the beat happened a long time ago.

    I note that I started a sentence about anti-semitic chanting.

    What I intended to say was that as a Jew, any anti-Semitic incidents are a cause of concern.

    I do have a view on this and have been thinking about doing a post on the subject, which I may very well do, now that it has been raised here.

  • Themickster

    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/725767/police-funding-england-and-wales-2015-to-2019-hosb1318.pdf

    Police funding is very complicated, but funding has in effect remained static for the last 4 years. The police numbers have dropped, for a whole variety of reasons, but the main issue is priority’s & targets

  • An interesting point, but not the issue that I was raising in this little article

  • Zedsaunt

    A fascinating article, fascinating comments.

    The imposed government austerity program from 2010 onwards has also meant a huge reduction in Youth and Community services, city after city across the UK. This means youth clubs have closed simultaneous with a reduction in police numbers, simultaneous with declining household incomes, simultaneous with cuts in public expenditure supporting libraries and parks, simultaneous with spiraling rent increases, simultaneous with increased numbers of young adults being forced to live with their parents, simultaneous with the spread of a gig economy based on a minimum wage, simultaneous with the proliferation of a variety of substances beyond any control or drug culture to modulate the usage – in short, a generation written out of the narrative.

    No happy homes. No prospects of owning your own home. No happy ending. No generational handover of a better society to the next generation coming through. How to defeat fascism in these circumstances? Football supplies some of the answer – a game of beauty and intelligence created by human beings that can be understood and enjoyed by anyone on the planet.

  • rondejonge

    thanks for your thoughts Tony, please keep it up
    your worries are so jusitfied and recognisable
    there is indeed a lot to be said about football in relation to ‘the real world’
    it s extra worrying that he first comment you get is someone who clearly wants preventing people to think about the social and political context of football. Who is he setting the limits of what topics can be discussed in your own blog! I think thats worrysome too, these people who want to polarise every social input in every conversation, so Tony again
    keep defending our free speech the way you do so well!

  • Great thoughts and very articulate. The social inequality between the rich and the poor is becoming wider and the number of poor people, who can’t afford basic needs is becoming alarming and since government, maybe by sheer greed, lack of will or complete ignorance and/or resources on how to deal with the situation cant help these people, crime seems to be the next option (which in itself is wrong and cowardly IMO). It’s not in England alone, it’s worse in my country, Nigeria. There seems to be a total breakdown of law and orders in society and the rich and middle-class (if any remains) are prime targets. Footballers are seemingly becoming major targets as it’s quite on record the wages these people earn. Why their wages are being publicised is even a wonder. I think clubs should begin to find a way to play down on announcing the wages players receive. It may help. Also, the matter of guns being proliferated tge world over, especially in Nigeria is a menace and i fear for footballers. In a not too distant future, if these things are not dealt with, we could be saying goodbye to football as we know it or have less access to players to even watch and support them on the field of play.

  • ARSENAL 13

    Whoever says this blog is political is not aware of whats happening around him/her.

    Understaffed police can lead to delay in arrests or solving of cases emboldening the criminals, leading to more criminal offenses.

    The situation in London is not just about understaffed law enforcement. Therz a larger game at play. Keyword: demographics.

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