by Tony Attwood
It was back in April, just a few weeks into the corona virus, that we first raised the issue of how people could be stopped from celebrating around a club’s stadium after a trophy was won. Since then we have had three nights of mass gatherings in Liverpool and several nights of get together in Leeds after they won promotion. The police it seems were not able to stop such events.
As ever, the media didn’t feel like following up too much on our thoughts, although I think a few did note that we called this one right – some fans in some clubs will come out in numbers no matter what the warnings and what the concerns.
And this is especially the case when the prime cause of concern is the end of years of failure. 30 years for Liverpool, 16 for Leeds (including three years in League One).
Of course we were not the only people who saw the danger, although we did come up with a solution: playing all the games in Cyprus. As it happens such an approach would not have stopped the end of season celebrations in Liverpool and Leeds, but was aimed at avoiding crowds gathering near stadia in general.
The closure of pubs etc did stop this, but still the behaviour of Liverpool and Leeds fans is causing a re-think about opening stadia next season, and if that is hauled back it will most certainly be those fans who are to blame.
Mind you, the problems of sorting out who can go is already causing headaches, and there is a major concern about what happens at half time when many fans traditionally get up to go to the toilet.
I imagine the issue of pubs close to the ground will also be of concern – the crush within many of those emporiums around Arsenal stadium before and after a game is something to behold.
The Telegraph newspaper reports that they have been told that “major doubt has been cast on plans to allow crowds back into football grounds following the repeated refusal of Liverpool and Leeds United fans to obey coronavirus lockdown restrictions.”
They also report that “football safety officers are opposed to proposals that would see a limited number of spectators attend matches next season.”
This reaction highlights one of the huge problems with the way the people who run English football think. Indeed it may be a problem with English thinking habits in general. And that is, a sample of one or two is considered enough to make a generalisation.
All that is needed is for clubs to be treated on an individual basis. So Leeds and Liverpool cause a problem – their grounds stay closed. No problem at Arsenal, our ground stays open.
Pubs around Leeds and Liverpool ground become problematic – they are closed. And so on.
Indeed we are seeing this happening in the general responses to the crisis, as for example with the restrictions in part of Leicester. These last few days there has been similar talk around the town of Northampton, and I’m hoping the same localised response will be utilised there, putting the town in lockdown if that is medically necessary, but not arbitrarily spreading the restriction to the whole of the county of Northamptonshire (which would then lock down me).
This does however raise another issue. If Arsenal start offering tickets to one in three people, and I take that up for my season ticket seat, but then can’t go because I find myself in a lock down area, can I sell my ticket on ticket exchange, or are they saying my season ticket seat is just for me so I have to pay whether I go or not?
There is an awful lot we don’t yet know.
Ahead of the match Mr Arteta said, “Hopefully next season it will be very different. We have a beautiful challenge – a very demanding challenge but a beautiful challenge – ahead of us. We have to get this right and bring this club back to where it belongs, which is with the top teams in the country and in Europe. After everything that happened, if we are able to win the final and qualify for Europe, we can say it’s OK. But it’s not the level for this football club.”
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