By Tony Attwood
It has been my view, since my student days, that commercial organisations, the media and politicians should all be responsible for the consequences of their actions. Of course commercial organisations, the media and politicians deny this, so they can carry on saying and doing what they like, and then shaking their heads in dismay when others outside their elite react.
So of course the media, the football clubs and politicians will all condemn what happened at the Man U ground yesterday. Quite possibly the club might be fined an amount which in the context of its wealth is insignificant. But no action will be taken against the club for failing to provide a secure environment to play the game.
Nor will anyone in the media blame the media for ignoring the absolute and total disconnect that there has been between some clubs and their fans. Ultimately uprisings, be they of a handful of people or hundreds of thousands, happen because of disconnect. Ultimately, the clubs and the compliant media are to blame.
The media of course is part of this disconnect. They not only have privileged access to football, because of the way the media works, they have access to the formation of opinion through the vast amount of chit chat that goes on before and after the game, telling us how we have to see the situation, how we have to see the game.
And indeed it is interesting that when social media gets out of control, we then have the situation in which the clubs etc shut down their accounts for a few days – as if that will make any difference either to the people who use social media for illegal means or to the companies that run social media and allow their users free reign, or the governing bodies of football, themselves among the most corrupt organisations on the planet.
Throughout all this chaos, the fans are left disenfranchised – and then of course when they rise up, as at Old Trafford the media condemn them, of course never for once considering that they are largely to blame.
Nothing that the media has done, nothing that the clubs have done, will ever be considered to be part of the problem. And of course in response to my view that the media is to blame there will be the comments saying, “You think it is all right for people to run on the pitch and disrupt a match…” which just shows how far the disconnect goes.
If you treat people like a necessary but ultimately low-level part of the process of making money, eventually they will turn. And maybe, just maybe, we have come to this moment, where the owners of clubs will realise that the way fans have been treated since football became popular in the late 19th century, is not acceptable. Treated like cattle, treated as irrelevant…. while the media commentators, the club owners and yes the top players too, are treated as the people who matter.
Basically we all matter – but one group of us never get the respect or engagement we deserve.
The Guardian newspaper, which I have often criticised because its approach to football seems so out of touch with its approach to the rest of reality, does seem to me to have got it right this time in writing…
Who said wrestling back our national game from the oligarchs and private equity funds couldn’t also be a top day out with the lads? In the coming days there will doubtless be a good deal of focus on the tangible grievances that have brought football fans on to the streets: malignant owners, inequitable power structures, unfit governance. But underpinning it all is something far less tangible: a deep yearning among disconnected, locked-out supporters simply to feel something again.
The only thing missing in that list, after “unfit governance” is “and a mass media that treats the fans as an irrelevance”.
We have heard a lot about the importance of fans this season, but we are still treated as idiots and dolts by most of the media who make up fantasy tales and tell us what they think we ought to believe.
It is because, when roused, fans still have power to overthrow the tight control of owners and the arse-licking media that we are going to see more and more matches moved away and played overseas. The days when I could go with my friends for a pre-season friendly to watch Arsenal at Peterborough United or Barnet are now unimaginable. The games are played in Arabia or America, not just for the money, but because there is a total and utter disconnect with those who us who remain fans and maybe can count our family’s support back through the generations. SuperLeague is just the latest development.
For Arsenal, the grand disconnect between fans and club came in 1927 with a revolution in the board room and the installation of the Hill-Wood family who ultimately sold to the present owner. From there on it has been downhill all the way – and what we see now is just the inevitable outcome of that power grab in 1927.
One of a number of people who was kicked out of the club on that day without a word of thanks for all he had done was Jack Humble, a man who worked in the Royal Arsenal factories, who helped form the club, who played for Arsenal, who defended the club against the first attempted power-grab in 1893 and who became the first chairman of the professional club. He was the key link between the fans and the men who came in to rescue Arsenal financially in 1910, and his dismissal from the board in 1927 was the sign that the fans no longer had a place in the club except to provide finance by attending matches.
From there to a situation today where the Glazer family bought their club, and then took out a loan from the club to pay for their own purchase of the club – that’s been the journey. And if that last sentence looks weird (meaning as it does that the club paid for the new owners to buy the club) it is weird. It is a weird world we are in – and the media has encouraged us to stop thinking about it.
There are only two options from now on. Club owners can seriously discuss what happens now with fans and take actions accordingly, or they dismiss those who invaded Old Trafford as “not real fans” which is what the media normally does. In the former case we might, maybe, perhaps, amazingly, somehow get progress. Otherwise, no it just runs on downhill and downhill, destroyed by the owners and the media who determine what is, and what is not important.
If you have been, thank you for reading.
Football: the great reform bill and the breakaway
- How Arsenal, the club of revolutions, became the club of “be like everyone else”
- Football: the huge problem that simply will not go away
- Football does not have to be torn up and replaced (as the media suggests)
- The problem beyond Superleague is the secrecy of the Premier League
- The Trotskyist model fans and journalists desire for running football has failed
- Super League v Premier League: now the real war begins
- Superleague. The key question the media utterly refused to ask, let alone answer
- Breakaway clubs face largest football PR and political disaster of all times
- Arsenal injury crisis is a phantom of the Mirror’s imagination
- In Switzerland Fifa is on the edge of being blown up. In England….?
- Why life working for a football club might not always be what it seems
- The big six transfers thus far, and who’s got more cash?
- Arsenal transfers: Gnabry return, White a disaster, Martinez a loss?