By Tony Attwood
It is all about how one looks at the world. We can read the story of the convicted thief who steals food because his children are starving and blame the government and our social system for their poverty, or we can blame the thief for not going out and getting a job.
We can blame the homeless for not having a home, or we can blame the politicians for underfunding the school system so it can’t give them the skills necessary to get a job.
We can blame football supporters who go to an away match without a ticket or who have a ticket and then hurl abuse and physical objects at players, or we can excuse them because of the way the match was hyped up.
We can say, and indeed many do say, there is never any excuse for physical violence or abusive, intolerant or insulting language. We can be upset or bemused by the fact that the young crowd in Hungary booed the taking of the knee, but then ignore the fact that the Sunderland team en masse refused to take the knee when playing Arsenal, and a fair number of the Sunderland supporters in the ground booed during that brief period.
It all seems to be a matter of choice and perception. And yet it is never presented as this, for generally speaking on English TV and in the rest of the media, those organising football matches are rarely considered to blame. No matter how bad the conditions or facilities or arrangements, the fans should acquiesce and be quiet. There is never any excuse for violence we are told, but that just hides the simple fact that there is often an explanation for violence, and it is the way the organisers and media treat us fans.
Indeed no matter how corrupt or incompetent the authorities are, we are told we should accept our position in life as the inferior members of the community. Beings of lesser value. The executives, the owners, the media, they can have their own separate entrances, their guaranteed tickets, their extra space, their laid on food and drink because, well, they are the executives, the owners and the media. We are, well, nothing really. The bottom of the pile.
So how has it come to this?
The answer is fairly obvious really. The media are part of the privileged elite; their way into the ground secure and protected, their seats arranged, refreshments provided. So they mediate the message in a way that reflects their privilege. If something goes wrong they will either blame the incompetent foreign organisers, or failing that, the fans.
The members of the media are rarely herded and treated like cattle. For goodness sake – they are paid to be there, while we pay to go in. Of course we are inferior.
So when Arsenal utterly cocked up at the start of last season forcing us to queue on steps for a bag check (which as I have repeatedly pointed out was against the law, and for which Arsenal have still, nearly a year later not apologised) I make a fuss. I didn’t hit anyone, not least because I am not a violent person, but I did bypass the official way in, move at what might be called quite a sprightly rate for my age, and get around the problem that way. But the bad feeling remained.
As it did when on one occasion I was asked to show my covid pass, mistakenly pulled the car insurance certificate out of my wallet and showed that, and was waved through. What a total farce.
But let us broaden the issue. At the top of football, beyond any doubt at all, is corruption and incompetence which is hardly ever picked up by the media. In doing that they are telling us that football is ok, when it isn’t.
I am not excusing the people who sold fake tickets to Liverpool fans, any more than I am blaming the Liverpool fans who went to Paris without tickets. I am blaming the media for not calling for the heads of every single executive and manager in the FA who allowed the chaos to happen in the Euro final last year – as much as I am blaming every member of the FA for their ludicrously inept organisation and every reporter who has simply let the issue slip away as being of no importance.
Organise matches properly, give fans decent facilities, stop treating us like animals, and show respect to what we are: the people who pay for all this to happen. Without us paying our TV subscriptions, our season ticket fees, our transport costs etc etc, there would be no jobs for football journalists. They owe us, we don’t owe them.
We are the ones being treated with contempt, day after day, year after year, and the media excuse the clubs and country associations because it is the clubs and countries that give the media their freebies.
We should be treating the media and the incompetent organisers with contempt and disgust, and yet it is they who are treating the fans with contempt and disgust. We really ought to have started fighting back long ago.
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