by Tony Attwood
In many regards the debate about football carries on as before. The English media utterly refuse to mention the chaos at Wembley for the Euro final last year while resolutely blaming the French for the trouble in Paris. It’s a story following traditional lines.
Meanwhile the news that Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini will appear in court on Wednesday at the start of their fraud trial is deemed not news by virtually all the English media seemingly because a) no English people are being mentioned in the case, and b) it is firmly against all media policy to mention that there is, or ever has been any corruption in football.
On the other hand the strange case of the Plymouth Argyle pitch is worthy of news.
Now I would not want you to think that in writing that last sentence I am suggesting the state of the Plymouth Argyle pitch is not news, for I most certainly think it is. But what is odd, I think, is that a fair number of media outlets in England have not picked up on the story, and as far as I can tell, those that have, have failed to ask the most important question.
So, if I may, let me focus for a moment on the state of the Plymouth Argyle pitch before returning to Uefa etc. For “Plymouth have reported significant damage to their pitch after a tractor was driven across it following a break-in at Home Park,” according to the Guardian.
They add that, “intruders broke through perimeter fencing outside the stadium on Saturday night and proceeded to access the garage before starting up a tractor used for groundwork with aid of tools.”
Now it may be just me, but I think this is pretty weird in a way that “Fake tickets on ‘industrial scale’ caused Paris chaos” isn’t. There have been many cases of fans without tickets going to all-ticket games, and a growing level of difficulty concerning fake tickets in recent years, so “weird” is not the word I choose.
But people breaking into a ground of a club with an average attendance last season of under 12,000, breaking into a garage, getting a tractor, knowing how to drive the tractor, driving it onto the pitch and digging the pitch up, is weird. Why would anyone do that?
Let’s try and do some speculation. If I was the detective looking into this matter I would consider two groups who might be responsible. First, with football the blame usually goes onto the fans, because of the way the season has gone, and in this case Plymouth finished seventh, so didn’t get into the play offs.
And that was disappointing because on 22 March things were looking rather different.
|3||Milton Keynes Dons||39||22||10||7||64||38||26||76|
So could this be a case of fans expressing their anger at the club’s failure in a novel manner?
I’m sure fans will get the blame because that is what the clubs and the police generally do, but we should also note that there was a protest in Plymouth in December 2021, where a number of people gathered to raise awareness and tackle violence against women and girls.
But going back further I found a situation in which supporters of a planning application which includes Plymouth Argyle’s grandstand development being targeted at their homes by anti-James Brent protesters. (James Brent was the chairman of Plymouth who was criticised after he received money as a result of government grants.)
I also found a headline that read Argyle fans are targeting each others’ homes in bitter in-fighting war, going back to 2017.
Of course none of this has to do with Arsenal, and it by and large doesn’t make the national news because Plymouth are a League One club. But this level of antagonism and criminal damage really is quite extraordinary… at least until one brings into the debate the issues at Wembley and Paris.
Which then raises this point. There was a near-full house of 75,833 inside the Stade de France, this week, but the atmosphere outside the ground ahead of kick-off was calm. (France 24)
The Daily Mail however saw it differently saying, “Footage emerges of a gridlocked Stade de France for France’s Nations League defeat by Denmark with thousands of fans stuck outside the stadium – less than a week after Liverpool fans were blamed by French authorities for Champions League final chaos”
There is indeed a video below that headline, but it is not accessible. Now why is that? Maybe because it wasn’t from the Denmark match.
Meanwhile the Mail doesn’t also really want to know about the fact that ex-Fifa president Sepp Blatter and former UEFA president Michel Platini are appearing in a fraud trial this week for having “illegally obtained, to the detriment of FIFA, a payment of 2 million Swiss francs in favour of Michel Platini,” according to the prosecution. The Mail don’t like that story, because it supports the notion of England playing in Fifa and Uefa matches.
So we have three stories: allegations of further problems at a Paris match but with the video removed. A tractor tearing up Plymouth’s pitch which may be in protest of violence against women. And two of the most powerful men in football’s recent history going on trial, which isn’t mentioned in most of the English media.
It’s a funny ol’ game.
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