The game is underway, the action has reached a point of let’s be honest, boredom. The Emirates crowd is hushed awaiting some excitement, it doesn’t come, a player makes a mistake, groans cascade down towards the pitch, a young man stands up and with arms aloft sings “Arsenal, Arsenal Arsenal” at the top of his voice. What is the usual response? Shut up and sit down”. and then a steward will arrive and threaten him with expulsion.
You may say this is a worst case scenario but we have all seen it – show some passion and unless it is a big, big game (Barca), few will join in. Why have the grounds (not just the Grove) become so sterile?
Primarily, I blame the seats. Anyone who saw the tragic results of overcrowding, poor policing and violence which led to the need for the Taylor report understands the need for better stewarding and control., but in my opinion the decision to turn grounds all-seater has been a two edged sword; Yes, the days of violence and fear on the terraces have disappeared; Yes, the chance of someone urinating on your leg have been reduced and Yes, it is easier to get back to your mates after a half-time pie, but at what cost? Seating dampens physical, emotional expression.
Football has always been a sport for all ages and in the past as one got older one moved to the East or West Stands, there was seating aplenty but the passionate singing remained on the terraces.
An example from elsewhere. Go to a rock concert, feel the difference in emotion between sitting and standing – and it is not just about dancing. For the performer it is the same, try sitting and singing on stage – almost impossible. Standing makes the expression of an emotion simpler.
Whilst accepting that something had to be done to prevent the violence on the terraces, the solutions found in the ’80’s should not be rigidly enforced today. Apart from the usual miscreants (Leeds, Cardiff, Millwall etc) football fans do not fight each other. Those that do, do so away from the ground which has nothing to do with football.
If clubs want atmosphere at the grounds then there has to be a standing section behind the goals. With the advent of CCTV and better stewarding, the grounds will remain safe.
A direct result of seating was an increase in the cost of attending a match, which has led to change in the social demographics . No longer can a family man on a less than average income take his children to all the matches. The game has become a wealthier man’s sport. And along with that comes different behavioural patterns, amongst which are a heightened sense of individualism and a reluctance to enter into “mob” behaviour i.e. rather than joining in the lad standing singing, he is told to “sit down and shut up”.
A few other causes …
1. The Bloody DJ. Where did the idea come from that we need a DJ’s inanities to create an atmosphere? Do I need to hear Status bloody Quo singing Rocking all over the World after a victory to be able to celebrate?
2. Mobile phones. All grounds should be phone free. I am sick of hearing the man sitting next to me discussing work issues/women problems/ what is for dinner during a game. I am also sick of people on the bloody phone looking askant when someone tries to start a chant, as if to say “Can’t you see I am making an important phone call?”
3. The inabilty of friends to sit/stand together.
4. The loss of connection between the players and the fans. Can you remember those halcyon Highbury days when during warm up we sang all the players names and they all responded? What happened? Today there is absolutely no contact apart from when a sub warms up and he may clap his hands above his head. All clubs should enforce their players to go to all sides of the ground and wave to the fans prior to or/& post the game, especially at away fixtures.
5. Allow alcohol onto the terraces (contentious I know). It is possible at all other sporting events, why not football?. Are football fans to be treated like children because of a few lads who cannot handle their booze?
6. Find a better transport solution. Perhaps then fans would stay to the end of the 90 minutes – it shames me to see a half empty stadium at the final whistle.
Written by Big Raddy