I will be the first to admit that I am something of a grumpy bastard and that I spend my days moaning about subjects ranging from the failure of HM Tax and revenue to collect money from the travelling community (why don’t they?) to people who illegally use disabled parking spaces (who should have their cars crushed on the spot). However, today I read something which hasn’t just irritated me, it has left me incensed. Yes, that’s right, incensed.
For on this very night, the 22nd of December, at White Hart Lane where Spurs will be playing near neighbours Chelsea, stewards will be wearing cameras in an effort to catch on film anyone in the crowd who uses foul, abusive or racist language.
Stewards….. wearing cameras….. Sorry, but I had to type that twice because I still don’t actually believe it.
To be honest, I don’t even know where to begin with this. The sanitisation of football is something I have written about extensively over the years and yet it continues apace. Usually it has to be said, hidden or at least cloaked under the ‘Kick Racism’ banner. But whilst I will be the first to jump behind anything which deals with either racism or racist abuse as I have done at length both in books and on this very blog, this is something else entirely. This is little more than fascism.
Like most people, I go to football to let off steam and part of that involves shouting, singing and occasionally, indulging in that little thing we fans call banter. Now in truth, many of the things we say, sing or chant could, when taken out of context, be considered abusive but inside a football ground, when directed at opposing fans, players or even officials, they are little more than simple words. Many of these words have basis in either history or fact but they are above all, instrumental in the creation of atmosphere. And atmosphere is, above all, what makes going to football one of the great joys of life.
But now, all of that is in grave danger of being taken away and make no mistake, that’s exactly where this is heading. The question is, why?
The fascists’ case is that no one should be subjected to any kind of abuse which might be deemed unacceptable but this is bollocks. This is about context and in the case of football, the game is the context. Enter a ground and you should know exactly what you are walking into, play it professionally and you must know what you are likely to experience at some point. If you don’t like that, then either don’t go or watch the sanitised version on television or don’t seek to enter the profession in the first place! It really is that simple. Because you have no right to walk into a ground or run out onto a pitch and then cry foul because you don’t like certain aspects of what you find. The individual will never, should never and can never be bigger than the game.
Yes, of course there are things which are said, shouted or sung inside grounds which are unacceptable but shock horror, terraces aren’t politically correct places and nor should they be! Furthermore, history has proven time and time again that in the vast majority of cases, the line of acceptability is drawn firmly by the people sitting within earshot which is exactly how it should be anyway! It is not, nor should ever be, drawn by someone sitting in a control room viewing CCTV footage a few days later.
Equally, what will be deemed unacceptable? The girls in Hertfordshire do have tits and fanny’s but me singing about them doesn’t make me sexist just as the age old songs about Mickey Quinn eating all the pies hardly make me fatist.
But to some politically correct driven jobsworth, that might be exactly what they decide and what then? Bollockings? Bannings? Prosecution? Or will we all have to attend some kind of seminar outlining the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of football fandom.
It’s a joke. But of course, it isn’t. Because it isn’t funny at all. It’s potentially very real and it could well have major consequences for the game in this country.
The irony is that this is happening on the very same week that someone in the UK has finally seen sense and decided that a return safe standing might actually be a good idea. Of course it isn’t in England because that would mean relinquishing some of the control the game exerts over us but fair play to the Scottish game (and that’s something I never thought I’d say! ) for finally having the balls to give it a try.
Yet what is the driving force behind the safe standing campaign? Exactly, the demise of atmosphere inside our grounds! Which is of course exactly what this farce at Tottenham is going to erode even further.
Well I have news for those who ‘run’ the game. Start filming people and prosecuting them for using foul language inside a ground and you will be fucked. Because enough is enough.
This isn’t about the game or the police, this is about the clubs themselves. OUR clubs. They’ve hiked prices to ridiculous levels, make us sit not stand, shift games around without a moment’s thought for the travelling fan and each week seem to find new ways to part us from our increasingly hard earned. And now, as we have seen at Blackburn and numerous other clubs, not only are they starting to cry foul when we actually have the nerve to voice our opinions about what is or is not going on at OUR clubs, thanks to Tottenham there is a very real sign that they are seemingly moving toward the total control of what we can and cannot say inside grounds. OUR grounds. What next? Song sheets? Big screens being used as auto-cues? Fans being asked to sing adverts for sponsors?
You may laugh, but I wouldn’t put anything past anyone involved with the financial side of football because none of them have the remotest idea of what it is (or was) like to stand on a terrace and be spontaneous. That’s why what’s going on at Spurs must be stopped from spreading and if the FSA and those who claim to be supportive of the rights of fans had anything about them, they would already be screaming blue bloody murder.
So where are they?