Ban Newcastle City Centre Pubs Showing Derby Matches?
It seems that the mindless violence that followed the derby match on Sunday has made more news than the game itself, and I can hardly believe myself saying it, but I’d rather be hearing about the debacle on the pitch than what went on afterwards.
Nonetheless, several good articles have appeared on The Mag website in the last day or so – invariably more considered and better informed than the majority that have arisen in the more general media. Indeed, therein lies the point I wanted to make: the old chestnut of ‘why let the facts get in the way of a good story’?
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I’m not seeking to trivialise what was an utterly disgraceful spectacle on Sunday afternoon, but the issue of media misrepresentation was hammered home to me by a feature I saw on Tuesday morning’s BBC Breakfast programme. They’d lined up two so-called experts on football and football supporters – one a general sports journalist who admitted that he hadn’t even seen either our game or the Wigan/Millwall FA Cup semi final they were also talking about. The other a university professor who’d apparently written a couple of books on football culture.
Now I’m fully aware of the old adage about people in glass houses not throwing stones, given my own background. However, I’d argue that any football fan writer’s opinions are backed-up by their years ‘on the ground’ as a paying football supporter, not by an eminent academic career or an intimate knowledge of the Old Trafford press box. Honest research is all well and good, we all have to do it, but for some things there’s no substitute for good old fashioned experience.
While this might sound a bit like inverse snobbery, the two experts on the BBC just seemed to want to talk about problems in society and the effects this supposedly had on people that watch live football matches, while in both cases completely missing the two key points, namely:
- According to both the police and witness statements from Newcastle fans exiting the ground after the match, the violence outside SJP was almost entirely the work of non-match-going individuals that had been either hanging around in the city centre while the game was on, or drinking in town while watching it on telly. While the real fans headed away from the ground, the hooligans were going in the opposite direction.
- The trouble at Wembley on Saturday was caused by West Ham fans that had bought excess unsold tickets allocated to Millwall, the same fans having obviously gone with the express intent of executing a high profile trouble-making exercise ‘behind enemy lines’.
While none of this excuses what went on, the problem with inviting so-called experts to comment on issues they don’t fully understand is the level of misinformation this conveys to the non-football supporting public and ultimately to incorrect decisions being made by politicians. For the potential upshot of this, we can go all the way back to Thatcher & Moynihan in the 1980’s, and a failure of policy that led directly to Hillsborough.
So having dismissed the thoughts of the BBC’s ‘experts’, you might ask what my own solutions to the problem might be. In the case of Millwall at Wembley, I strongly suspect that it could have been avoided by the use of a proper club membership scheme, the sort that I can only conclude either doesn’t exist at The New Den or wasn’t used for the semi final. That’s down to them or the FA to enforce.
In our case, it’s more complicated than that, but one thing that has to be looked at is new governance over the showing of live games on pub TV. Given the number of Newcastle home games that are being broadcast live on either British or overseas satellite TV, the occurrence of tanked-up charvas in bars in the city centre on match day has risen exponentially in recent years.
Surely, for the derby game at least, a new byelaw ought to be introduced prohibiting the live broadcast of the match at any licensed premises in or around the city centre. That way it would at least limit the numbers in town and it might also help a good number of hard pressed pubs and clubs in outlying areas to keep their heads above water on derby day into the bargain.
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