If only the kids were United
It’s getting a bit tedious for me now.
Every day there is another article from someone about it.
Fair enough, some of them are well written and there’s little you can argue with in their reasoning, but if I have to read about one more fan whose love affair with Newcastle United is coming to an end…I might have to switch my reading material to Mills and Boon for some less emotionally overwrought stuff.
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The Taylor report, Sky TV, Nick Hornby and Fantasy Football have a lot to answer for in the sanitization of the game, the romanticism of it alongside the expanding popularity, but this self-indulgent nonsense about fans breaking up with their club is becoming too much for me.
Can you imagine your granddad (or great granddad – if you’re a nipper) offering a 1000 word lament over such a decision?
For them, football was more likely something to do in the gap between pubs closing at 2.40pm and opening again at 6.30pm as they used to in the afternoons.
Wind, rain or shine, crap football or trophy winning, useless manager or master tactician, spendthrift owner or miserly. Going to the football was more often than not something better than going home to the wife. There’s more fun to be had being surrounded by like-minded friends and strangers, with a similar sense of humour who can laugh and bellyache and cheer and jeer together, irrespective of results.
We all know the logical reasons to stop going inside out of course, since the pubs went 24 hour and every game is available streamed live, there’s no logical reason to be at any game instead of being on the drink.
If you’ve made the logical decision, champion, but what now? Your decision isn’t an act of martyrdom that will inspire me to follow. People like me will be convinced to stop going either when the cost/reward balance tips backwards too much personally, or when we see a cohesive protest movement to follow, rather than individuals – more on that later.
Despite my loathing of Mike Ashley, I still go to the football because I still like going to the football. I enjoy the live experience in the Strawberry corner where we sing songs and take the pi** out of owner, manager and incapable players (I do the last of those FAR more than I “support the team not the regime”).
I equally enjoy sitting in the family enclosure with my 7 year old nephew, embarrassing my knowledge by telling me the name of all the opposition players I wouldn’t know from Adam. I enjoy those moments that are becoming fewer and farther between that make the spine tingle, like the return of Jonas or being the first club to beat the league leaders as it approaches Christmas.
Now, clearly I’m a mug. No need to add to the comments on that score. I’m playing right into Ashley’s hands and we’ll never be rid of him as long as people like me legitimize his ownership. But just as clearly, even if I stop going, as thousands have already, nothing will change either, will it?
In November 2010 St James Park had over 10,000 empty seats for a premier league game (we lost 2-1 to Blackburn Rovers with a crowd of 41,053). This wasn’t publicized as a unified show of opposition to the owner, it was just that 10,000 fans couldn’t be bothered with it anymore. Apathy, not anger. It hasn’t been maintained either, there has only been one crowd below 49,000 at St James Park in 2014/2015.
Which brings me back to that cohesive movement.
I’m not criticizing fans that have stopped going, there are far better fans than I who have followed the club home and away for decades that are walking away in frustration. Nor am I claiming superfandom, I’ve not done more than a couple of away games in years. But I would say that walking away on principle will not ferment change, and you’re kidding yourself if you think it will, even if you write a strong article that gets thousands of retweets and likes.
There is an ideological separation between fans at the moment who criticize one another for going, or not going, which serves no productive purpose.
Whether we go to games or not, we need to ask what are we doing to pressure the owner? Protests inside the stadium and protests outside of the stadium can have an impact, but at the moment we see neither. Apathy in the stands and apathy in the pubs.
I would be 100% committed to any organised boycott where somebody else put in the legwork for me. It would need to gain traction with a majority, or even a significant minority. It would need someone willing to take the flak they’ll inevitably get when attempting to harness disparate fan groups. Someone connected enough to get the press, fanzines, fan forums and twitterati all on board. I thought the 60 minute walkout I took part in was a great success for a first attempt. It’s a shame the naysayers seem to have put off those that put the effort into pushing that.
Personally, I’m not so emotionally invested in the club being successful that I would sacrifice the time with my family to be involved in organising such an endeavor. I’m much happier taking in each game as it comes and complaining about things while hoping the inevitable change comes sooner rather than later.
Owners are despised across football, whether for spending so much of their own money that the club get into the Champions league and raise ticket prices for the visit of Barcelona (seriously), for borrowing too much money on behalf of the club and profiteering from the success it brings, or for not spending anything in the first place. I hope to be going to games and moaning about the owner, whoever it may be, for many years to come.
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