Tag Archives: Supporters direct

We are football fans, let us introduce ourselves

There is an out-dated self-fulfilling stereotype that is blighting the beautiful game.  It is the sort of stereotype that is so damaging that in other walks of life it would have been tagged “discriminatory” and yet is accepted for football fans.  This stereotype is that football fans are racist, homophobic, violent and irrational.  Take a step back and think about just how short-sighted this is.

Let’s be clear, some football fans are disproportionately racist, homophobic and violent in relation to the wider British population; although this is a dying phenomenon.  Some football fans still do cause violence, shout abuse at each other and vandalise their surroundings. This is very different however, from saying that football fans are these things.  This prejudice materialises in a number of ways.  For example it is not just an internal prejudice that people hold, it affects our everyday lives.  If you are wearing football colours it is common to be banned from pubs.  Banned! Literally not allowed to enter because you support a game! Let’s now make a massively controversial and yet interesting comparison.

Black men, are disproportionately responsible for violent crime (two-thirds of shooting, over half of armed robberies) and yet, no civilised human being would still think that Black people are violent.  There is no bar manager who would deny a Black man entry to a bar purely because of what he looks like. Sadly, I believe that people still hold irrational fears based on inbuilt racism, but it has become socially unacceptable for anyone to express these prejudices. This public consciousness is not so apparent when it comes to football fans. Not only do people believe football fans are all these things but it is OK to be openly prejudice against them.

Football fans in the UK are a very different phenomenon to the firm violence of the 1980’s and 1990’s.  There is still football hooliganism.  The difference is that they no longer hold wide-spread support amongst football supporters.  The violence is no longer seen as a source of pride.  If you hear racist abuse in the stands today it is looked down on.  Indeed, this is slowly becoming true around homophobic chanting as well.  The sad thing here, is that football followed society rather than led it.

I find it really disappointing when supporter groups like the Bristol City Supporters Trust have to put out video’s like the one at the start of this blog to point out the obvious.  Football supporters are cross generational, cross class, cross ethnicity and overwhelmingly peaceful.  There is only a minority that are interested in violence. 

When a football club proposes to build a stadium on your doorstep, you are right to be worried.  It will strain your transport infrastructure every other Saturday, noise levels will rise for a couple of hours a every other Saturday and you might (if you are unlucky) experience football related to violence.  These problems however are often over stated, and the benefits football can bring to the community, local business and to individuals are often underplayed. 

To mention a few potential benefits (the list is too long for this post but please do read this report by “Supporters Direct”):

  • Community outreach – Clubs nearly always have staff and money to invest into local schools and community centres.
  • Community cohesion – when you are on a football pitch or in the stand, normal societal divisions loose their significance (as I said football is cross class, cross ethnicity and cross culture).
  • Facilities – Often the facilities of clubs can be used by local teams, the rooms for evening education classes or the restaurant bar area for events.
  • Business opportunities – having a successful football club acts as an economic magnet for further investment in the area, from restaurants and pubs through to schools and transport.
  • “Soft benefits” – these are ones you cannot quantify, the friendships, the civic pride, the social cohesion that football can have. 

These benefits are not a given.  Not all clubs benefit their communities as much as others.  The Supporters direct report makes recommendations on how to bring about the best practice to increase the “social benefit” of football clubs.  A case lesson to learn is that it needs community involvement.  That means me and you going along and getting involved!

I still maintain that there is no force in the world more powerful than football to bring about change.  If we marginalise football (we don’t want a stadium near us), if we give only bad press, and if we continue to paint fans in out-dated firm colours then we will continue to leave this force to be moulded by regressive social movements.  It appears that the BNP understand the significance, but sadly other political movements seem to shy away from engaging.  It is up to us, as citizens to engage with our local clubs to bring about the sort of relationship we want to see.

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Filed under Economics, Far-right politics, Football, Politics, sexuality, Sport

Manchester United MUST change.

I have long supported the work and development of “Supporters direct“, a non-for profit organization that aims to bring about responsible democratic governance of football clubs through the development of supporter trusts.  Thanks largely to their efforts over 160 clubs now have supporter trusts.  Clubs that are now owned by their supporters include:

AFC Telford United, AFC Wimbledon, Bramley Buffaloes (RL), Brentford, Cambridge City, Clydebank (Scotland), Enfield Town, Exeter City, FC United of Manchester, Gretna (Scotland), Merthyr Tydfil, Newport (IW) FC, Rochdale Hornets (RL), Runcorn Linnets, Scarborough Athletic.

You will notice the distinct lack of the footballing giants in that list.  I was very excited therefore to see the recent developments at Old Trafford.  After David Beckhams public display of support for the MUST campaign (Manchester United Supporters Trust) by wearing the green and gold scarf (the original colours of Manchester United) their membership has rocketed to over 134,000! This is an organisation, which aims to remove the glacier family, and ensure a future where the supporters of Manchester United FC take a meaningful ownership stake in the club.  Lets not beat around the bush here – this is massive.

Although I support the lads down at AFC Wimbledon and what they are doing there, this is something much different.  Manchester United’s annual turnover was £257.1m in the 07-08 season (I guess it has grown since).  What’s happening right now is 134,000 (and watch this figure grow) fans directly challenging the crazy financial norms of our times.  This is 134,000 fans shouting loud and clear that there is more to football than money.  This is a grass-roots mobilization like the sorts never seen before in football. Manchester United rely on their support base through match day tickets and in stadium sales to produce 40% of their revenue.  It’s about time; the fans took control of what was theirs.  Manchester United MUST change.

The Guardians sport section today confirmed that the Glazier’s are worried about this campaign by revealing that Manchester United players have been gagged from talking about the campaign.  MUTV has banned the colours of green and gold (this was enforced by a supporter being ejected from the audience for wearing the scarf and a long serving steward a t the ground has been sacked for returning a confiscated anti-glazier banner. All of this is a sure sign that something is working.

If there is anyone reading this that cares about Manchester United, join the campaign. If you support any other club, contact MUST immediately to find out about what you can do at your club.

I have said it before and I will say it again.  There is no global force more powerful than football to bring about societal change.

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Filed under Economics, Football, Sport