AUTHOR: – Bricki
Its not been the best of times in recent months for the image of the football supporter or the game in general…
We’ve had the parcel bombs sent to Neil Lennon and other high profile Celtic fans/staff. The ongoing troubles between Rangers and Celtic, which included a potential riot between players and management. The Tottenham fans allegedly singing abusive and potentially racist songs at Emmanuel Adebayor.
Manchester United fans shaming a Youth Cup semi-final at Anfield with chants about Heysel and Hillsborough.
This is but the tip of an iceberg that has included players receiving racial abuse from fans, being abused by people hiding behind Twitter names and last night included a section of Manchester City fans refering to United fans as Munichs in songs at Blackburn Rovers.
Isn’t it time that enough was enough and we reclaim the game from these morons?
I am not here to complain about the Manchester City fans from the Blackburn game, nor the fans that regularly give abuse to United players specifically. This is a game wide issue and something that no longer can be tolerated, we rightly pointed out the issues that Russia faced with racial abuse during the World Cup campaign so we now need to put a stop to it here.
The argument that many put up is that the people who sing these songs and abuse players are in the minority. If this is the case then why do the majority not over power these people and either sing over them or even report them so they can be removed and dealt with? In recent weeks i have seen fans removed from the Stretford End for daring to stand up and then when attempting to debate the issue with stewards they have been ejected. These are fans i see every home game whos only crime is getting behind the team.
Wayne Rooney was punished for swearing into the camera after scoring against West Ham, he rightly apologised but was given a two game ban for his actions. Whether i agree with that or not it set a precedent for the behaviour of players on the pitch and you can only hope the FA continue to punish players who do step over the line of respect and dignity in the game.
But is it now up to the clubs to start clamping down on the chants and vile insults that come down from the stands?
Removal of fans chanting songs including profanity and swear words is an unwinnable situation, the game is a working mans game and the songs fans sing have in cases been sung for generations. However, when the songs become abusive or harmful in the language used then a line needs to be drawn.
Clubs now operate a scheme where if somebody hears or sees any sort of abuse take place then they can send an anonymous text message detailing the offenders Stand, Row and Seat number but how well does that work? How does somebody report a chant from several people coming from either behind or in front of them? There is no point paying lip service to a situation that has slowly escalated and is becoming an issue that cannot be ignored.
What should the clubs do? Well removal from the ground is the first step, followed by the removal of access for future games. It is the minimum responsibility of the clubs to the game in general. If the high profile clubs can lead the way there is more hope of the stance becoming commonplace through out the leagues.
In conjunction with this the FA should treat these situations as seriously as crowd violence itself. If clubs are repeatadly found to be allowing this behaviour to continue then sanctions against the club must be put in place also. These must show that the behaviour cannot be tolerated, such measures can include
- Reduction in number of fans allowed in ground
- Closure of parts of ground
- Games played behind closed doors
- Points deductions
It needs to be dealt with in a harsh manner as we are now entering a stage where the new generation of match goers and there families did not witness Munich/Heysel and even Hillsborough but continue to sing about them. I spoke to one Manchester City fan after the Blackburn game, a very good friend and a man i know appreciates the game for what it is. He explained to me that now some fans he nows uses the term ‘Munichs’ as a reference to all Manchester United fans and doesnt have a true understanding of the event or the way it shaped football in Manchester after 1958. This is highly likely for all clubs with younger fans in the stands, events like Munich, Hillsborough, Heysel and the abuse of other fans with names like ‘Yids’ or managers like Arsene Wenger ‘Paedophile’ can be seen and then become imitated without a true understanding as to why they are sung.
As a United fan the first time i really looked into the Munich Air Crash and how it occured came when i was 15 and wrote an English Language GCSE piece about the crash. I tried to write an article about the accident as if i was a journalist based in Manchester at the time. It was only when i researched the accident i truly understood what happened and why, i also discovered for the first time that people other than the team died, including former City player Frank Swift.
It opened my eyes to what the club meant to fans and the way that football didnt just represent the community but it was the community. Even today with the vast amounts of money in the game and players who make more in a week than the majority of fans in a year, this still holds true. Go into any pub in the country and 8/10 conversations will still be football based, the content may have changed (finance, foreign owners, zonal marking) but football is still the heartbeat of the nation and what we are currently seeing in the media is akin to heart disease.
The clubs have a responsiblity to educate fans and also to police fans when in or around the grounds. The fans also have a responsiblilty to police themselves and to help eradicate the unsavoury parts of ‘support’.
To allow the behaviour we have currently seen in the stands and on social networking (the abuse of footballers on Twitter is particularly pathetic) to continue is as big a crime as the fans who are singing the chants.
The fans must stop being the silent majority and start confronting these undesirables to stop this behaviour. Fans need to be educated by clubs about things like Munich/Hillsborough/Heysel and why personal abuse of footballing figures/fans must stop.
The clubs need to start treating these incidents much more seriously and helping fans to be confident enough to point people out who are leading others in these incidents.
The FA need to show the sort of action they did in punishing Rooney for his behaviour/language by targeting clubs who allow abuse to continually happen and start to administer sanctions that fit the crime.
Maybe once the clubs and fans start to truly suffer for this behaviour might we see a reduction and better policing of the problem areas of the game.