The Hillsborough Disaster, A Guide for the Stupid Football Fan

26 04 2016

I wrote this 5 years ago. The truth was available 26 years ago if you knew where to look.

The Hillsborough disaster is back in the news. There is an e-petition to sign if you would like our government to release documents related to the disaster.

I used to think that the truth was self-evident about Hillsborough; it was a disaster caused by a mixture of Police negligence and Thatcher’s policies. I thought the disaster was held with the same regard by all football fans because there was the potential for something like this to have happened at certain grounds at other times. It turns out that I was a little naive about this universal attitude.

Some people think that Liverpool fans are partly, if not wholly to blame for killing their own fans. Other people don’t like the sound of ‘Whinging Scousers” from “self-pity city” spouting off. I’ve challenged one or two of them on Twitter about this attitude.  They rather alarmingly, justify their view by mentioning the Heysel stadium disaster as if this was proof that “Liverpool fans caused Hillsborough”, despite the fact that Hillsborough disaster has nothing whatsoever to do with this very shameful event.

Others go on to highlight the behaviour of Liverpool fans in Athens as a further justification for their view, as if a few scallies robbing tickets off fans is equivalent to being crushed to death.

Morons will use both events to say this “just shows what Liverpool fans (and scousers) are like”. In other words they are using their petty prejudices about scousers to justify the fact that 96 people were crushed to death at a football match.

There is no greater example of the pernicious effect of Murdoch’s tabloid than this mass logic failure. Some people have swallowed the MacKenzie line about Liverpool fans hook, line and sinker. Some of these people have used other events to create a mental tapestry about Liverpool fans that justifies the death of 96 football fans.

I wonder if any of them have ever imagined what 96 people being crushed to death involves, what it feels like, what it looks like, what it sounds like, what it smells like. Have they ever thought about the guilt of the survivors? Have they fuck, if they had thought about Hillsborough like that they wouldn’t have made their comments.

These people make me ashamed to be a football fan.

For these idiots I have gone to the trouble of reading through the Taylor Report and I’ve highlighted the salient points in red. I’ve also  highlighted the cause Lord Justice Taylor formulated in blue. Remember this is not some “jaundiced Scouser” writing about the disaster. The report was written by a judge employed by the government to find out what happened.

 Here are the edited highlights of the “Taylor Report” (You will see that Lord Justice Taylor doesn’t blame Liverpool fans for the disaster)

36. The effect of the decision was that for this all-ticket Cup Tie, Liverpool were allotted only 24,256 places as against 29,800 for Nottingham Forest. This, although average attendance of supporters at home matches was substantially higher at Liverpool than at Nottingham. Moreover, with standing tickets at £6 and seats at £12, Nottingham Forest had 21,000 standing places compared with Liverpool’s 10,100. So, Liverpool’s allocation was more expensive as well as smaller. Understandably, Liverpool were aggrieved by the allocation of places and tickets. They sought with some support from the host club and the FA to have it changed in 1988, but the police were adamant. To switch ends would, in their opinion, have involved rival supporters crossing each other’s paths when approaching the ground thereby frustrating attempts at segregation and creating a risk of disorder. In 1989, when the same plan was proposed, Liverpool again challenged it. The police, however, maintained their view, adding that those who had attended in 1988 would be familiar with the arrangements and that any change would lead to confusion.

78. In the control room no-one noticed the overcrowding or anything amiss in pens 3 and 4 until the first fans spilt out onto the perimeter track just before kick-off. Then, the officers in command assumed that there was an attempted pitch invasion. They called up reserve serials waiting in the gymnasium and all available officers elsewhere to go to the pitch. A request was made to HQ for dog handlers.

Misinformation

98. At about 3.15 pm, Mr Graham Kelly, Chief Executive of the FA, Mr Kirton also of the FA and Mr Graham Mackrell, Secretary of Sheffield Wednesday, went to the control room for information. Mr Duckenfield told them he thought there were fatalities and the game was likely to be abandoned. He also said a gate had been forced and there had been an inrush of Liverpool supporters. He pointed to one of the television screens focussed on gate C by the Leppings Lane turnstiles and said “That’s the gate that’s been forced: there’s been an inrush”. Inevitably Mr Kelly was interviewed a little later live on television. He spoke of the two stories concerning the gate – the fans’ account that the police had opened it, the police assertion that the fans had forced their way in.

116. The overcrowding up to 2.52 pm was due to a number of factors which can be considered broadly under three heads.

(i) The layout at the Leppings Lane end.

(ii) Lack of fixed capacities for the pens,

(iii) Lack of effective monitoring of the terraces.

You may have noticed that the behaviour of Liverpool fans is not called into question

117. The crushing and fatalities after 2.52 pm must be considered under a number of headings.

(iv) The build-up at the turnstiles.

(v) The blunder on opening the gates.

(vi) The barriers in pen 3.

(vii) The crushing not recognised,

(viii) The response of the police.

(ix) The perimeter gates were too small.

123. As already mentioned, there was crushing at the Cup semi-final in 1981. The match was between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers. The police debriefing minutes after the incident prophetically refer, “to the late arrival of a large number of spectators who were still waiting to enter the Leppings Lane enclosure when the match started. The flash point occurred when Tottenham scored” (at the Kop end) “after only three minutes. The spectators just entering pushed forward to see what was happening and caused a crush, which resulted in the injuries”.

166. What is clear, however, is that de facto the police at Hillsborough had accepted responsibility for control of the pens at the Leppings Lane end. The evidence of the senior officers who had been concerned with policing at Hillsborough over the years was all one way on this point. Only Mr Duckenfield, who had not policed at Hillsborough for some 10 years prior to 15 April, took a different view.

183. Although the police had accepted de facto responsibility for monitoring the pens, their policy on the day was to leave fans to “find their own level” and to concentrate their own attention on possible disorder. Whilst in theory the police would intervene if a pen became “full”, in practice they permitted the test of fullness to be what the fans would tolerate.

184. By 2.52 pm when gate C was opened, pens 3 and 4 were over-full even by this test. Many were uncomfortable. To allow any more into those pens was likely to cause injuries; to allow in a large stream was courting disaster.

191. Between 2.30 pm and 2.40 pm the crowd waiting for the turnstiles swelled to over 5,000 and became unmanageable. The case made for the police was that large numbers of Liverpool supporters arrived late; a high proportion of them were drunk and unco-operative; a high proportion had no tickets; all of them were hell-bent on getting in on time. They say this was unforeseeable and explains why they lost control.

192. Whether those who arrived between 2.30 pm and 2.40 pm were “late” was much debated. The ticket simply requested its holder “to take up [his] position 15 minutes before kick-off. That may have been intended to persuade those with stand tickets to take their seats, but it would not be unreasonable for a standing spectator to arrive at the turnstiles between 2.30 pm and 2.40 pm. Whether they were “late” or not, however, there was certainly a large concentration of Liverpool fans arriving at about 2.30 pm and after.

196. Of those who arrived at 2.30 pm or after, very many had been drinking at public houses or had brought drink from home or an off-licence. I am satisfied on the evidence, however, that the great majority were not drunk nor even the worse for drink. The police witnesses varied on this. Some described a high proportion as drunk, as “lager-louts” or even as “animals”. Others described a generally normal crowd with an unco-operative minority who had drunk too much. In my view some officers, seeking to rationalise their loss of control, overestimated the drunken element in the crowd. There certainly was such an element. There were youngsters influenced by drink and bravado pushing impatiently at the rear of the crowd thereby exacerbating the crush. But the more convincing police witnesses, including especially Detective Superintendent McKay and Chief Inspector Creaser as well as a number of responsible civilian witnesses, were in my view right in describing this element as a minority. Those witnesses attributed the crush to the sheer numbers of fans all anxious to gain entry. There was no criticism of the crowd by any of the witnesses in the period up to 2.30 pm or even 2.35 pm. What happened then was not a sudden deterioration in the mood or sobriety of those assembled there. No doubt those coming behind would have had more to drink and would have included the unruly minority. But the crisis developed because this very large crowd became packed into a confined turnstile area and its very density hampered its passage through the turnstiles.

197. Superintendent Marshall and other officers criticised the crowd as unco-operative because police exhortations to stop pushing and to ease back were not heeded. How could they be? In that crush most people had no control over their movements at all. Two incidents involving police horses illustrate the point. One horse was found afterwards to have cigarette burns on its rump. Clearly that was the despicable work of a hooligan whether in drink or not. However, there were also eyewitness accounts of a horse being physically lifted off its feet by the crowd. That occurred, as the police accepted, without malice or intent but as an involuntary consequence of crowd pressure which those by the horse’s flanks could not resist any more than the horse itself.

200. It has become a fact of football life that fans do turn up at all-ticket matches without tickets. It is not possible to give an accurate figure or even a reliable estimate of the number without tickets on 15 April. Police estimates varied from about 200 to about 2,000. There were certainly frequent requests for tickets or “spares” during the hours before the build-up. Many of those warned off by the police were seen to return to the area. Some were hanging about on the bridge. Again, however, the police witnesses who most impressed me did not consider the number of ticketless fans to be inordinately large. This accords with two other sources of evidence.

201. First, there was a wide range of witnesses who observed inside the ground that the Liverpool end was at a late stage well below capacity save for pens 3 and 4. The north stand still had many empty seats and the wing pens were sparse. The match being a sell-out, there were clearly many ticket holders to come and they could account for the large crowd still outside the turnstiles. Had the Liverpool accommodation been full by 2.40 pm, one could have inferred that most or much of the large crowd outside lacked tickets.

202. Secondly, such figures as are available from the Club’s electronic monitoring system and from analyses by the HSE suggest that no great number entered without tickets. They show that the number who passed through turnstiles A to G plus those who entered through gate C roughly equalled the terrace capacity figure of 10,100 for which tickets had been sold. The Club’s record showed 7,038 passed through turnstiles A to G.

However, the counting mechanism on turnstile G was defective, so the HSE did a study using the video film and projecting figures from the other turnstiles. This gave an assessment of 7,494, with a maximum of 7,644 passing through A to G. Again, using the video, the HSE assessed the number who entered the ground whilst gate C was open at 2,240 with a maximum of 2,480. Accordingly, the HSE’s best estimate of the total entering through gate C and turnstiles A to G was 9,734 with a maximum of 10,124.1 recognise that these can only be rough checks because, for example, some with terrace tickets were allowed through turnstiles 1 to 16 and there would be other similar factors which have not formed part of the assessment. Nevertheless, the figures do suggest that there was not a very significant body of ticketless fans in the crowd which built up.

The “Conspiracy” Theory

203. On behalf of South Yorkshire police, the theory was advanced that the “late” arrival of so many Liverpool supporters was planned to buck the system. The suggestion was that fans without tickets conspired to arrive late and create such trouble as would force the police to admit them to the match. The slender evidence upon which this theory rested came from two sources: overheard conversations in public houses and the antecedent history of Liverpool supporters at away matches.

204. One witness said he heard three Liverpool supporters saying, in effect, that they would manage to get in without tickets by causing trouble so that police would open a gate, and that they had done this before. Another witness heard two of a group of Liverpool supporters say they had no tickets, that they would go to the ground just before kick-off, that no-one would stop them getting in and that they had not been stopped yet. Statements were put in relating to two other small groups talking in similar terms.

Liverpool Supporters at Away Matches

205. The South Yorkshire police prepared a dossier of reports on the behaviour of Liverpool fans at away matches with the object of showing a pattern of troublesome behaviour by large numbers either without tickets or with forged tickets. Without setting out the whole history, it can be summarised as follows.

206. On three occasions Liverpool fans without tickets were allowed into all-ticket matches upon payment. (At Watford on 13 February 1988, 1,500 were admitted; at Southampton on 24 September 1988, 150 were admitted; at Southampton again on 12 December 1988, 750 were admitted.) At Norwich on 1 April 1989, Liverpool supporters arrived without tickets but 1,272 tickets had been returned and fans from both Liverpool and Norwich were allowed to buy them for cash. A similar situation occurred at Wimbledon on 13 May 1989. There were six other occasions from 1986 to date, including the Cup finals of 1986 and 1989, when numbers of Liverpool supporters turned up without tickets or otherwise behaved badly.

207. Four points must be noted, however. On none of the occasions when ticketless fans were admitted for payment was the match a sell-out. There was therefore room in the ground on each occasion. At a sell-out fans might not expect to be allowed in, even for payment. Secondly, no trouble of the kind alleged was encountered at the 1988 semi-final when Liverpool visited Hillsborough. Thirdly, Liverpool visited Hillsborough again in January 1989 without any trouble. Finally, no forged tickets were in use on 15 April apart from three crude photocopies.

No Conspiracy

208. I have already found that there was not an abnormally large number of fans without tickets on this occasion. With one or two exceptions, the police witnesses themselves did not subscribe to the “conspiracy” theory. I am satisfied that the large concentration at Leppings Lane from 2.30 pm to 2.50 pm did not arrive as a result of any concerted plan. There were, I accept, small groups without tickets who were willing to exploit any adventitious chance of getting into the ground. They, together with the minority who had drunk too much, certainly aggravated the problem faced by the police. But that main problem was simply one of large numbers packed into the small area outside the turnstiles.

214. As to 1988, there was a very large and consistent body of evidence that, on the day, the police in Leppings Lane conducted an efficient filtering exercise designed to keep away those without tickets and control the flow of fans towards the ground. I do not believe that so many witnesses without either opportunity or reason to put their heads together could be mistaken about what they experienced on that occasion. Yet, the police maintain that no filtering exercise other than on a random basis was conducted in 1988 and that their policy and practice then were no different from those of 1989.

215. The answer to this conflict must, I think, be that whilst the policy may have been no different, in practice the policing in 1988 was more efficient and was not put to the same test and strain as a year later. There was not so large a swell in numbers approaching the ground from 2.30 pm to 2.50 pm as in 1989. Nevertheless, there had been warning signs in 1988. Detective Superintendent McKay gave the following evidence:

229. The decision to order the opening of the gates was not accompanied or followed by any other order to deal with the consequences. When gate C was opened, a steady stream of about 2,000 fans poured through it over some five minutes. Clearly they were going to go into the ground somewhere and unless they were diverted their likeliest route was through the tunnel for reasons already given. No warning was issued from the control room that the gate was to be opened. Serials on the concourse were not alerted. Neither the Club control room nor the Chief Steward at the Leppings Lane end was warned. Not even Mr Greenwood, the Ground Commander, was informed. From 2.47 pm when Mr Marshall made his first request until 2.52 pm when Mr Duckenfield acceded to it, there were five minutes in which orders could have been given as to how the influx was to be absorbed. It was not done. In evidence, Mr Duckenfield began by saying that no officer made any wrong decision but he later conceded he had erred in this regard. He said he did not consider where the people would go when the gate opened. Even after it opened, when he could see the influx on the television screen, no order was given to steer the fans to the wing pens. Mr Duckenfield said it did not cross his mind to detail officers on the concourse to shut off the tunnel. Those officers could not have known from their position how full pens 3 and 4 were. That was a matter for the control room to monitor from its own observations and using intelligence from around the ground.

230. Since pens 3 and 4 were full by 2.50 pm, the tunnel should have been closed off whether gate C was to be opened or not. The exercise was a simple one and had been carried out in 1988. All that was necessary was for a few officers to act as a cordon at the entrance to the tunnel and divert fans elsewhere. Unfortunately, the 1988 closure seems to have been unknown to the senior officers on duty at the time. It did not figure in the debriefing notes. It therefore had no influence on the planning for 1989.

Mr Hicks’ Evidence

1. Mr and Mrs Hicks’ two daughters died in the disaster. They had arrived early en famille but had tickets for different sections. The two daughters had standing tickets; they went into pen 3. Mrs Hicks had a seat in the north stand. Mr Hicks took up a standing position in pen 1 just below and to the west of the police box at about 2.15 pm From there, he had a view of the centre pens. He kept an eye on them as they filled up since he knew his daughters to be there.

2. His evidence was that by 2.50 pm he could see people were in distress. At about 2.55 pm he and others called to a senior police officer at the top of the steps to the control box to draw his attention to the crushing. Mr Hicks was only about 10 feet from the officer. He described him as wearing a flat cap with gold or silver braid and a light coloured anorak. Mr Hicks believed he was the officer who stopped the match. Mr Greenwood, who did stop the match, was certainly not wearing a light coloured anorak, as can clearly be seen on the video.

3. Mr Hicks says that he and others shouted several times to this officer in attempts to alert him to the distress in the pens. There was no reaction although Mr Hicks believes the officer must have been in earshot.

4. That officer descended from the steps and two cameramen whom Mr Hicks believed were from television came and appeared to direct their cameras towards the pens. Another senior officer appeared two steps down from the platform. He was a stocky figure; he also wore a flat cap but with black braid. Mr Hicks says that he and two or three others tried several times to capture this officer’s attention without success. Then Mr Hicks says he shouted “For Christ’s sake! Can’t you see what’s going on? We can, and you have cameras”. The officer is said to have replied dismissively “Shut your fucking prattle”.

You look at what being a  football fan has become and you wonder if it’s worth bothering with any more.

It used to be about mild joshing between work mates and friends now it’s about hate and venom. A whole generation of “fans”, or “morons” if you prefer, is being led to believe that “hate” is one of the default settings – the others being “mindless banter” and “epileptic paroxysms of joy” – and there is no middle ground between these default settings.

The old ideas of camaraderie and bonhomie are further eroded by this media conditioning. Where fans may have once had a chat,  they now feel compelled to denigrate by using words like “scum”If you think this is far-fetched then why do people react negatively about the quest for justice in relation to the Hillsborough disaster, a disaster where 96 football fans lost their lives because they went to a football match. This should affect all football fans equally.

Hillsborough was not solely a football tragedy, it was  a human tragedy. The families of the victims deserve justice.





The trouble with scumbags and Hillsborough………..

26 04 2016

I wrote this 3 and a half years ago. Judging by twitter it still seems relevant today

………is that the truth isn’t enough for them.

A little over twenty three years ago the Lord Justice Taylor found that the main cause of the Hillsborough disaster was the failure of police control, a…;

“…Lack of effective monitoring of the terraces.”

The Hillsborough Independent Panel (Report published yesterday) also found that  “lack of police control” was the main cause of the disaster. The panel’s general findings make shocking reading;

  • A swifter response from the authorities could have saved 41 people.
  • A Tory MP and Senior Police officers were responsible for the cover-up by spreading false allegations; namely alcohol consumption played a massive part in the disaster).
  • Up to 164 Police Statements were doctored to hide the truth and 116 had potentially damaging comments removed
  • Police records were checked in case they could be used to impugn the reputations of dead Liverpool fans

The most satisfying finding of the panel was that Liverpool fans were not responsible for the disaster, especially as this was an unequivocal judgement.  We can rely on the findings of the panel because they had access to over 450,000 pages of documents. Unfortunately “The Worst cover-up in British legal history”, as the prominent QC Mike Mansfield put it, prevented the truth from emerging for twenty three years.

To say that I was elated at the findings would be an understatement, I’ve had to listen to snide comments for longer than I care to remember and the truth cuts through snide comments like a scimitar. I was elated for the campaigners as well because their hard work had finally paid off but I was mainly elated for the families of the victims.

My dad’s death has given me an understanding of the impact of such a horrible event upon a family. I can’t imagine the pain of having to deal with the loss of a family member when that family member is being subjected to a disgusting  public vilification as well. The families have finally been proved correct, there aren’t enough words to express how right this is.

The report led to obvious apologies from the groups responsible for the creation of the myth of the Hillsborough tragedy;  the South Yorkshire Police, a Conservative Prime Minister and Kelvin McKenzie. They all said they were truly sorry. Mind you there was nothing else they could do, the report was damning.

Even though those in the right have been vindicated there’s still a nasty taste. It took 20 years of pressure to start the process of finding the truth. It took 23 years for people to do the decent thing and admit they did something wrong.  The actions of South Yorkshire Police, McKenzie and Thatcher allowed the innocent victims of gross negligence to be labelled as scumbags that caused their own deaths.

The “profuse apology” offered by the shitbag MacKenzie can’t undo the damage he caused by helping in the creation of the Hillsborough myth. It cannot undo the snide comments or the attitudes. The shitbag McKenzie helped to create such a plausible myth that some people are still unwilling to believe the truth.

Some scumbags still want to believe that Liverpool fans caused Hillsborough, they still want carry on with vitriolic attacks on Scousers because they are Scousers. For example I typed “Scousers” and “Hillsborough” into the Twitter Search box yesterday, this is what I found;

    • From @chrisallan24 @JamesB4595: Scousers should shut the fuck up, Hillsborough was there own fault not anyone elses..” @PonderThePoint @ScouseAmbasador
    • From @JohnpaulBarker  Documentary about Hillsborough on BBC1? If it wasn’t for the scousers we could stand. 
    • From @AlexHolcroft1  Scousers getting arsey when #jft39 is said, how is that mocking hillsborough though? 
    • From  @grimreaperblog  What happened at Hillsborough was terrible. No one’s saying it isn’t. But why do Scousers keep dragging this up over and over again? 
    • From @samwhufc  – As sad as it is that 96 innocent people died at hillsborough no one is to blame but the scousers themselves that continued to surge forward!
    • From @NMBLAKE The sooner Liverpool fans accept their part of the blame for the Hillsborough tragedy the better. BC was right. Part police. Part scousers. 
    • From @s64morrison  – Duno how the police r gettin all the blame for hillsborough disaster. If the scousers didn’t turn up without tickets it wouldn’t of happened
    • From @trickyred7980  – 2 major football disasters (hillsborough + heysel) involving the scousers ….. coincidence? #lfc
      From @KeenosAFC  – Hillsborough would not of happened if the Scousers didn’t turn up on mass. Istanbul. Emirates. #JFT96
    • From @DanMoore90 Don’t blame it on the scousers, don’t blame it on juve, don’t blame it on the police, BLAME it on chelsea. Justice for the 39
      + From @iandangerously  What happens if the scousers don’t like the answers they get today? More protests and petitions? and if they were right what does it solve?
      + From @Joe_GodfreyMCFC  Scousers are like Muslims, say the slightest little thing about them and that’s it you’re a Nazi, racist etc. etc.
The people who tweeted these tweets are supposedly football fans from a civilised country yet these twats cannot even function at the most basic level of human decency. They don’t see victims of gross negligence, or a cover-up. They don’t see fellow human beings, or devastated families. Instead they see people who support a football club they don’t like, they see horrible scousers full of self-pity, they see horrible scousers that got what they deserved.

When football fans behave like this I wish football simply didn’t exist. I’d imagine that they wouldn’t like their families judged in this manner. A really disgusting thing happens when you press cunts like this, they justify their disgustingly warped attitudes. For example;

(All tweets were from @NigelfromUK)
 I think there are a lot of Scousers that are using the Hillsborough scandal to cover up there own actions & hide behind the victims.”
Followed by;
“we all forget Hysell disaster, there are a few that now hide behind Hillsborough to cover up earlier problems”
Then;
“you deny Liverpool fans running riot at Hysell? I’m stating the stereotype that we were led to believe.”
Then;
“all I’m saying “some” Liverpool fans that day have to take responsibility for there own actions ……..”
Before ending here;
“so you telling me that not one Liverpool fan that day did anything wrong, anything that MAY of assisted in what happened?”
This prick of a Manchester United fan wouldn’t accept the idea that TWO STUDIES of the Hillsborough disaster had exonerated the Liverpool fans. All he was interested in was finding sustenance for his hatred of Liverpool and self-pitying Scousers. Mind you, he wasn’t the only person taking this view, some “person” called Dave Lodwig left the following message on the When Saturday Comes facebook page;
 “If there was one LFC fan (drunk or otherwise) with no ticket who rushed the gate – one – then it cannot be said to be 100% the authorities fault. Today no-one is allowed to say this though. It’s Orwellian. And frightening.”
Where do you start with people who are unwilling to let the prejudices go even when there is overwhelming evidence that proves their prejudices are wrong. Quite frankly I hate football for allowing people act in this way.




It’s a wonderful beautiful game!

10 04 2016

Imagine that one Saturday afternoon Claudio the angel gazes down from the celestial plane and sees your humble narrator getting his flymo out of his shed instead of getting ready going to a match.

Knowing your humble narrator as he does this behaviour would strike Claudio as rather odd, being the football season and all. Claudio is a positive sort so he would feel the determined urge to guide your humble narrator back to happiness by travelling down to Earth to ask your humble narrator; “So why do you feel so disillusioned with the beautiful game?

And so our story begins……

Your humble narrator doubted the veracity of the reality he seemed to be experiencing until the assurances of transmogrification and teleportation. He grudgingly accepted the chance to reassess his jaundiced view of “the beautifulest of beautiful games”.

Almost immediately your humble narrator and his celestial companion found themselves in the house of someone that was about to book tickets for a premier league football match. They stood in the background, invisible to those without the power to connect with the spiritual plane, while the man used his phone, he was four weeks away from his desired match.

His resigned air came off in waves, his shoulders spoke of a long wait. He was number 4 in the queue, he checked his computer’s screen for cheap train tickets on the required date. He was number three in the queue, he drummed on the table. He was number two in the queue, he checked the club’s interactive ticket finder on the other tab. He was number one in the queue, he said “Come on!! Come on!!!” under his breath. Then the agent finally asked the golden question.

“Hello sir, how many tickets would you like?”

He was so giddy he can hardly let the words escape from his mouth.

I’d like Two £59 tickets and a £25 ticket for my son please.”

“What’s your customer number sir?”

“It’s 12568”

“Oh I’m sorry sir I’m afraid you haven’t accessed enough privilege points for this match.”

The phone goes click and a taut wrinkled forehead is smoothed. Claudio says “Well, that’s just bad luck.”

Within a second Claudio and  your humble narrator are on the steps of a premier league superground. Everyone is very excited, well who wouldn’t be after spending so much for a ticket!!! A corner kick is about to be taken. They look to the left because two teenagers are singing “We pay your benefits, We pay your benefits!!” towards their northern visitors that won’t possibly be able to hear their social commentary.

A person to their right obscures the view of three others by thrusting a grammatically incorrect bedsheet banner upwards. Several people film the corner kick with electronic devices. “Why is that happening?” asks Claudio. “If I had to guess I’d say the narcissistic impulse to turn their lives into a social media opera” says your humble narrator. Claudio picks up a programme, flicks through it and comments; “What is an Official Lubricants Partner”?

“Oh it means they get a lot of money for acting as a corporate mouthpiece”.

Luckily nobody saw the floating programme. Claudio thought about your humble narrator’s point, looked around and said “Look at how pleased the crowd looks.” Two grown men arose from their seats to taunt the nearby away fans with outstretched arms.

They are suddenly outside another ground, a crowd surrounds a man with a microphone. Everyone seems very angry.

“What’s this we see here?” Claudio asks,

“It’s called FAN TV and we need a computer to view it.”

Your humble narrator and Claudio suddenly appear beside a table with a computer on it. The television is on and it’s showing a match. Caludio knows that your humble narrator doesn’t really watch football on TV anymore but still enquired; “Don’t you want to watch the match?

“No thanks, I can’t seem to get into a televised match these days.”

“Why not?”

“Everything’s annoying. The commentators are annoying, the co-commentators are annoying, the presenters and pundits are annoying, The ex-pros justify cheating with their cynical moral relativism and every match is a corporate sales device with logos everywhere.

Everything’s loud and brash and everyone’s got to be excited about everything all the time. I can’t really stick the highlights programmes either, they’ve all gone downhill. Match of The Day shows more of the pundits’ pointless analysis than match action. Who really cares if soandso was 2 yards too far to the left at one point, it was a bloody goal.”

“Someone like you shouldn’t be moaning, you should be happy. These days there’s more football on TV than ever before and it looks even better than ever……”

“Wall to wall coverage just makes my alienation stronger, you’re made to feel as if you’re obliged to care about this stuff. I’m not being forced to care by an excitable twat.”

Anyway, let’s get back to the point, what is FAN TV?” enquired Claudio.

“I like to call it “football’s latest phenomenon of mass irritation”.

Right on cue they find the clip featuring the Arsenal fan with a bee in his bonnet;“It’s all about the net spend, mate“. They watch angry fan after angry fan, all of them lost in a murderous rage. Claudio was about to ask something but your humble narrator jumped in.

“See that load of crap, that’s people with opinions. Well bugger me with a fishfork, a person…..with an opinion! Big deal, I’ve got one of those, I can hear my own opinion in my own head as I say this. Why the bloody hell would I want to share that? More importantly how would hearing my opinion improve anyone’s life? These angry after defeat ranters have been football’s background noise for a couple of years, the immature attention seekers need to be ignored not given a public platform.

Caludio meekly said “They’re only people expressing opinion though aren’t they?”

“Yes and FAN TV is merely the tip of the Iceberg, let’s look at social media.”

Your humble narrator took Claudio on a tour of twitter. Claudio was immediately rendered speechless by the bestial hated and bellendry confronted him. He recovered to pose a question;

Is it like this often?”

“All the time. It’s a never ending river of human detritus and pointless stupidity. The worst aspect of it is that everyone dismisses their own gruesome behaviour as harmless banter.”

“Yeah but those what do you call those things?…..memes, they’re harmless.”

“They’re not harmless, they’re proof of a society that’s easily pleased with itself. Too many gobshites think that getting the “pithy last word” is a major achievement. Too many gobshites are labouring under the misapprehension that they’re a character in a crappy American sitcom. And another thing, the jokes are shit as well.”

“Yeah but some of the other stuff is useful surely, what about those football stats people”

“How can you explain the beauty of a succession of balletic movements with a string of statistics?” 

“Yeah but these people are harmless.”

“I suppose they are really but Claudio the point is that I’ve grown weary of it all, the tweets, the FAN TV, the proper TV, the newspapers, the perpetual excitement, everyone shouting at each other, the continual “what about them….” arguments, and it’s all deep fired in the banter. I don’t need to read or experience any of it the knowledge that it exists is enough to blunt my interest.

There’s no escape from it. They won’t let you switch off. If you only limit yourself to taking a small interest, like checking social media for 5 minutes, they will somehow still mange to besmirch that with the banter.”

“Really?”

“Yeah they won’t let you switch off from it.  A few weeks ago I had time to kill before I caught a train so I went to the nearest pub for a quick drink. There were four lads around a table. They were loudly chatting about football and their ACCAS whilst looking at the betting apps on their phones. It was wall to wall banter. I was gritting my teeth after two minutes. Football is drowning in the fucking banter, I’m sorry to swear, but I’ve been worn down so much I’ve started  talk myself out of going to matches.”

“Ah yes, this is where I came in, let’s go to one of those matches that you go to.”

Your humble narrator and Claudio appear at a Welsh Premier League match, it was the fifteenth match between the same opponents in three Earth years.

Your humble narrator told Claudio that he should keep an eye on the ostensibly semi-professional number four in blue. Needless to say the clumsy attempt at a sneaky foul on the number seven in red wasn’t too far away, naturally his encore was an attempt to get the number seven booked by diving three minutes later.

Within another five minutes they saw phenomenon of “the communal hey” eight times. Your humble narrator assured Claudio that’s this incantation was merely a tactic employed by ostensibly semi-professional teams to try and pressurize the referee into seeing things their way rather than an ancient fertility rite.

Claudio saw one of the managers signal to one of his ostensibly semi-pro players to venture to the furtherest side of the pitch from the bench. 30 seconds later he had a new role; the player that was being substituted. They both saw how he proved the elasticity of time with his pedestrian tribute to the sloth!

So Caludio says “Ahhhh, I see why you’re disillusioned now. This ostensibly semi-professional football supposedly represents the antidote to paucity of moral cleanliness in “proper football” but it’s merely a pale imitation of “proper football”.”

“Yes, that’s it perfectly. To me, the events that we’ve just seen, that is football, the infuriating and soul destroying pandemic called football. That’s the reason I’ve started to wonder if I could do without football. The vague air of dissatisfaction probably started with the time I wanted to go to a match somewhere and I was obliged to go through the hassle of buying cheap train tickets and the rigmarole of registering to buy match tickets for a particular match. When the awaited day arrived I was confronted by a late running train with standing room only and a half empty ground. I persevered with Bangor matches and what have I ended up with? Fifteen matches against the same club in 3 years in a league that no-one cares about.”

“Yeah but aren’t there times when you get some enjoyment of football?”

“Well I suppose there are times when I can still have a laugh with my mates and the odd occasions I remember some brilliant piece of skill are the very rare times I go to a match and everything feels fantastic. For example I went to watch Sampdoria recently. I’d waited twenty five years to go there, every since I got The Football Grounds of Europe book for Christmas, and the evening was everything I’d expected; the architectural masterpiece, the packed streets and bars, the noise, the atmosphere, the fireworks, the social identity, the vibrant foreign culture. I haven’t felt so content in a long time. It lasted days. Then I read some angry tweets.

I don’t know what football will become either. Thirty years football looked like it was about to become a prohibited social activity but the fans kept the sport going by going to matches. These days a lot of those 1980s fans and their families are being ostracised by those that want to make money. The supreme irony is that the people who are prostituting football don’t value the people that made their behaviour possible in the first place by keeping the sport going.

And what like of people have replaced the expendable? Tourists and the sort of people that will willingly choose to pay £45 so they can let the world know they’re angry about paying £45 via a message on a bedsheet, the kind of people that will cry to catch the attention of TV cameraman.

The rubbish sullies all of the finer feelings that I attribute to football. It doesn’t matter how serene I feel I’ll inevitably become aware of the braindead tweets, the unending banter and the cynicism of those in control of football. No matter how hard you try you can’t escape the gross pantomime that football has become.

“There’s nothing I can say that will change your mind?”

“Nothing really. I prefer watching films these days, films never let you down.”

With that Claudio returned to his spiritual plane and your humble narrator returned to mowing his front lawn and perpetual domestic bliss.

 

If you’d like to read more about the scourge of fan TV read this, this and this. The last post contains the line “Equating commercial involvement with a lack of authenticity is disingenuous….”





It’s time for a General Strike

13 03 2016

At some point in the last couple of weeks Relevent Sports’ chairman, Charlie Stillitano, found himself in London making a public pronouncement about the International Champions Cup (ICC), an pre-season shindig organised by his company. Part of it went like this.

“This is going to sound arrogant and it’s the furthest thing from it … but suddenly when you see the teams we have this summer in the ICC you are going to shake your head and say, ‘Isn’t that the Champions League?…………No, the Champions League is PSV and Ghent.”

“What would Manchester United argue: did we create soccer or did Leicester create [it]?…………Let’s call it the money pot created by soccer and the fandom around the world. Who has had more of an integral role, Manchester United or Leicester? It’s a wonderful, wonderful story – but you could see it from Manchester United’s point of view, too.”

Oooh imagine living in a world where pre season tournaments are organised by visionaries that permanently exude blue sky thinking of the deepest azure!

Even though the brouhaha appears to be about a pre-season tournament a lot of people thought that the big 5 English clubs were actually talking about a European Super League, especially as Karl-Heinz Rumenigge mentioned something similar recently.

Some charitable people said the super league talk was an opening gambit in TV deal renegotiations, others suggest that it was merely about a lovely pre-season tournament, well at least at the moment. I wouldn’t dismiss the intoxicating power of blue sky thinking of the deepest azure too quickly.

The powerful clubs will do what they’ll do. In the mid 1980s the so-called football league big five were unhappy with TV money they were getting and a few years later an independent premier league came along. Recently a Real Madrid official used an advert for the Microsoft Cloud to proudly tell us that the millions of virtual Real Madrid fans are just as important as the match going fans. I know to my cost UEFA have already restricted access to the Champions League in mid 1990s. It’s time we all said “Bollocks to the powered by stardust pantomime“.

If ordinary fans want to watch their clubs in action they’re told to pay pay pay the inexorably rising costs or do without. Nearly every area, or “revenue stream”, is monetised; matchday parking, pre-match refreshments, merchandise, pay TV subscriptions, tickets, authorised resale of tickets.

We can see this logic in Liverpool’s recent decision to unleash a new ticket plan that contained tickets costing £77. Although we’ve seen premier league tickets that cost more than this, it was a ground breaking move for Liverpool, and £77 represents a significant hike on the most expensive tickets they currently offer.

It’s incredibly easy to find other evidence of the monetised experience. This season Thomas Cook have offered official trips to Liverpool  v Manchester City and  Liverpool v Newcastle United that cost from £199.00 and £279.00 respectively. If you’re an impressionable young premier league fan that wants to be a mascot your parents will have to fork out several hundred pounds. When football willingly places itself in situation where it can justify the monetisation of childhood enthusiasm we can’t have any confidence that things will change easily.

It’s obvious that things need to change; why should a father spend between £200-£300 just so he can spend some time with his son at a normal match? Why should people spend £60 a month to watch football at home? Why can’t English football return to a more sensible pricing structure?

Like all of the great changes in British society the pressure for change will come from us, from the people. We need to do something about this and I say we because we can try to do something about this. A recent example should give us all heart.

The £77 tickets shocked Liverpool fans so much they formulated an online campaign that fans encouraged fans to show their disapproval by leaving Liverpool’s next league home match (Sunderland on 6th February) in the 77th minute. While people rubbished the idea on social media – “Grow up!“, “What do you expect, it’s a market economy!“, “The premier league is the most popular league in the world.“, “So what, others are still going!” – and commentators parroted the premier league’s own line from last October – “Why Premier League tickets offer value for money.” – the protest went ahead and appeared to gain success; within days Liverpool’s owners had backtracked on their new ticket plan. The development cam a days after Liverpool breezily claimed their new ticket plan had a little bit in there for everyone.

Liverpool fans have shown us the way, as has the FSF’s successful campaign to restrict the price of away tickets, therefore we can also apply the same principles of non-violent direct action to force changes. We should declare a football general strike.

When I say “general strike” I mean no interaction with football except making the choice to withdraw our support for a period. We should avoid handing over money to hype-led and market-driven model of football. We should cancel our pay-TV subscriptions and refuse to buy tickets or merchandise. This may sound a little radical but something a little radical is needed.

A general strike could progress through a couple of stages. We could try a single match day as a starter to acclimatise, we could then follow that up with a month, then we could try six months. Empty terraces in the world’s best league would be an eloquent statement to those in charge, I picture a serious panic in the corridors of power. Hopefully they would take the opportunity to change.

I said earlier that football has willingly placed itself in this situation but that’s not strictly true, it’s not solely football’s fault, we must also share the blame because we didn’t resist enough. If we resist now changes could be forced. Solidarity is key, all fans must act as one. In theory we should be able to put aside petty differences, we all do the same sort of jobs, we all live in the same sort of houses, we should be one.  Before we go on I must say that this is just a call for action, The finer details will be planned more meticulously.

Some Thatcherite card will undoubtedly say that if we want to watch “the best players” in the world play in the best league in the world then we have to pay for the privilege. Well as with the bankers and CEOs that would bugger off if we had an ethical tax regime, let the superstars bugger off to other leagues.

If we’re not able see “the best players” so what? Most clubs hobbled along with mostly local players and mostly localised fans for the 100 years before the premier league. Celtic even managed to win the European Cup with local players and a lot of Manchester United’s 1999 squad were locally produced. We managed then so we’ll manage in the future. World superstars don’t bestow meaning upon football, local clubs are usually enough to do that.

If you think about it a general strike isn’t that much of a radical step. Being asked not to go to a few matches is hardly an infringement of basic human right and the effort required to miss a few matches isn’t a even a medium sized display of willpower, it’s only making a choice not to go to a football ground a few times. People can easily choose to do something else on a Saturday afternoon, for example people with families often have to foresake matches. This season I’ve missed a few matches this season and I’m still a reasonably happy human being.

What will people miss if they don’t go to a few matches? People will claim that they’ll potentially miss great moments like overhead kicks, mazy dribbles and last minute winners after being 2-0 down on 85 minutes, but will they. How often do those moments occur? In all probability the most people will probably miss is two opposing banks of four passing the ball around a bit.

Besides it’s not what we’ll miss that’s important it’s what we stand to gain.

People could become worried about the missing the company of like minded individuals but it would be simple enough to overcome that. The same pre-match pubs will be open whilst the matches are on. Having a laugh with the people that matter to you, whilst supporting a local-owned business, would still be possible.

You don’t need to watch The Battle of Algiers every six months to think that a general strike is a good idea, the logic behind our ultimate success is simple. If we all disengage from football we will win because football needs us. Football will not last if the only people turning up are tourists and daytripping gawkers, there are simply not enough of them. The numbers are in our favour we just have to visualise out collective strength.

To reinforce the case even further, you don’t need to look too far to see that Murdoch’s premier league does not offer the only way. I went to watch Sampdoria about six weeks ago. I paid about £22 for a ticket in a seat with a decent view in a beautifully designed ground, I could have paid about £12 to go behind the goal with the Ultras but my fellow visitors weren’t keen. The match was nowhere near selling out but the atmosphere didn’t suffer. It was the first time I’d felt fireworks and I mean felt. Football in Genoa didn’t seem to be the preserve of the banter bus’ well-heeled passengers either as there were old people, young people and parents around us.

It’s unwise to generalise from one example but why does this situation seem to exist in Italy and not in England? Aren’t both countries historic football powers with well-matured and vibrant football cultures? Could it be that Italian fans are more organised? While Italian football is hardly perfect it does show that premier league way isn’t the only way.

The general strike would be a prelude to a more ethical version of football because it’s based around communal organisation and action. There would be no compulsion or duress as the case is self-evident, who wouldn’t want to end the process that turns them in to a cash cow? The more people that become involved the greater the effect

In the end the non-violent direct action of the people, the group that matters most in football, will have forced football to act on the people’s concerns. Our sport will not only return to “normal” it will remain there.

Liverpool fans have partly shown the power of protest, imagine this on a national scale for a sustained period. it could even be a pointer to greater collective action in wider society. In the end the case for the general strike is obvious; we have nothing to lose but our chains.





Tim Peake, the world’s highest not so secret Bangor City fan

6 03 2016

Tim Peake has a different look or prop for every broadcast so he’s obviously packed loads of stuff in his astro-hand luggage. A little know fact about Britain’s first space station resident is that he’s so keen on Bangor City he’s taken six Bangor flags with him.

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Bangor City were already rightly world famous for being the first Welsh club to win a European match, the only Welsh club to play Bobby Charlton in an Anglo-Italian Cup match and the only Welsh side to enjoy an unbeaten record at Wembley. Now we’re the earth’s first club to have an Intergalactic fan. True Story.





The times they have a-changed

8 11 2015

Thirty years ago little old Bangor City strode purposely on to the Estadio Vicente Calderon turf.

By the end of the match the Northern Premier League’s finest had restricted the famous European aristos to a 1-0 victory. Bangor’s efforts were so memorable they earned a standing ovation from the very knowledgeable crowd of 20,000. The proof is below.

The home leg was only lost 2-0. Fillol was so overcome by the emotion of being the first World Cup winner to set foot on Farrar Road in competitive conditions since Bobby Charlton – a mid to late ‘70s Anglo-Italian sojourn – he went off injured.

The Bangor side of 1985 were all verve, shiny polyester and bubble perms. They were a lovely mixture of the home grown and the non-home grown.

The goal was guarded by the football geriatric Dai Davies, the defence was organised by future FA chairman Palios and the present Bangor manager, Neville Powell, did his midfield thing. Dai the drop cut short a long-planned family holiday in Corfu and underwent painkilling injections to play in Madrid. He saved a penalty in Madrid.

It wasn’t just the fact that such a match took place that lends an anachronistic air, it was the little details; A £160 two night trip organised through a local Travel Agency, scouts from Atletico Madrid scouts going to Bangor in Northern Ireland by mistake, Atletico giving a sword to Bangor as a present and Mark Cartwright being threatened with the sack if he went to Madrid (he went).

My favourite aspect of the story is the fans working together to make sure that Farrar Road complied with UEFA’s match regulations by installing fences and such like. This was a real reaction against Thatcherite mores of the time, as someone more erudite than me once explained to Eddie Butler on BBC 2.

Apparently there was lots of interest in Bangor as the European ban meant they were the last British club left in the Cup Winners’ Cup. Atletico knocked Celtic out in the last round, including a behind closed doors match at Celtic Park;

A semi-pro club a round away from a European quarter final? We’ll never see the likes of these days again. European football is now bespoke number fonts, Official Online Trading Partners and mind control by the Archbishop of Banterbury.

A prosaic cocktail has ruined my chances of seeing a European quarter final involving Bangor City; the collapse of state capitalism leading to the proliferation of Eastern European leagues populated by mercurial playmakers, Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham ruined our coefficient by refusing to do the decent thing and join the league of Wales and they stopped Welsh clubs (Bangor City mainly) playing in the European Cup for three years.

Where once the likes of Merthyr beat Atalanta and the likes of Wrexham were capable of beating Danish opposition before bowing out gracefully against Manchester United just before the quarter finals Welsh sides are now swotted like flies in every nook and cranny of the Baltic sea coast.

In a seamless 1985 transition, on the Saturday after the Madrid Wednesday Bangor City played an away match against Goole Town.





Problems with that modern football number 45 – “The silky smokescreen”

26 08 2015

When I first went to London the Underground’s massive adverts were one of my landmarks. Their gaudiness assaulted me at first but they soon developed a warmly familiar feel. There was no Imperial War Museum in the cultural hinterland of north Wales so the ads quickly faded.

As an older and theoretically wiser person I can see adverts for what they are; brightly coloured attempts at bullshitting rather than brightly coloured public art. Their only purposes are antiseptic image projection for toxic companies and the creation of demand for stuff that human evolution doesn’t require.

Nowadays multinationals place brilliant adverts in today’s underground, and everywhere else, to tell us just how tame their pet sport is.

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Being the home of the premier league is a multi-media thing.

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We should all play their game and unveil blog posts that unveil our favourite #PLmoments™. I could certainly have a lovely time placing all those #PLmoments™  into a top ten as there are so many fabulous #PLmoments™  to choose from! There’s the first £1000 season ticket, there’s the first throw in that teenaged millionaires argued over, there’s Jermaine Defoe’s demand for a personal assistant. THERE’S…..PEAK……BANTER!!!!!

After much ado about literally nothing I’d probably plump for two top top top #PLmoments™. The first would be the fact that multinationals love The Banter nearly as much as their own hype.

The second would be football’s changing place in the cynicism of the mutinationals. The media conglomerate that now owns British football used to view football differently when didn’t have a product to sell.

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The Times once described football thus;

“We football fans are living in strange times. Those of us who stood on the terraces during the Dark Age — an era when football was famously summed up by this newspaper as a “slum sport played in slum stadiums increasingly watched by slum people” — feel as if we have been transported back to the bad old 1980s, to the “game that time forgot”.

The multinationals slick contempt for us should be reciprocated but their approach is tolerated.

I recently went to watch Chelsea. Before the match people were more anxious to have their photo taken with images of millionaire players advertising the products of multinational official partners than realise there was a statue of Peter Osgood behind them. In the multinational world the gloriously moribund present has as much worth as the hard earned past.

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To paraphrase John Lydon, ever feel you’ve been cheated? I believe in better than this subscription funded circus.








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