Today’s article comes courtesy of The Beck.
Sometimes, when I blog something, I feel like I’m writing about a viewpoint which some simply don’t want to hear or read. Sometimes, I include even myself in that. Such people might prefer sitting isolated, in complete bliss, a state which more easily suits their agendas or rationale. Fortunately, in general, my experience with Arsenal supporters has only ever been good on the whole.
When I meet an Arsenal supporter – on the street, in a pub or online – I mostly find myself laughing.
The people I’ve met from Twitter, for instance, have been amazing and I can’t thank them enough for being in my life. Some people that I had only met once, were sat at tables waiting for me with a ready pint or a shot to start the night, whether I found myself in Hong Kong, Malaysia, the United States, Canada or the U.K.
Unfortunately there are also times when I find myself speaking to a very small number of people who wake up every morning, feeling the club owes them something. They also appear to live with no small levels of resentment toward Arsenal, despite being supporters.
I’ve tried to understand and empathise with these people, but it’s getting more and more difficult for me.
There is also an even smaller number of supporters that perhaps, no matter what the club does, will never be happy, possibly because of ‘external’ reasons – maybe they have either a depressing life or a depressing view on life.
One has to ask the question: Are some supporters too caught up in feelings of entitlement. Do they simply enjoy moaning?
I’m going to generalize here, and it’s done to make the point. Sometimes it seems that half of the “Arsenal till I die!” fans, at some point during the transfer window will say something along the lines of:
“Oh! We haven’t signed anyone yet? Arsene out, Board out, Ivan out!”
Whilst we are all customers of Arsenal, we don’t own it. It may be hard to swallow but it’s effectively the truth. Even if we were part of an ownership scheme, would we have the knowledge or experience to ask for things that are very likely largely beyond our understanding?
Take discussing transfer targets. Some hate it and some love it. But to demand that your club signs a player, especially a specific player, simply highlights the fragility of your connection to your club. I’ve heard of people who can afford to buy season tickets but choose not to because they feel the club is in bad hands, or because they personally dislike Arsene Wenger. They don’t like what the club “has become.”
This is where we get the hilariously vague demands of “We want our Arsenal back.”
People might say:
“It was never a franchise! I hate Kroenke and his American franchise ways!”
But that’s not true either, we’ve always been a type of franchise, some sort of business. Supporters pay for tickets, tours, kits, events and online subscriptions. Like it or not, we ARE a franchise, Arsenal football club IS a business.
But Arsenal Football Club is also just that, a football club. A club where emotions and traditions run deep, love flies high and memories are ingrained forever.
Some want to disassociate Arsenal P L C from Arsenal F C but it is futile to do so. They are self-evidently connected. They are one and the same and these two sides of the same coin have come together to ensure our club has become one of the richest in the world. That didn’t just ‘happen’ by the way.
But to develop a great hatred of Arsenal as a business doesn’t particularly present you in the greatest or most intelligent light when trying to support Arsenal as a football club. Especially when that hatred inevitably spills over to the football side and you suddenly find yourself in a supporter’s No Man’s Land. Forgotten, misunderstood, no longer represented and utterly eclipsed.
What you might ideally want from your club is for those running it to find a way to balance it all.
Unfortunately, in modern life, supporters are often over-exposed to the business side. Big numbers appear, complicated equations emerge and suddenly it seems that everyone has overnight gained a master’s degree in economics from the University of Cenral London. And nothing you say to them will be enough to convince them of anything that might challenge their point of view.
If you were to attempt to hold your club to ransom and threaten to boycott all things Arsenal until they got the place somehow back in order, Arsenal would simply find another supporter who IS willing to pay. And in any case you are, in effect, alone in this.
Even if you get a group of like-minded people to do the same, Arsenal still has a waiting list of people willing to pay for the things some existing supporters currently take for granted and would prefer to ignore.
On a larger scale, if you choose to boycott the club during the playing season, it negatively affects players’ morale, the well-being of the staff around the club and the interests of the remaining fans that are supporting the club despite the rights or wrongs of your own personal position.
If you magically managed to have everyone not pay for anything associated with Arsenal until a change was instigated, it would have a destructive impact on the club, both financially and in terms of the club’s image. Chances are there would still not be a change that all that many of us would be happy with.
Everyone has their personal resentments. Everyone has their personal loves. Everyone has their own Arsenal.
We could theoretically set up groups, like the black bags, the grey scarfs, the turquoise snoods and what not, but again, each group would only ever represent a minority of Arsenal fans whilst supposedly talking for a majority. Significantly, each of them would probably think that it is vital the whole fan base believes what their minority group believe. In effect we would become a group of tiny minority cults within a much larger fan base, arguing with each other like it’s high school.
I’m very certain that if Arsenal listened to every group out there, we’d probably be bankrupt and our club probably wouldn’t even exist any more. However, AFC are professionals, they hire professionals, they are intelligent and they have intelligent visions. Many take for granted the things Arsenal do behind the scenes – off the football field. But just because they don’t represent on-field results does not mean they are automatically the negative or bad parts of the club.
I am in effect complimenting a business that isn’t mine because I am in love with the other half of it, the football side. And I have decided I can’t separate both simply because I might be angry with Arsenal PLC. There isn’t really a point to supporting a club if you’re going to be angry with them every week.
Because that’s not support. It’s just constant criticism.
If I did manage to separate them, it would feel like I am not really in love with Arsenal but rather with what they used to be and I am just hanging on until there is glory again. I don’t want to be like that, and I hope I never will be like that.
Arsenal have us all by the balls and I don’t mind admitting it. We love the club. We want it to be successful. Some of us not at any price and some at any price at all. But if they ARE doing the supporters wrong – and you truly feel that they are – I don’t think you will ever get ‘your’ Arsenal back.
It means you are a supporter of something in the past, not of the present, and the likelihood of you getting what you supported in the past is very slim.
And when ‘my’ Arsenal is gone, I don’t think I will ever get it back either. I will either have to adapt to the new one, or constantly fall in love with it all over again, every year. Pretty much like I am doing already.
I want us to be winning, not whining. But I’m staying pure to the principles of support and my own principles. Much like Arsenal have stayed pure to theirs in terms of class, respect and sustainability.
I think as supporters we should find a way to balance our love for Arsenal and our expectations of both the business side and the football side.
We should find an equilibrium that makes supporting fun, loving, easy and great, instead of depressing or filled with misery and constant moaning and unjustified criticism. This includes changing expectations yearly based on both business and football developments – or non-developments – as necessary.
I feel it is inexcusable to be angry and demanding with something you’re meant to love and can’t really change. And if our club did ever truly fall into terrible hands, there would need to be an entire strategic plan to ensure that the club stayed intact. And that plan would be for the football side AND the business side.
Not run by a mob, ruling with impatience, fuelled by greed or the feeling of misplaced entitlement but in ways that are soundly moral and commercially sound.
Ways that, as it happens, can be found throughout today’s Arsenal.
You can find me at HighHorseWankerThinksHesAllThat@hotmail.co.uk or, on Twitter @The_Beck_