Arsenal Protests Miss Wider Issues

There has been a fair amount of talk online about a planned protest before the Aston Villa game. In fairness, the protest is not designed to oust the manager – as was the fear in some quarters – it seems to be more about the general running of the club.

The organisers of the march are the sentimentally titled “Where Has Our Arsenal Gone” (Answer – About 5 minutes up the road to a state of the art stadium which is the envy of the league). This group have also instigated the so called “Black Scarf Movement” something which is as irritating as it is ill advised. Firstly, it sounds sinister with its no doubt unintended imagery that brings to mind other movements symbolised by black clothing. Secondly, it strikes me as an attempt to jump on the protest band wagon, made famous by the ill advised Green and Gold protest at United.

Instinctively, I don’t take this protest seriously and I don’t think most fans do either. With all due respect to a group of people I’m sure have reasonable intentions I hadn’t heard of them until I dug around on the internet for a while. I can’t recall having seen one of those black scarves at a game and I’ve not seen any paraphernalia in support of them around the ground. It’s been noted that around 200 people might be on the march. Put in context, that’s about 0.3% of people who will be at the game.

It seems to me that these people are disgruntled with modern Football and Arsenal’s role in that, they don’t like the modern way of things and want a voice. I’ve no problem with other people’s opinions but I do think they are missing the point somewhat.

The point I want to make is simple, if you are unhappy with corporate boxes, increased merchandising and increased ticket prices then fair enough but, this is Premier League Football, a cash cow, a money spinner; this is not pint of ale and a bag of peanuts Football of yester year. I fully understand that no one wants a price increase – I’m struggling to find my £1000 to renew – but what is the other option?

If the board drop or freeze prices, turn their back on corporate clients, drop food and drink prices in the ground and revert to a biannual kit change then our pockets would no doubt be relieved but, in order to balance the books with a multi million pound turnover, we’d almost certainly have to sell key players – to raise revenue and to drop wage costs – we’d have to delve even deeper into the young prospect transfer market and you can forget about those couple of world class players we supposedly need so badly.

If we take this moral stand, which we probably could do to the further detriment of the playing side, we’d be shooting ourselves in the foot. It would require us to instil an ethic that is missing from every other major club in this country and the most of the rest of Europe. Our club is derided for not spending and working on self sustainability but when the club puts itself on an equal footing with its competitors – without jeopardising the future of the club – they are accused of greed.

The sad reality is that this is Football in the big time. The club could go with this altruistic effort but we would soon become a top 10 side, not a top 3 side.

If you don’t like the way the club is run then I think your issue is with the way Football in general is organised. Football is a multi billion pound industry in which aggressive marketing reigns supreme. It’s not the Football supporters of WHOAG grew up with and it’s not the Football I first fell in love with but, sadly, it is Capitalism. If you don’t like Capitalism then a march to a Football ground is going to do little to solve your problems. The club is only doing what the market dictates it must in order to compete at the top.

Protesting outside our own ground, effectively against doing what every other major player in the global game is doing, risks dividing the club and sending all the wrong messages around the planet. Our fans are already criticised for being quiet whingers, do we really need this as well?

If fans of our club are unhappy with escalating prices then fair enough but it would be far more useful to organise a march on the FA or UEFA or FIFA, support Financial Fair Play Rules, lobby for the reintroduction of standing zones to help prices drop and to support the AST and the Fan Share proposal.

The issue of rising costs in Football is a concern to all fans, not just us because we haven’t won a trophy again. We are coming across as spoilt and ungrateful at a time when we need to be pulling together and showing support. In fact, the issue of money and ownership in Football needs all fans, of whatever allegiance, to stand together. This isn’t an issue that we can stand alone on; unless you are happy for many more trophy free seasons.