On Monday night Robbie Savage was fuming on Twitter, or at least as fuming as possible for a big girl’s blouse limited to 160 characters.
The reason for his ire was the indefensible bombardment of verbal abuse and coins thrown towards him and his ESPN colleagues Marin Keown and presenter Rebecca Lowe prior to the Arsenal/Leeds cup tie as they stood at their makeshift ‘studio’ pitchside.
There was also a ball pinged in with real intent at Keown’s misshapen noggin from a Leeds player later identified as Michael Brown but I think we can all put that one down to pure comedy gold.
‘Majority of Leeds fans a disgrace throwing coins and hotdogs, shouting obscenities to a lady presenter. Disgrace!’ the blonde one wailed.
‘Leeds fans and there (sic) daughters screaming foul and abusive language at Rebecca. Hope you’re proud of yourselves. Shocking!’ was another mini-rant.
While such actions can never be condoned (particularly the coins…the hotdogs lesser so as it’s a commendable sacrifice to part with an Emirates product that requires a second mortgage to obtain) the question has to be asked – just what the hell were ESPN thinking putting their employees in the line of fire to begin with?
Well if you want edgy then don’t complain when edgy is what you get.
They’ve been doing this for a while now: setting up a DIY ‘desk’ laden with superfluous empty mugs and getting their pundits to stand there spouting the usual pre-match banalities just yards from the supporters and quite frankly it was only a matter of time before their pathetic attempt at getting their coverage closer to the action bit them royally on the bum. Not only is it openly inviting such abuse, it is also unnecessary and actually looks contrived and cheap.
You can imagine the discussions that initially led to this doomed idea and the bullshit jargon excitedly spluttered by executives called Jeremy and Adrian. ‘Edgy authenticity’ would be one.
Well if you want edgy then don’t complain when edgy is what you get, and placing an attractive blonde, an unattractive blonde who is football’s Marmite, and an Arsenal defender hated by most rival supporters within spitting distance of thousands of Leeds United fans is akin to throwing three Filipino minors into Gary Glitter’s hideout.
Football has changed considerably in recent times but while stadia has improved, hooliganism is more a spectre than a physical concern, and supporters no longer piss in each other’s pockets but rather buy over-priced hotdogs and fit into higher advertising demographics 3000 Leeds fans are still 3000 Leeds fans. Poke them with a stick and they will react accordingly.
To assume otherwise is naivety in the extreme. Or perhaps – even probably – ESPN knew precisely this and were secretly revelling at the peril they were placing their highly-paid punditry team. Whatever makes for great telly.
Fans have been blamed for most things in football’s dark and shameful past. On this occasion – whilst condemning the Leeds fans actions is appropriate – the blame lies entirely elsewhere.