Joseph Guthrie calls out the double standards from the rank and file of fandom.

They say football is a funny old sport. Upon hearing that old adage, I can’t help but reflect over the two decades and change of all the things I’ve grown up with and experienced and that’s when it hits me: if football’s a ‘funny old sport,’ it’s becoming increasingly harder to see the punch line.

I mean what exactly is giggle-worthy about one man being valued more than the vast majority of football clubs?  What’s so funny about the ongoing forms of discrimination within football (e.g. racism, sexism et al)?  When will it be okay to laugh about the overwhelming amounts of corruption within football’s supposedly trustworthy administrative bodies like FIFA & UEFA?  What is it about more and more clubs fading away into the annals of history via receivership and liquidation that tickles the funny bone?  Obviously, something about all of these aforementioned things is rather comedic but I don’t see much humour in any of these things.  I just see a game that I love eating itself and everyone associated with it alive.  I don’t feel like laughing most of the time when these things are discussed.  Quite the contrary, actually: I get frustrated that attempts to change these things are constantly stifled and I can’t help but empathise when I see pictures of football supporters mourning the loss of the club that has been a big part of their lives for eons.  A club like Coventry City – who’s been around since 1883 – falls into administration and is forced to play their home matches at a ground 30 miles away, yet few media outlets bat an eyelid at how the ‘I want it all and I want it now’ short-sighted corporate culture is and has been ruining the sport for quite some time now.  Some might say that were it a club like Liverpool or Manchester United in this position, you can bet it’d be front-page news complete with all of “breaking news” updates that say next to nothing… apart from said network hearing themselves talk.  Nevertheless, for all of the damage greed and extravagance has wrought onto football by those in executive positions (flagrantly or indirectly), it must be said that this merely one facet.  Today, I’m stepping away from all of the business shenanigans and stepping up on the soapbox to call out the double standards and issues within the ranks of the football fans themselves.

I won’t beat around the bush any longer: I think most of today’s football fans amount to ungrateful, spoilt children whose sense of entitlement and severe lack of perspective does them a bigger disservice than they are willing to acknowledge.  Now, to be clear: the football fans I’m talking about are the ones that support the bigger and more popular clubs in the biggest fat-cat league in all of club association football: the Premier League.  Yes, I’m talking about Chelsea, Manchester United (I would know about certain Man Utd fans, I support the club), Liverpool, and Manchester City primarily but it’s that nerve-grating chant of “Spend some f***ing money!” coming from the likes of certain Arsenal supporters that appears to be the most curious case of what I like to call ‘First World Problem Syndrome.’  Here’s what I find interesting: Arsenal is a major European club with little to no debt, is not wholly privately owned by any one man or woman, has a very healthy bank balance, and their fans can now proudly crow about Arsene Wenger being the longest serving active Premier League manager.  Granted, Arsenal isn’t playing at the levels since the days of Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Thierry Henry, Gilberto, Sol Campbell, and David Seaman; nor has the club won a competition in seven years but these are hardly things to complain about when you look at the bigger picture.  Consider the following:

  • Under Wenger’s tutelage, Arsenal have finished no lower than fourth place and have never failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions’ League group stage since he took over in 1996.
  • Arsenal are the fourth most valuable club in the world with an estimated worth of over $1.3 billion. In terms of Premier League clubs, Arsenal are second only to Manchester United when it comes to club valuation.
  • Despite Stan Kroenke being the majority shareholder of Arsenal’s parent company (Arsenal Holdings plc), Arsenal remain exclusive as the only Premier League club to have won the Premier League without being wholly owned by a cash-laden billionaire (read: people like Abramovich, Sheik Mansour et al)
  • Since the First Division became the Premier League in 1992, Arsenal are second only to Manchester United in the all-time table. They have won 257 matches, drawn 97, and lost 51 from 810 matches played; scoring 601 goals and conceding 415.

Even in light of all of that (there’s plenty more positives, I assure you), certain Arsenal supporters want Wenger sacked and the club to shell out inexplicable amounts of money because there seems to be a certain belief amongst these types of fans that spending obscene amounts of money on players and their ludicrously-high wages guarantees the club domestic and continental success for an indeterminate amount of time.  I look at these Arsenal fans in complete disbelief because I can think of supporters of about 100 other clubs that would literally kill to see their club in Arsenal’s position.  I see people actually counting the days since Arsenal last won a trophy (7 years) but each of these people moaning about the so-called drought all seemed to be in a coma when Swansea City won the League Cup seeing as they’ve completely neglected how long it took them to win a major domestic honour (100 years) since their last one.  Apparently, Arsenal are being laughed at by Chelsea fans for how Arsenal never seem to spend any money on players.  This is ridiculous and laughable, especially when you consider that Arsenal just bought Lucas Podolski last season while Chelsea piss money up the wall on players every season and they hardly get any time on the pitch, if any at all.  Sound logic, that.

The plight of Coventry City supporters has gone largely unnoticed within the upper echelons of the football world.

Perhaps games like FIFA and Football Manager can be called forth to accept their burden of the blame but I wouldn’t go that far, particularly because that distracts from the real issue.  It’s not the fault of EA Sports or Sports Interactive that fans seem to think that buying and selling players in a video game simulation is as easy as it is in real life.  It’s not their fault that fans have unrealistic expectations of what players would actually fit the mould, are worth scouting, and what their respective clubs can and can’t do in the transfer market.  It’s not the fault of a video game developer that these types of fans think that changing and introducing tactical setups is as straightforward and easy as it seems to be in the games that they play when the real football isn’t actually on.  Nope, it’s the fans’ fault for getting it wrong.  It’s the fans’ fault for being impatient and it’s the responsibility of the fan to keep their expectations in check and both feet firmly planted on the ground.

I used Arsenal merely as an example but in doing so, my aim was to highlight something that fans of other major clubs – Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona et al – are guilty of as well.  People actually get disappointed when no club is seen buying one player for £50+ million yet in the same breath bemoan how money is ruining the game.  People still believe the Real Madrid-patented/Chelsea-perfected business model of spend-all-the-money-ever is a great long-term investment plan.  Managers are getting sacked before the season is even seen to completion simply because the club didn’t take the league by storm since opening day.  People expect football score lines of 8-0 week-in, week-out (especially against opposition they feel are inferior to them) and when it doesn’t happen as they expected it to, the club and everyone working there gets berated and abused.  When any of these annoying things are pulled up, the fan in question then tries to justify their being disillusioned with how things are progressing by highlighting all of the money that they have spent on said club.  My response: since when did fans become entrepreneurs?

The irony here is unmistakable: most fans complain about the lack of people who will stick with their club through thick and thin yet seem to adopt a rather ruthless corporate mind-set when they’re seen railing against the club they support for things like failed transfers, lack of silverware during any given period, etcetera.  I’m not saying you have to accept everything the club you support does and says as gospel but it certainly doesn’t give you the right to jump off the deep end when you support a club who happens to be in a vastly superior position than most.  Moral of the story: appreciate what you have and stop coveting what you don’t.  After all, it always seem to go a bit like this: ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.’

And Joni Mitchell?  She never lies.

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