Manchester City fan @quietriot1983 contests the relevance of seat-counters and those who judge fans on their noise levels.
A quick peruse on Wikipedia tells you that the traditional football chant, whilst being “one of the last remaining sources of an oral folk song” is generally used to “encourage the home team or slight the opposition”. That sounds fair enough: you go to the stadium and play your part in helping your team win, somehow, someway. However, with the current criticism (particularly by the media) of support, certainly City’s support, I started to wonder why sections of fans believe that ‘good’ or ‘successful’ clubs have to have large, noisy attendees.
City were certainly guilty of inhabiting both ends of the spectrum recently. A top of the table, must-win ‘six pointer’ against Liverpool saw a white hot atmosphere help City to a win; this was closely followed by a cup semi-final attendance that drew criticism from all quarters.
“City try to claim their (sic) a big club, no other club in the league would fail to sell out a semi-final in any cup” wrote a Twitter user who plays computer games for a living. “Emptihad living up to its name” wrote another. All this despite the previous night’s match between Spurs and Chelsea attracting just 44,000 fans to Wembley. Perhaps it’s because I’m very City-centric, but I felt the amount of criticism was unwarranted, and it certainly seemed to be aimed solely at City fans, not at the game in general; not at the clubs for pricing and certainly not at TV companies for rearranging fixtures wantonly.
The night of the Burton game particularly – at least to any reasonable person who lacks any interest in point-scoring on Twitter – brought plenty of mitigating factors, namely a police incident on the M6 at Stoke close to rush hour closing the carriageway. Additionally City had two home games in the previous week and, without trying to sound disrespectful, this was a game that should prove to be a formality, as the 9-0 score line confirmed.
Still, fast forward another week, to City’s fourth home game in the first two weeks of January, and although the Etihad was close to full (and certainly sold out according to the ticket office), the atmosphere again was pretty flat. Expectation is often lauded as an excuse, with this all-conquering team before us, the fan base has been accused of sitting and waiting for the entertainment to flow, negating the need for support or encouragement. Of course there’s also the argument as to whether 11 players earning millions between them should need Dave from Beswick shouting encouragement at them in order to put in a decent performance.
I will be the first to hold my hands up and tell you that I don’t watch football. I only really watch City. Other teams annoy me, their players annoy me, their fans annoy me and the ‘experts’ wheeled out on Sky tv certainly annoy me. I am reliably informed though, that atmosphere, or lack of, is not a problem faced only by City, but rather in grounds up and down the country. The gentrification of the game, all seater stadia, corporate bods etc are all targeted as contributors for the lack of atmosphere, and at City, we’ve seen the rise and rise of corporate areas over the past few seasons, with more and more ‘tourist’ fans coming to the stadium as well.
For me, the biggest killer of atmosphere is the constant moving of fixtures. With very few 3pm fixtures comes the constant fear of making plans in case matches are moved. Night matches for those of us with jobs can end up being a real rush, and in those cases where fans live further afield, it’s easy to see why fans might choose to skip one or two. It is a problem that Premier League football has caused itself, all too happy to take the money, and therefore unwilling to resist fixture changes in any way.
Simon Curtis put it best on Twitter:
And of course, 1-0 up against 10 men is never going to ‘unleash the crowd’ like a local derby or a top of the table clash does.
Now at 35, I’ve become more of a grumpy old man, cynical in my views and opinions and perhaps less tolerant of fools. It’s this attitude which allows me to take a very specific stance on the whole matter of atmosphere and empty seats. Does it bloody matter? Does it really matter one bit if there are 100,000 or 100 fans attending a match? Does it matter if you’ve travelled four hours to get to the ground, or whether you’ve travelled from the kitchen to your living room? We all use football as an escape or a hobby, why can’t we just live and let live eh? I for one have got to the point where I could not care any less if I’m surrounded by other fans, or I was sat there on my own. I am lucky enough to be able to go to the Etihad to watch it live, but there are plenty who can’t, and plenty who choose not to. I honestly don’t think that has any impact on how good of a football team you are, and I certainly don’t think that the ordinary working class bloke should be lambasted or ridiculed for it.