Football fans must rise up against the fun police
‘If you are experiencing anti-social behaviour close to you, please send a text to 87474… We will make every effort to deal with the issue.’ You might expect this pathetic mollycoddle to be the work of some cossetted students’ union, but you’d be wrong.
A few weeks ago, prior to Euro 2016, I visited Wembley Stadium for the England v Portugal game – a game so dire that I ended up staring at my ticket instead. There I found the bizarre warning quoted above. The list of what constituted ‘anti-social behaviour’ included standing up, swearing and drinking alcohol.
The latter has been forbidden at English and Welsh football matches for three decades. A vestige of the hooligan era, the 1985 Sporting Events Act bars the consumption of alcohol ‘in view of the pitch’. Wembley’s ban on swearing and standing is an extension of the widespread regulation of football fans. For decades, such laws and bans have sought to undermine what makes live football so special.
Football fans sneaking alcohol into the stands risk being ejected, banned or even prosecuted, all for the crime of sipping a pint while supporting their side. Fans of other sports – such as the supposedly civilised rugby lot – are free to drink during games. Why are football supporters singled out? The reason, as demonstrated by the media backlash against ‘unwashed’ and ‘backward’ England fans at Euro 2016, is that working-class football fans are still seen as scum.
No respectable supporter should have to rely on stewards to keep their matchday experience ‘fair, safe and enjoyable’. Fans are big and brave enough to deal with anti-social behaviour themselves. It speaks to the FA’s low view of the punters that it feels a service promising to combat standing up, swearing and risqué chants is necessary. Live football is a chance to escape the daily grind, have a laugh, a beer and release some tension. Fans don’t want to be coddled by a sneering elite.
Football stadiums are becoming far too much like university campuses. They are increasingly meek, sheltered environments, devoid of the passion and politically incorrect zeal live football used to embody. So, next time you head through the turnstiles, don’t just laugh at the fun police. Scorn them. Stand up to them. Support your team as colourfully as possible. And enjoy it while it lasts.
Aidan Lonergan is a spiked intern. Follow him on Twitter: @ajlonergan.
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