all enquiries to:

Sunday 17 December 2006

Certainly not football as I've always known it

Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous. Methinks someone at the Arsenal has completely lost the plot

After the shenanigans prior to the Chelsea match, where there was absolutely no need for the Arsenal to get involved in what was basically a totally harnless bit of well deserved piss taking and where their needless statements only ended fuelling the whole affair by giving it more publicity, it now seems as if some nincompoop wants a complete ban on any national flags in our new stadium!

See: (copied below)

Now to be perfectly honest, I am no big fan of most forms of overt nationalism, as it's often only a hop and a skip away from racism of some sort, but when it comes to Gooners coming from abroad to watch the Arsenal and wanting to wave the flag of their country, so the folks back home might point them out on the box, please I beg you, just what kind of killjoy wants to stop this?

And pray tell me, can anyone out there confirm exactly why any Gooners should have been sufficiently upset to complain about someone's flag and instigate this absolutely barmy ban?

I enjoy picking out the Irish flags with my binoculars, to see which branches of the Green Gooners are "in the house" for various games and considering it's been so long since we had an Irish player in the Arsenal first team, when it wasn't so long ago that the club shop were selling Arsenal bobble hats which were red and white on one side and which had the Irish tricolour on the other, it seems a crying shame that our ever waning association with the Emerald Isle will no longer be visible on matchdays!!

One of my most favourite aspects of the beautiful game is the fact that the passions aroused by it are so incredibly intense, that it has the ceaseless potential to cut across the most gaping divides, whether they be political, racial, social etc. etc. and although it saddens me on the rare occasion racism continues to rear it's ugly head on the terraces from the gobby mouths of uneducated neanderthals, mercifully matters have improved (even if I have many issues with the PC Nazis!!) and I prefer to seek solace in footie's amazing ability to unite even the most disparate individuals

We travelled to Sunderland a few seasons back with my good mate Amr, an Egyptian Gooner who usually gets over to see the Gunners for the odd couple of games a season. Amr and I get on like a house on fire, which isn't so incredible, since we are both from semitic origins and as a result, we share many personality traits (which is one of the ultimate ironies of the Middle East conflict). However there's an unwritten understanding between us, which ensures international politics is strictly "off the menu" for any pre-match repartee, for while I like to think of myself as a liberal kind of geezer, who can empathise with all sides of the Middle East argument, whether we care to admit it, or not, we are all entrenched, to a greater or lesser extent, in the opinions we've been indoctrinated with, as a result of our individual upbringing. Besides, who wants to bother with boring political parley, when we can discuss the merits of the Arsenal midfield, instead of forming a plan for World Peace.

As ever, Amr brought his Egyptian flag to the Stadium of Light, in the hope that it might get caught on camera as he waved it around, thereby providing a kick for all his Gooner pals back home in Cairo. And after the game Amr was considering leaving his flag in my car, so that I might have it for him at the home game we were due to meet at in a few days time. In the end he decided against it, as this would've depended on me actually turning up for a match on time!! However I was truly tickled by the ironic thought that I came so close to driving around for the following week with an Egyptian flag on board my motor.

My old man actually fought the Egyptians in Israel / Palestine in 1947, whilst battling to ensure the survival of the newly formed state. Having been blown up by a land mine in his jeep and subsequently being totally paralysed down one side of his body for six months (as a result of a clot of blood on the brain, where it was considered potentially fatal to fly him back to England, until eventually they took the risk, after he'd spent the entire period lying on his back in a hospital bed and miraculously the altitude of the plane shifted the clot in a direction that, instead of being dangerous, actually resulted in him recovering the feeling in his arm and leg almost immediately), obviously my old man had more cause than most for his ingrained bigotry as far as the ancient enemy were concerned.

Consequently I couldn't help but laugh at the thought of him spinning in his grave, if his son had been driving around all week with an Egyptian flag on the back seat

However my red-herring of a story is by way of highlighting how sworn foes can forget their lifelong prejudices, in the face of their unswerving fealty for the Gunners. I hadn't met up with Amr for ages prior to our encounter in Turin last season and since he and an Italian college mate were being driven, from where they were studying in Switzerland, by a German pal in her BeeMer (sounds like the intro to a cliché of a joke...there was an Egyptian, an Eytie and a Kraut heading across the Alps in a BMW to meet up with this jew....:-), Amr was very keen to meet up before the game.

But it took them far longer to get to the centre of Turin than he'd imagined and after waiting for them for ages, I was just about to get on the bus to the stadium when they pulled into the train station. As he ran over to meet me, I was asking Amr whether he'd purchased his bus ticket, as I assumed we would be travelling to the match together. But they were starving hungry and were dashing off to grab some grub. So I was very touched when it eventually dawned on me that Amr was just running over to give me a pre-match good luck hug

Please can someone enlighten me, if I and most other right-minded Gooners I know take absolutely no offence at foreign Gooners waving whatever sodding flag they fancy, who exactly is it that finds this prospect sufficiently troubling, to merit having a moan??

Funnily enough (peculiar, not haa haa!), it was only the other day at Stamford Bridge, after all the wasted trees used to print leaflets warning us against homophobic and racist chanting, that I was minded to consider the cultural make-up of the couple of thousand Arsenal fans in the corner of the Shed. It occurred to me that despite the fact that we are blessed with one of the most multi-cultural crowds in the whole of the Premierhsip, sadly the number of non-white faces were still few and far between, in what unfortunately remains largely the exclusive domain of the white Anglo Saxon footie fan.

Of the limited amount retained in my less than capacious grey matter, what I do know is that the Gunners should be doing everything in their power to celebrate the fact that we welcome so many visitors from all four corners of the globe, to every game at our new stadium, rather than announcing bans which are sadly likely to make our gaff all the gloomier?

If like me you were listening to Five Live on Saturday afternoon, you would've thought that the Arsenal suits would have far more significant matters to worry about. Alan Green obviously got the worng end of the stick, as the moaning Five Live Minnie (Green seems to get ever more bitter with each passing season, as if he has an increasingly weighty chip on his shoulder that he's spent his entire career earning the equivalent of thrupence ha'penny, compared to the fleet of trucks required to carry the weekly wages paid to the game's modern day prima donnas) seemed to be under the impression that Club Level is occupied by the corporate punters. Naturally he couldn't help but comment how strange it seemed for the second half to be kicking off with the middle tier, the most conspicuous area of the stadium more than half empty. In fact on Saturday the two-thirds of Club Level that I can see from my lower tier vantage point were actually almost completely empty when the game restarted after the break.

I have to tell you, turning up late as I do for most matches, it's probably more than a little hypocritical coming from me, but I not only found it embarrassing to hear Green tell the listening world that the coprorate punters at our new stadium are more interested in their half-time hospitality, than the actual football match - when in fact we all know that these are supposed to be genuine Gooners (with apologies to my Club Level mates who have to endure these circumstances in person and who therefore find it even more infuriating than me) - but I am also 100 per cent convinced that it has to be more than a little demoralising for the lads, to be kicking off the second half, when they cannot help but notice how utterly empty such a prominent area of the stadium is!

I am unsure whether this is a new phenomenon and the club are actually making efforts to ensure Club Level Gooners are encouraged to return to their seat, or whether it has always been thus, but Green went on to detail how those who he thought were corporate punters were unable to watch the proceedings on the pitch, as the glass windows are covered. It's absolutely barmy when you think of it, as this means that a large proportion of our affluent punters are actually paying around £100 to £175 quid a game to watch a percentage of the match on the in-house TVs!!

It actually occurred to me to wonder whether the glass is in fact covered up as a ruse, designed merely to enable as much milking of Club Level cash as possible, as they can continue flogging the overpriced comestibles long after the break. Whereas with all those sprauncy glass chandeliers lighting up the opulent environs of the Club Level concourses (that make the rest of the stadium appear positively sparse by comparison), if the windows weren't covered they'd surely have to dim the lights once winter darkness falls and shut shop, in order that the bright lights don't act as a distraction to the Gooner gladiators?

Whatever the justification, it's plainly apparent from the continued farce of such an empty Club Level for so long after the match recommences, that the club needs to focus its attention on finding an effective way of encouraging a sufficient number of Club Level folk back to their seats, before our new gaff becomes a complete laughing stock. Otherwise, instead of the Highbury Library, our new home will end up being known as the Marie Celeste!

Oh but I forgot, they are all bound to be far too busy monitoring their new flag ban!!!!

If the good lord is indeed a Gooner then I sincerely hope heaven will save us from such utterly senseless poppycock?

Big Love

PS. I have Espanyol v Real Madrid on the box right now. I haven't exactly been concentrating on the game, so I stand to be corrected, but despite the fact that they are playing with ten men, Real have a player in their side who is the spitting image of Jose Reyes in appearance, but it can't possible be Jose, as this bloke's threatening Espanyol's goal every few minutes :-)


Some of our fans have been upset with the flying of certain flags denoting particular regions of the world

Arsenal as a club prides itself on being inclusive with respect to all nationalities, cultural and ethnic groups.

We have therefore decided that in order for all of our fans to enjoy their experience at Emirates Stadium, we are asking that only flags in support of Arsenal Football Club, without any national emblems, are
displayed within the stadium.

We will be implementing this policy with immediate effect. Thank you for your assistance in this matter.


Anonymous said...


I sit in club level (after spending a large proportion of my hard-earned cash for the pleasure) and I'm getting a bit pissed off with the anti-club level sentiment. Yes there are corporate types in club level but there are also plenty of people like myself who have made numerous sacrifices in return for the guarantee of being able to watch their team every week. Club level is not the only section of the ground to have empty seats pre and post half and full time. Have you ever noticed the number of empty seats in the other areas of the ground? No because you're probably too busy moaning about the people in club level. Maybe it's time to do something about your selective vision.

Bern said...

If selective vision is good enough for the gaffer, it's good enough for me. However you ain't so bad yourself, or else you would've noticed the following
"with apologies to my Club Level mates who have to endure these circumstances in person and who therefore find it even more infuriating than me"

I have several Club Level pals who travel home and away and who are certainly more pissed off than me about the dribble back to the Club Level seats after the break, as they have to stand up every few seconds!

Meanwhile on this occasion I am only stating the facts as reported on Five Live on Saturday. What was said here ("half empty" at start of second half) is indisputable but from where I sit in the East Lower, it looked even more empty than that, which is why I am moved to comment

Perhaps you and a few more genuine Club Level Gooners might start shaming those who dawdle back ten minutes after the second hald has started, by asking out loud why they bother to come if they aren't so interested in watching a live game?

As I for one find it incredibly embarrassing to see the players kicking off, so patently aware of the extremely conspicuous rows of empty seats. Let's face it, it can hardly be inspiring for them!

In addition to the likes of yourself, I am led to believe that a "Club Level seat at the Emirates" is the latest must have accessory for every self-respecting city type and if Alan Green is taking the piss on Five Live, you can be danr sure that we will be the brunt of everyone's jokes before long.

Consequently I only mentioned the matter here as I amabsolutely incensed that the killjoys at the club have banned something so seemingly innocuous as national flags, when there are far more significant problems at the new stadium that are deserving of some effective remedial action

From the replies I have heard of that have been received by those Club Level residents who have offered suggestions, eg. that they stop serving booze a couple of minutes before KO, like they always did at THOF, or that they have a bell as we had in the past to remind people the players are coming back in the pitch, or that they do the same as in other sports, where those who return after the game has commenced are forced to wait until a suitable break in play, it would appear the the club aren't prepared to adopt any measures which might be contrary to the terms by which they sold the seats intitially.

Or in other words, they are more interested in ensuring they don't upset any of this new source of such substantial amounts of revenue, than they are in the effect on the team moral, or the way the new stadium is perceived by the rest of the footballing world.

Hopefully they will find some way of encouraging people back to their seats to watch the entire match before the new stadiun acquires a reputation that will last forever. However my instincts are that it would take a crap season and a few of the players to turn around and admit that they are hardly encouraged to kick of the second half and play with any real fire in their bodies, when so many fans are showing such apparent apathy.

I know it's only 7-8000 but due to its prominent position at the heart of the stadium, the percentage of empty seats in Club Level seems a much higher proportion of the total 60k than it is in reality

You are indeed correct there are plenty of empty seats elswhere in the stadium at the start of the second half but because these are dotted aroun, rather than the huge swathes of Club Level, they aren't nearly so noticable.

What's more, I would guess that, unlike Club Level, where so many seem to have something better to do than to return to their seats, I reckon a substantial proportion of the empty seats elsewhere in the ground are a result of the fact that it is impossible to get served in the Lower and Upper tiers unless you queue long into the second half, as there have been a few occasions where I've started queueing for a cuppa during the break and have given up when the players arrive back on the pitch because I am still some way from being served and I don't want a cuppa so badly that I am prepared to miss a chunk of the second half to get one

Meanwhile if I am totally honest, I actually wrote the above as an e-mail to the mailing list, as I am about to start my weekly diary piece and I am desperate to know what the catalyst was to cause the Arsenal to take the ridiculous step of banning national flags. I want to know what on earth would move some Gooner to complain about it?

And I only chose to mention Alan Green's moaning about the empty seats as a means of pointing out that there are far more pressing matters than flags to be dealt with and I was half hoping that if I and enough people point out how ridiculous this ban on national flags is, perhaps (some hope!!) they might reconsider as I simply cannot fathom that foreign Gooner coming to a game at our new stadium are never again going to be allowed to hang their respective countrie's flags from the balcony, so that all their friends watching on TV back home can see that they made it to the game,

Sod the sensitivities of all the genuine Club Level Gooners who seem to feel some misguided need to justify their choice of seats (we'd all be up there if we could afford it), as the single only motive for this post was to highlight the absolutely preposterous nature of this ban on national flags

Anonymous said...

hey bern, nick here, greetings from florida... just surfing and saw this.. bizarre but v liverpool there was a strange guy sitting next to joe and me with what i thought was a turkish cyprus flag and he pointed out another one opposite... we didnt like it and joe annoyed him by asking whats the idea, he was aggresive.. im sure this annoyed greek cypriots...afc is in thier hood... so i bet thats the flag issue... as for being late, your havin a laugh bern, the latest person to arrive for the arse in arsenal history, mr late ie pot & kettle.. even at the bridge 20 mins late eh?.. as for club level, its fucking great, awesome & no different atmosphere or people than west upper, just better facilites and half time drinks... joe and i told someone about the bell and they are doing it now..