Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Protests. What do 'Where has our Arsenal gone?' really want?

Protesting has become rather fashionable recently. The Middle East has seen an upsurge in pro-democracy protests, students in the UK took to London's streets to protest against the increases in tuition fees and we're now hearing that teachers are planning to strike, protesting against proposed changes to their pensions.

The world of football has also seen a number of protests. Two recent high profile examples are the Manchester United fans who protested against the mountain of Glazer debt leveraged on their club, and the Liverpool fans who successfully drove out the American owners that nearly took the club to bankruptcy.

Now it seems there are a small number of Arsenal fans who want to join the protest bandwagon, and their preferred method appears to be Liverpool's laughable 'march to a game we were going to anyway' model.

So, what do this group (dramatically titled 'Where has our Arsenal Gone?') want to achieve? The initial call to action on their website was incredibly vague:

"We call for all Arsenal fans who agree with our views and who want to see their Arsenal back, to join us on a walk before the match against Aston Villa on Sunday 15 May."

"Want to see their Arsenal back"? I mean, really, what does this mean? You can't protest against the club on such flimsy, sentimental waffle.

Maybe I'm being thick, but this seems to be implying that things used to be brilliant and now they're shit. What is that all about? I mean, really, it's simply not the case is it? I questioned some of the main supporters of the protest via twitter and got responses such as the one below:

"if the board and/or wenger changes then GOOD!"

Change how, exactly?

I understand that we've come up short this year - once again imploding in the final weeks of the season.  Wenger may need to change his focus and the board may need to spend some money. Both have indicated that this is possible.

So if we agree the club are trying to sort out these on field issues as a matter of course, what is this protest about?

Protests are there for when people in power are doing things against the will of the wider populous. So what are the changes that the board and/or Wenger need to enact for Black Scarf to be happy?

Helpfully, they have now issued a press release, which covers six (yes, that's right SIX) main areas:


1) Season tickets

Basically, they don't want the price of season tickets to go up. None of us do. Nothing ground breaking there. People want to spend as little as possible. No need for protest either - price increases for general season tickets are simply a rumour at the moment.

There's also some unworkable ideas about being able to give up your season ticket for a year if needed, creating the possibility of downgrading your ticket (good idea to be fair) and some tripe about implementing a swap-shop if you want to move seats (this sort of exists - write to the club during the renewal period - unless they mean during the season, in which case, I don't see the point).

2) Seating

This is an odd little section where they bang on about issuing season tickets in the Clock End, moving away fans into the upper tier and put forward an unworkable and pointless experiment of unreserved seating.

Again, this isn't ground breaking and it certainly isn't urgent, requiring a protest! Isn't this type of stuff that the AGM is for?

3) Commercial activity

It's getting weirder by the minute isn't it? Since when have people protested at a football club because they don't believe commercial deals are making enough money for a club? As supporters, it's none of their business - let the new owner sort it out. In fact, there is a rumour that this is actually on his to-do list.

Our away kit should always be yellow. Fair enough - I agree, but I don't see this as an issue that requires an urgent protest. Same with their issue around the club releasing two kits every year - if you don't want them, don't buy them. Seems a bit of a contradiction, they've asked the club to make more commercial revenue, but at the same time want to restrict their shirt sale opportunities. Whatever. Next...

4) Ownership and target markets

Honestly, this is getting dull. Four paragraphs going on about how we place too much emphasis on getting corporate supporters through the door and how this will hurt the club long term.

Look, I hate to say it, but we're following a national trend here - top flight football is more expensive to attend. It's a supply and demand thing - the "loyal, long-term support [that] the club has been built on" attended games during a time when football was unfashionable, Arsenal were a mid-table top flight side and it didn't cost hundreds of millions of pounds per season to keep the club alive. That is all the board are doing - they're not deliberately fleecing fans, they are simply doing what is needed for the club to survive and compete.

It's true that things are more expensive at the Arsenal now. This is also the case at every other top flight club. Yes, we do pay the highest ticket prices in the land, but this is partly a product of supporting a self sustaining club that competes at the top of the league - supporting a club that doesn't have to rely on an owner putting in millions of pounds of their own money as interest free loans - supporting a club that doesn't have to worry about it all collapsing when one individual gets bored. If high ticket prices are needed to sustain this, then I'm all for it - even if it means I need to dip a bit deeper into my pockets.

5) The manager

A couple of paragraphs saying they want him to repeat his successful years at the club (don't we all), and that he should sign a couple of world class players (no protest needed - I'm pretty sure he knows now).

6) The chairman

Mental. "We want our Arsenal back" but we want the immediate removal of the one member of the board who properly represents the tradition and history of the club, because he called some fan's opinions "silly".

By allowing him to remain as Chairman, this gives the message that the Board think it’s acceptable to openly criticise and disrespect the club’s supporters.

Unbelievable - we as supporters are allowed to openly criticise anyone we wish, no matter how crazy or selfish our views are, but god forbid anyone criticises us back.


I'm really just not getting this protest at all. The six points above are just too broad and, I have to admit, after having read the press release there is no way I could summarise their issues into a paragraph. It's all very financially focused, and mainly on issues around the cost of supporting the club for the average fan.

As for the football (which, incidentally, is hardly even mentioned in the press release). People are upset because we haven't won a trophy in six years. SIX years?! It's nothing in the grand scheme of things. Barcelona went six years without a trophy from 99-05, and look where they are now. I'm not saying that we're going to be the new Barcelona, but when teams like West Ham are playing some awful shit and all the while their fans are simply getting behind the team, our protest at 'only' achieving top four finishes, with the odd League and Cup double / unbeatable season / cup final chucked in, just stinks of spoilt entitlement.

My main gripe with the protest however, beyond the complete lack of focus, is the appalling timing.

The timing of the protest, along with the lack of focus and the current media interest in Wenger, means that it can be misinterpreted and misrepresented very easily. It only takes one idiot to start one ill advised chant on the march and that's it... headlines of "ARSENE OUT! - ARSENAL FANS FINALLY TURN ON TROPHY-LESS WENGER" will be just around the corner.

They way I see it, at best, this protest will have no effect on the club whatsoever, at worst, it will divide the fans even further and destabilise the club at precisely the time we need to be together. If the press coverage is unkind, it could even lose us our manager. Imagine that.

Victory Through Harmony - seems to have been forgotten recently, eh?


  1. absolutely spot on mate. I just wrote a similar blog on this issue


  2. lets all just do nothing but read blogs lol,
    the club is not moving forward like promised
    some what to do something about it, others love to slag them off , what camp you in ? yes man

  3. Need to protest ,what`s the B.S with a kamikaze keeper and defenders.Why has shit face Almunia played so long for Arsenal.Who pays the clueless manager money to pay thick headed bastard like Diaby and Eboue.The club is property of the fans.We are unhappy with being Man Utd and Chelsea`s bitch not to mention Spurs .We want our club back ,We don`t want fans pouring money to continue deluded project.The B.S stops right here right now.

  4. ok so im a couple of days late hearing this news but im in some shock that anybody has even bothered to get off their arse and do anything about anything in the UK. As long as X Factor is on surely nobody cares enough?

    But i guess that's the point, we all want Arsenal to be like X Factor, or Ebbsfleet? Everyone getting a vote on every trivial matter?

    Dear Stan, we the true Arsenal fans demand that Arsenal run out on to the pitch to the sounds of Good Old Arsenal. If you do not submit to our demands we will march enmasse from The Twelve Pins to the new Arsenal Stadium to arrive at approximately 2:55pm. During this march we may sing songs about how much we love our club (which we will instantly forget when we arrive quietly at our seats) and imbibe alcohol. You have been warned.

  5. very good article. I posted a link to your blog and I did a copy and paste on my blog. Very good article.

  6. 5 minutes of my life i will never get back, you probably only been a fan for 5 years

  7. I agree that the timing is poor as the media will spin this protest as being anti-Wenger.

    But it's too bad you're so sneering and dismissive of longtime fans who've supported the club for decades who've come up with good ideas to change the atmosphere in the stadium. (I'm not part of the group).

    Gooners love to complain and complain and whinge and bitch and insult each other about the terrible atmosphere in the stadium - yet here's a group that has put out some good ideas on seating and season tickets to improve the stadium (ideas that you trash) and all you can do is just dismiss those ideas as worthless.

    These are longtime supporters who want to at least express their dismay at how the club is marginalizing and outpricing fans who are not affluent from attending games at the Grove. Moderate to low income fans can no longer attend as the club now caters to corporates and the "please entertain me" crowd. I guess you think that's ok. Of if you complain about it, the only response you think is valid is to just shrug "oh well, we can't do anything about so don't bother trying or even saying anything" and then go complain about it on the blogs. This passive, mindless, consumerist mentality is worse than people getting off their asses and demonstrating their dissent at club policies.

    It's ok to complain and whinge about the terrible stadium atmosphere but heaven forbid fans actually organize and express their dissent at the club's policies that enable that atmosphere in the first place. The ideas they put forth to change that atmosphere are pretty damned good ones - I don't see bloggers like you coming up with any.

    I agree some of the other sections of their press release aren't particularly impressive. And it's probably a losing battle anyway - but at least they're actually getting off their asses to protest club policies that make the Grove one of the worst stadiums in terms of fan atmosphere in the country. If not the worst.

    Better that than the convenience and cowardice of just bitching and insulting each other on blogs.

  8. Interesting comments from everyone, both here and on twitter. It's brilliant that the piece has gained so much support, and I'm glad it has prompted a bit of a discussion in the wider context.

    'Gooner Dan' - to answer your question, I've been an Arsenal fan my whole life. I've never quite understood why some people always want to boil it down to how long you've been a fan or how long you've been going to games etc... Everyone is entitled to their opinion, regardless.

    'Marcus' - your points are interesting. For what it's worth, I've agreed with several of the points made in the press release regarding tickets and seating, and would love for the atmosphere to improve at the ground.

    My point is that I don't feel these ideas warrant a protest walk, especially not before the last game of a difficult season. They are ideas and issues that should be taken to the AGM - that's what it is there for.

    In my opinion the protest is poorly timed, is trying to convey too many conflicting messages, is open to misrepresentation and, most importantly, I don't think it represents a unified position from the fans.

  9. I just think your blog has completely missed the whole point. The AGM is a waste of time considering you have to have your questions pre approved. We the fans have a right to stand up and be counted the club dont care about us, we line there pockets year in year out. Its time to stand up to these people. Every single Arsenal fan should be on this march as its our club and we should have our say. I don't understand why so many have an agenda

  10. "My point is that I don't feel these ideas warrant a protest walk" well then why dont you just stay in the pub or do whatever it is you do and dont be so sanctamonious about others just because they can be bothered to state how they feel about the way the club is run.

  11. Great post

    Agree with some of the protesters' points. But do you think they add to a positive and good atmosphere in which to play football in? They all sound depressed

    To quote the 'fan views' first forum post (on players):

    "I have nothing in common with these mercenaries and feel nothing for them. In fact it saddens me to say that I openly despise some of them."

    Wowza. Maybe give up watching footy?

    Had some great moments this season, Barca 2-1, Man City away 3-0, Chelsea 3-1.

    Ok we haven't won a trophy for six years, let's be miserable!

  12. Tom, once again you have missed the point. I grew up watching players like Tony Adams Martin Keown David Rocastle, players that bled for The Arsenal. When we signed Ian Wright he didnt even ask about his wages that was how much it meant to him to play for us. Now a days this lot are just happy to pick up there checks. I can honestly say there are only a handful of players i like, not because of talent but because they give a fuck.

    You mention we have had some great moments this season. You mention 3 things and that's it. If you can sit there and think what we are watching is good enough you should maybe stop watching as you call it 'footy'.

    I pay a grand a year to watch average shit, if they want to have a squad of players that don't care and they quite clearly dont bar a few. Then fine but don't insult me by charging the earth to watch second rate dross.

    We are The Arsenal for fucks sake.

  13. Dan, I know what you mean with your first point, but do you think Arsenal alone have this problem or is this modern football? Do you think John Obi Mikel has a Chelsea blanket?

    I mentioned 3 but could have mentioned 10. Of course at the moment no one around the club is happy, I happen to think this is more to do with players having a lack of confidence than not giving a fuck. If we had won CC I'm sure we would still be competing for the league.

    I think the point i'm getting at is that if you want the team to do well, you'd be better giving them some decent support rather than aiding the cycle of negativity that's present at the moment.

    All the best

  14. I agree that whatever to desired end for this protest walk, it is open to massive misinterpretation and comes at the wrong time. A valid question would be whether this protest, which claims to be about the atmosphere at games and the overall financial burden the fans are bearing, would have come up had Arsenal won on Sunday to keep the slim title hopes alive?

  15. Nice piece, echoes much of what I thought when I read the press release but more articulately. And more importantly, politely.

    It's a good counterpoint in what could be a productive debate amongst us all. 'Could' being the operative word!

    However, the pessimist in me can only see a summer of bitchy, 'I'm a bigger fan' bullshit around the corner as people race to outdo each other with more and more radical, ill thought out 'plans' for world domination.

    I hope that I'm wrong and I wish you the best in proving me so

  16. Our average shit team, manager, and top four finish for 14 consecutive years is the envy of nearly every club outside of Stoke on Trent.

    Tim, American, been watching Arsenal since 1999, pay thousands of dollars to see a single match, been to Highbury, see at least one match every year, was at Wembley for the heartbreaking loss. But my opinion probably doesn't count.

  17. The only thing I'd add is why are the organizers so cowardly that they won't reveal who they are?

  18. Tim, they are all over FB...
    Also the demo is taking place the last home game of the season what other time would be appropriate? Another thing, someone said its the same at other clubs well let us be the first to try and do something about it..Its may not be revolutionary but most of the claims make sense...Good luck to all concerned.

  19. Stephen, I hope you bought at least one scarf, a hat, a lapel pin, and after the million man march, you'll be able to get a DVD.

  20. why so hostile Tim? i just told you they are not hiding...And yes i have a badge...
    Infact why dont you contact them and let them know how you feel..

  21. http://www.wherehasourarsenalgone.webeden.co.uk/#

    here you go Tim contact them and let them know how you feel...

  22. Tim seeing as you live in America, you probably dont get the aggro us lot do here. I know the people doing it. Its being done because we love The Arsenal. People moan all the time yet we are doing something about it. All this bollcoks about who is a better fan is nonsense, support the club how you want.

    You need to get the idea that this is an anti wenger march. It has nothing to do with the playing squad.

    Been going 20 years spend the best part of my salary every year and I'am not happy with what is going on at my club, as are 100's of other's