Wake up

November 10, 2011 § 13 Comments

Football is full of vacant concepts, bastard phrases referring to little and signifying less. Sometimes these are straightforward impossibilities: consider “England midfield” or “Portuguese striker”. Other times, they feel like they should be actual things, but are comical in their futility. “Gentlemen’s agreement”, perhaps, or “long-term contract”. But there can be few as depressingly useless as what is now brewing in Newcastle, the “fans’ backlash” against the plans to rename St. James’ Park as “Sports Direct Arena”.

The backlash is still embryonic, and is currently little more than a general miasma of rage and disappointment, with “it was all going so well” as a recurring grace note. Doubtless, schemes are being schemed: for banners, for marches, and for Facebook campaigns. Local MPs and councillors will receive letters, journalists will be tweeted and will duly retweet. Solemn vows will be struck: it is, and will remain, St. James’. They can rename our stadiums, but they cannot take our utterance!

But. But buttity but, and hold on a minute. Barring criminal activity — which this blog does not endorse, unless it’s really funny — there is exactly one kind of backlash that could ever hope to have any effect, and that’s a boycott.

Just. Don’t. Go.

There seems to be some kind of persistent illusion among football fans that the men and women in charge of their clubs care what they think. How this illusion came to be isn’t clear, though doubtless it’s born of a combination of gullibility, propaganda, and simple straightforward lying. Yes, owners may say with their mouths that they care about what the fans think, but then they also say that managers have their full backing, that they have no intention of selling him, and that of course they think the women of the city are attractive and worthy of respect. There is no such thing as an honest rich man.

Of course they don’t care what you think. Why on earth should they? They care what you do. Specifically, they care whether or not you continue to hand over money.

Boycotts are often derided as ineffective by those who can’t be bothered to maintain them, a self-fulfilling prophecy that teaches you everything you need to know about human inadequacy. They fail because not enough people subscribe to them. Not going to a game may be an emotional wrench, but there’s the balance: do you, the fan, care more about (a) missing a game and not buying the shirt, or (b) THE CAUSE. If enough people are of the second mind, and choose accordingly, then it will work. If not, then the club’s fans as a whole clearly don’t care enough, and so it isn’t a problem anyway. Such is the way of democracy: if not enough people can be bothered to participate, you end up getting shafted. (I refer you to No. 10, Downing Street.)

If enough Newcastle fans — and no, I don’t know how many that might be, but it’ll be a fair few — refuse to attend games, refuse to buy shirts, and completely cut the club off from their money, then Ashley will cave. He will have to. Without money flowing into the club, it collapses. That’s the only power the fans have; they need to choose whether or not to use it. I’m not telling Newcastle fans what to do, incidentally, that’s between them and their consciences. I’m just pointing out the realities of the situation they are in.

Because the only way Mike Ashley is going to change his mind is if he is given a reason to, and I think it’s clear that this is a man willing and able to cope with a fair amount of public opprobrium. As long as the turnstiles click round and the shirts leave the shelves, why should he demur from his course? The same goes for any owner — excepting of course our beloved oligarchs, who actually can do whatever they want, as the future attendees of Samsung Bridge are about to find out.

Hicks and Gillett weren’t hounded out of Anfield by marches and incoherent rape analogies; the Glazers won’t be turfed out of Old Trafford by novelty knitwear. Ashley is gambling that not enough Newcastle fans care, or care enough to deny themselves the immediate pleasure of attendance, that he can get away with it. Depressingly, he’s probably right.

It is incredibly simple. If you want to show somebody that is selling you something that you don’t like it, don’t buy it. That’s it. That’s all a fan can do. Viewed from above, a fan is nothing more than a vector for the relocation of money. And it is useless to argue that the owners are failing to respect the soul of football. Lacking one themselves, why should they care?

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§ 13 Responses to Wake up

  • […] David Conn is understandably outraged, and so are Newcastle fans, whom club representatives are attempting to placate with the promise of 10 million quid worth of annual money. Yes, other stadia have been named for corporate sponsors, but normally when they’re newly constructed. St. James’ Park is history (pardon the pun), which in football circles increasingly represents a cheap branding opportunity to be tossed aside for a corporate “partnership.” Andrew Thomas quite right reminds fans the only way to stop money from destroying football is to STOP PAYING FOR IT. […]

  • Michael Richard says:

    As a Newcastle fan who has never been to St. James, oh sorry I mean Sports Direct Arena, I will continiue my longstanding boycotte which has been aided by 3000 miles of ocean.

  • Blackburn fans should take heed of this sound and apposite advice.

    And talking of criminality and St.James’, I know a chap who was arrested once for breaking into the stadium on a drunken Friday night and stealing the caretaker’s stash of pornography.

  • Toon Army Sun says:

    Couldn’t agree more with this.

    I’m not a season ticket holder as I live down south now, but I always made it to at least a handful of games each season. That stopped after Keegangate. I decided I wasn’t going to put money into the club after that.

    This latest decision is just proving that I made the right decision all along. It obviously hurts not to watch the team now when they’re doing so well, but long term, Ashley has to go, and I made the decision to stop giving him money.

    If only the rest of the fanbase could comprehend they hold the power here, and follow suit.

  • Crad says:

    Surely if enough Newcastle fans care about the CAUSE they WILL go to games. Ashley is doin this to help finance the club as well as his own pocket. If we get a striker out of it who really cares about a name? A boycott can only hurt the team, at the minute Ashley is doin a fairly decent job at the top creating a team that can build without huge backing from an American or Arab backer. Lets ride it out, we’ll still call it St. James’ Park anyway.

    • twistedblood says:

      Of course – that depends on your CAUSE. If you’re not bothered about the renaming, and would rather watch a new striker playing in the Sports Direct Arena, then so be it. It’s always an individual’s call, and quite right too.

      I’m curious, though – and this is a genuine question – where do you draw the line. The badge? Could that go? The club name? The kit? Presumably, everybody has some line or other that should not be crossed.

  • frank says:

    lol so true about us. Since the days of Eusebio, portuguese strikers have gone way down hill.

  • Duke says:

    Absolutely dead on correct on both points:

    1) The only way to hurt the owner(s) is through their wallet

    2) No one will have the intestinal fortitude to actually do anything

    I’ll bet the Glazers are still reeling from all of those harsh banners the fans were displaying at Old Trafford. Or maybe they’re too busy lighting their cigars with $100 bills to notice.

  • Stephen says:

    The stadium name change comes just a couple of weeks after the club started selling cut price half season tickets to current season ticket holders – basically get one for your mate for cheap. Apparently 4,000 of these have been sold and I can’t see any of those people boycotting games just days after shelling out £300. In fact the majority of the stadium will be full of people who have already handed their money over to Ashley.

    Not buying drinks, pies etc in the ground has been attempted before after the Keegan fiasco but either people were just ignorant to the boycott or just couldn’t go without their halftime pint it fell mostly flat.

    The only thing that seems to have got to Ashley were the chants coming from the singing section they had set up couple of seasons ago that they have now got rid of.

    I’m not too arsed about the name change as I can’t see any company taking up the naming rights from Big Fat Mike’s Sports Emporium due the inevitable associated bad publicity. It’ll mostly be ignored and everybody will still call it St. James’ Park.

    Good article but a boycott of games at the moment wouldn’t hit ashley’s pocket at all at the moment. It’s still full of the cash from Andy Carroll anyway.

    Rambled enough now.

  • […] WORDS SHOULD BEGET ACTIONS. UNLESS YOU DON’T REALLY MEAN THE WORDS. IF THAT’S THE CASE, CARRY ON HYPOCRITES. If Newcastle United fans really don’t like it, they should wake up. And not go. Seriously, don’t go. Don’t. Go. // Twisted Blood […]

  • […] Your owner cares only when you vote with your wallet. – twistedblood.co.uk […]

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