Cup Of Little Cheer For Arsenal Supporters

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The lifeblood of the game. That’s how supporters view themselves. It’s not shared by the football authorities or broadcasters; we have always been and always will be a number. Patrick Magoohan may have believed himself to be free man but watching football is anything but free, man.

Lest you had any doubt about our diminishing importance, the bloated carcass that each round of the FA Cup has become, exploded in our faces yesterday when the BBC – not the Football Association but the nation’s broadcaster – announced that Arsenal’s FA Cup quarter-final trip to Old Trafford would be reduced to the Monday night slot. That there is no public transport back to the capital after the match was not even a consideration to the BBC who want the viewing figures nor the FA who have taken the money and run.

Arsenal, in fairness, quickly announced that they would investigate the possibility of finding a solution; as Shaw Taylor used to say, “Keep ’em peeled” on the official website for more information. It’s okay to quote Shaw Taylor, isn’t it? I’m sure he hasn’t fallen prey to Operation Yew Tree although I have genuinely lost track of which ’70s TV personalities have such is the ever-expanding notoriety of that decades’ Great and Good.

One suggestion is the return of the Football Special. Those of a certain age will wince at their very mention. Others will wonder. They were specially arranged and timetabled trains that ran in the 70s and 80s in an effort to contain hooliganism and keep football supporters away from the general public. Actually, the trains had run for many decades before then but this was ‘my time’ of using them.

Dilapidated and rarely cleaned, the seats stained with god-knows-what whilst the floors bore the marks of you-know-what where toilets had been blocked by exactly-what has yet to be determined by science, even with the advances made down the years. They would stop at small stations built near grounds, affectionately known as Hooligan Halts, allowing the police to funnel supporters onto narrow paths and into the ground.

They were cheap, they served a purpose but if you had transported cattle in the same conditions, criminal charges would have been laid very quickly. Once Roger Cook had investigated, of course. I suggest that if they return, prices will be nowhere near as supporter-friendly, they aren’t on normal services now so with everyone else exploiting the football supporter, I am sure the train operators won’t miss a trick either.

Football’s fixture list has long been at the behest of television companies, whose voracious appetite for the game has led to Saturday 3pm kick-off’s being a sign of a football club’s irrelevance to a season, no matter the convenience it provides supporters travel arrangements.

The only logic behind the decision is ratings. Villa and West Brom take their local affair to the screens at tea-time on the Saturday, a kick-off slot which would allow Arsenal fans to catch the last train home from Manchester. Moving the West Midlands derby to a Monday is not going to inconvenience a great swathe of the crowd.

Perhaps the killing argument in all this is the lop-sided nature of the fixtures. Saturday has its slots, lunchtime and early evening, filled with two of the four. Why the BBC has not scheduled Arsenal and Manchester United’s clash for Sunday lunchtime is a mealy-mouthed excuse we wait to hear. I’m sure Countryfile or whatever is in the listings for that time, is used to being shunted at the whim of the management.

When television dictates anything, there will always be problems. The broadcasters know they will lose some of the crowd in football’s case, it’s a risk they are willing to take in return for the ratings their programme receives. Those who don’t travel, will tune in. On the commercial channels, the marketing coin is not affected by a half-filled stadium. Far from it; United v Arsenal still commands high viewing figures, irrespective of timings.

Football stared over the precipice last season and backed away when the trip to Hull was re-arranged at short notice. It’s something which will happen again in the future, more often as well. Dipping their toe in the waters didn’t hurt the TV companies or attendance as much as they thought. Righteous indignation fades over time. All the broadcasters need to do is bring the local authorities, e.g. police, on board and they are away. The fixture list is already at best general guidance; will it be an irrelevance in the future?

This issue is the downside to the mega-money deals being signed. The FA Cup is not in the premier league of broadcast deals and never will be. As the Champions League seizes a tighter grip, when fourth place carries greater weight in a season’s target, is there a point to the FA Cup for Premier League clubs?

Yes, it is a trophy to be won and perversely, as its shine dulls clubs are back to fielding strong line-ups but it is nowhere near the prize it once was. Arguably, like the Europa League, it harks to days gone by. Sorry supporters of Bradford and Blackburn but your ‘shocks’ this season will be forgotten in years to come, not so readily remembered beyond your locales as the high jinx of Walsall, Wimbledon and Hereford.

And that’s not your or their fault; the marketing men have won. I’ve changed, so have you; the English game now belongs to the world not just these shores. When I was growing up, the League Cup had shaken free of the poor cousin shackles and was considered a prize worth winning. The end of the UEFA Cup combined with the tightening grip of the top four on English football’s mentality signalled its demise, back to an irrelevance.

The FA Cup is following the same path. The only thing which will save it is elevating the winners into the Champions League. That needs Premier League approval, unlikely to happen even if most of the time, the FA Cup is the property of a top four side. But there’s the Wigan effect, the risk that it might all go wrong, a fear which will always stop the turkeys voting for Christmas.

Which brings us back to whether it matters if the broadcasters are bloating the FA Cup calendar? Supporting the cup holders, you would expect me to say yes. Knowing the problems this decision has caused to Arsenal supporters, I do say yes. But to be honest, if the Football Association don’t care about the integrity or appeal of their competition, why should we?

’til Tomorrow.

54 thoughts on “Cup Of Little Cheer For Arsenal Supporters

  1. Phil says:

    Morning YW,
    It’s one thing for the negotiators from the FA to pocket the money for the competition from the TV networks. It’s another to give away the rights to scheduling.
    I am sure there are x number of Monday nights that need to be televised, but dumping the supporters, and hence the club is pretty pathetic.
    I would like the club to not just help the supporters, but actually make a comment criticising the FA.

  2. HenryB says:

    Hooray, all is well with the footie world – the Daemon Damon is back up there, again!! 🙂

    I am going to tell Northbank, as he is an hour ahead and he and his bendy chorizo will want his title back!!

  3. dukey says:

    Lets look on the positive side. If we lose at least it won’t ruin our weekend.

  4. Damon says:

    Lets look on the positive side. If we lose…

    I’ll say nothing more

  5. nicky says:

    I’m afraid the actual, loyal, attender supporter of football clubs is the least regarded by (a) those responsible for ticket prices, catering and the like and (b) broadcasters in general.
    The professional game (it used to be a sport) has long been taken over by big business (which now means money).
    The £3million per home game which Arsenal collect is important but the real money and power is derived from TV and advertising.
    It’s about time the wretched and spineless worms began to turn. After all, there are enough of them.

  6. Wavey says:

    Morning all,

    It is becoming a regular theme when discussing televised football, no there is regard for the away supporters who actually go to the games. With the broadening of the schedule to allow Friday night fixtures I imagine it is going to happen more regularly. I can also imagine some away fans will find a local B&B and spend the night getting pissed up. I’m sure that will go down well with the locals. One sure fire way to allow hooliganism back into the game is to allow even more drinking time in and around matches. I can already imagine pissed up Chelsea fans on the rampage in Newcastle on a Friday night after a win at St James Park.

  7. Damon says:

    Wavey

    you touch on a very interesting point I hadn’t thought of tbh. Generally “away” fans are more die hard than the rather gentrified home crowds these days. And they will go away whenever, wherever!

  8. Pete The First says:

    Ah The Football Special….

    Used them a number of times in the 80s. The coaches were falling apart, and had no heating. If you were lucky the coach you were sitting in had windows that closed!

    I recall a young Paul Johnson handing out cheese rolls in exchange for 30p. He seems to have done well: http://www.arsenal.com/first-team/coaching-staff/paul-johnson

  9. Pete The First says:

    @Wavey I would take a Friday night over a Monday night. At least it is the start of the weekend. I think we’ve played Coventry & Newcastle on Friday nights in recent times. Both went smoothly.

    Hooliganism has largely been contained in England due to the use of CCTV, and harsh prison sentences. It is unlikely to return to the rampaging of the 80s.

  10. Phil says:

    YW,
    You mean if the club says something like
    ” we understand the commitments to our TV partners, but to completely ignore the implications for our away supporters who would dearly love to be there to support our club, but due to scheduling, can not attend,requires more thought in the future.
    The romance of the FA Cup is further embraced when both clubs have their fans with them, singing their support”
    Then they would be bringing the game into disrepute?

  11. HenryB says:

    Good, if somewhat melancholic Post, Yogi. 🙂

    Actually ‘melancholic’ may not be the most apposite word, as your story of the perils of travelling on sub-cattle class trains is probably well consigned to the past.

    Of course you are right. This episode of rearranging a match between two of the elite football clubs in this country to the catchment of the biggest TV audience time-slot was always likely to happen.

    I do not have any figures to substantiate my guess, but I suspect that many of the TV audience on Monday night will have been otherwise engaged in supporting/watching their own teams at the week-end, or will be complying with the requirements of marital life, viz a viz shopping chores etc.

    So who loses out by the BBC arrangements? Well all of us are instinctively angry that the travelling away support are being treated so cavalierly with scant attention being given to the inconvenience of a work day travel requirement, and a possible overnight stay, all at an extra cost – and reflecting an attitude that football fans are not ‘real’ people, and can be manipulated at will.

    So, where do the numbers come into the equation?
    Well a straw poll on any footie blog will probably show that only a small minority intended to go on that Monday anyway, and the rest of the fan base would not have gone, either because they will be unable to get tickets, or could not get time off from work, or could not justify the cost of tickets, travel and accommodation, even if they could get tickets.

    That does not stop us commiserating with our fellow Gooners, because that could be any one of us being hung out to dry. However, we all have come to realise that football is a business, much tho’ many of us regret that, and it is a business not just to the clubs, but is also an expensive outlay for the TV companies too, and the viewing figures are necessary to justify their outlay, and the money they pay to screen the game(s) will hopefully go towards a brand new, super dooper, holding midfielder for us. Bribery? Maybe.

    In addition to the committed fans of both clubs, the fame and glamour of the Arse and Yanited will also capture the non-football or floating viewer when they are unable to watch Eastenders or whatever.

    That leaves the question of what the disappointed Gooner fans will do instead of attending the game?
    Why, they will watch the BBC TV at 7:30 on Monday and settle in with a beer or three, and swell the audience figures, apparently justifying the BBC managements decision to switch the date and claim, however vicariously, that the switch proved extremely ‘popular’.

    [I bet I am not far off the mark in predicting the BBC management’s thought processes — normal fans just cannot catch a break!] 🙁

  12. The Arse in The Gamb says:

    I can’t remember the last time we beat ManUre. Everyone and their dogs have beaten them once since Fergie left…not us. We have to throw the kitchen sink at this one, everyone in the team. Otherwise what is the point?

  13. Damon says:

    YW

    You are of course correct, that the club would be found to have brought the game into disrepute.

    The question I would ask is what would the resulting fine be? As surely that would be the punishment? Would that be worth it to do the right thing? If not, at what price would the club stand with it’s own away fans?

  14. Yogi's Warrior says:

    Phil

    Yep, the FA believe they have papal infalibility and are beyond criticism of any sort by the clubs. Then of course, Arsenal are open to criticism as hypocrites as they’ve agreed to the PL deal which arguably naffs up football’s calendar more…

  15. Dalm says:

    and what of the majority of Manure home fans who as we know hail from Surrey…

  16. Bill says:

    YW:

    Thanks for the post. I have to admit that this is not an issue can get myself wound up about. I will be upset if the extra $ from the TV contract end up in Stan’s wallet and not invested on players. TV money coming into English football has some positive benefits. Hopefully we can bring in more players like Alexis and may be have a better chance to compete with Real Madrid. Perhaps even more important for the English game as a whole is money coming into mid and lower table teams will hopefully improve the overall quality of the players and games such as Stoke v Hull might be easier to watch. I struggle to sit through a game like that when life has so many other great things to offer. I could be taking my dogs for a nice long walk or mucking horse manure.

  17. Bill says:

    Despite our record at Old Trafford, I am cautiously optimistic about our chances in that game.

  18. jjgsol says:

    Am I not correct in saying that most Manure supporters do not live in Manchester.

    When one goes there, everyone one seems to speak to supports Manshitty, so the problems for Arsenal supporters will apply to them as well.

    Perhaps the game should be played at Villa Park or Wembley.

  19. Phil says:

    Strange that managers can get away with criticising refs, or in the case of our own AW, push another manager, and that’s ok.
    But a club speaking out on behalf of its fan base is offside.
    The abject cowardice of senior people to speak their mind is really quite pathetic.
    And I agree, they are complicit, if they didn’t protect the interests of supporters at all, during the negotiations.

  20. C says:

    Arsene on the injured not named Diaby:

    “Ramsey is still out. He is nine days into his three-week rehab.

    “The two other injuries are Arteta and Debuchy. Apart from that we have some uncertainties about Flamini and Bellerin – they are doubtful for Saturday. Everybody else is OK.

    “Bellerin is his ankle and Flamini has a tight hamstring. We’ll see. We’ll have tests tomorrow.

    “[Oxlade-Chamberlain] is close. He will join in normal training today.”

  21. HenryB says:

    So, Arsenal have arranged an extra post-match train with subsidised fares, and will also run extra supporters’ coaches for the Manure Cup match.

    good on them.

  22. Limestonegunner says:

    To restore some glory to the FA cup, 1) the prize money has to increase (and it seems that the FA should be demanding more if the TV rights holders are going to make such a hash of the schedule) and 2) there needs to be a pathway to Europe.

    Regarding the latter, I think a workable solution would be to make the 4th place team and the FA Cup winner (or finalist if the winner is already qualified) have a playoff in Wembley. This doesn’t necessarily take much away from the PL as 4th place still gets a chance to qualify. The FA cup has in the past provided European qualification and now that the Champions League doesn’t represent league winners exclusively, this seems fair enough. Especially since there is no longer a cup winners cup as the Europa league has destroyed that format as well. The problem these days is that mid-table PL teams aren’t desperate to win the FA cup, though they have nothing else to play for. This gives them a chance to fight for a CL spot. And as far as I am concerned, if the 4th place team can’t beat the opposition, why should they be guaranteed playoff qualification in the CL? Don’t finish 4th then!

  23. Limestonegunner says:

    HenryB, where did you find this information? I am considering getting tickets but would want to confirm that there will be a late train!

  24. Limestonegunner says:

    I have a feeling we are going to win our next FA cup match up there. We are due. But we’ll have to do better than we did v. Spuds–that performance was just awful. I don’t have a genuine reason for feeling this way, but I think we have a better chance than we have in quite some time.

  25. Limestonegunner says:

    Can someone please charge the BBC and the FA for bringing the game into disrepute on this occasion?! 🙂

  26. C says:

    FA Cup talk is great but for this weekend against Palace, I’m interested to see who gets the start next to Le Coq. Jack has been passed fit from what I have read, does Arsene immediately insert him into that role as we have seen him do time and time perform, or does he stick with Santi or Mozart in that position and bring Jack back slowly?

    Personally I say we start with Le Coq, Santi and Ozil in midfield with Sanchez/Giroud/Theo and a back 4 of Bellerin/Mert/Kos/Nacho with Ospina in goal

  27. Limestonegunner says:

    I agree. JW could hardly be ready. Stay with the in form TR or Santi deeper. We should be able to manage that v. Palace.

    Bellerin a doubt, so I think we’ll see Chambers at RB. Perhaps we’ll see Merts-Gabriel to make sure Kos is ready for Monaco.

  28. C says:

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Mert/Gabriel at CB, think it would look similar to how Mert and Kos look to be honest.

    I just have this funny feeling that Jack is going get the start either against Palace or against Monaco, just seems to be the way Arsene goes about things when Ramsey and Jack are fit.

  29. C says:

    Watching Lisbon v Wolfsburg(neither Gustavo or Carvalho are in the squads due today) and its quite the open affair but neither are really creating that many chances.

  30. Limestonegunner says:

    I’d put him on the bench and give him minutes to prepare. If he looks good, then maybe home v. Monaco. But Palace seems too soon to start him, tbh.

  31. C says:

    I’m not sure I would start him in either match to be honest. Give him mins, yes but not start him. Probably go with Mozart in the midfield against Monaco.

  32. HenryB says:

    LSG,

    I hope you get your tickets! 🙂 I understand the train fares will be a subsidised £20.

    The points you made at 6:10 are very good.

    The problem with the FA is that they just cannot seem to get a top sponsorship deal, and altho it will never be as good as the premiership TV deal because there are many fewer games, they should be able to do better, and that will increase the prize for winners – and for all partticipants.

    Giving the winners of the cup the opportunity to go for a play-off with the 4th place EPL ‘qualifiers’ makes sense – or even an outright qualification to the CL – but the vested interests at the Premiership (i.e. the clubs) are never going to agree to either suggestion. Unless UEFA force the issue.

  33. Wavey says:

    Pete

    I’d go to an away match on a Friday and make a night of it. Certainly a lot better than a Monday. I’m a harmless drunk though and never cause anyone problems. There are others though at every club who are less friendly when drinking heavily in groups. The Chelsea fans in Paris proved that on Tuesday. I’m not suggesting we will return to the full-on street battles of the 80’s, but I would expect a lot more aggro simply because of the timing. After a Monday night game most away fans will be heading for the quickest route home. After a Friday night game there will be more of a tendency to have a bit of a session, knowing it’s Saturday tomorrow.

  34. Phil says:

    Well done to the club for arranging the appropriate mode of transport.
    LSG 6.24
    Well played!

  35. Phil says:

    LJW has been out a while.
    How long has he been training for? And at what intensity?
    On the surface it would seem crazy to play him, if he is just back into proper training.

  36. C says:

    @Phil

    It would seem really really crazy to play him but then again we all know that the moment, no matter how long they have been training, Arsene will play Ramsey and Jack when fit.

  37. peter king says:

    I remember well the football specials long ago back to the early 60’s when the team themselves were onboard my all time favourite arsenal player, Joe baker, took ghastly stick from us fans following a cup defeat at Peterborough – 19 year old john radford put us 1 up then timeless slack defending handed it to the posh

  38. Peter King says:

    I remember well the football specials long ago back to the early 60’s when the team themselves were onboard my all time favourite arsenal player, Joe baker, took ghastly stick from us fans following a cup defeat at Peterborough – 19 year old john radford put us 1 up then timeless slack defending handed it to the posh we also had 3 duffish keepers in those days tony burns was in goal that afternoon
    anyway let’s have a campaign to get the club pay for the fans to get travel tManchester, or the players It may sound like a whistle in the wind Christ, i know it ain’t easy

  39. Limestonegunner says:

    Thanks HB! That’s what I don’t understand. Why can’t they get more out of the sponsorship?

    I think there is a big difference between giving up 4th spot to the FA cup winner and making the 4th place team play the FA cup winner to get into the CL qualifier. But I don’t think UEFA would ever push for that. They have no compelling interest in the domestic trophy and want the best/biggest teams in their competitions. But it would be entirely in the FA’s purview how it wanted to apportion European qualification, I think. I think the PL could be made to agree to my proposal much more easily than by simply taking the 4 th position and handing it to the FA cup winner.

  40. Phil says:

    You are right C.
    Let’s hope it’s not one step forward and then two steps back.

  41. C says:

    @Phil

    I hope so too, our current midfielders are really starting to gel and play really good futbol, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”!

  42. C says:

    I see The Real Henry managed the U15’s today 😉

  43. santori says:

    They should get rid of the league cup. Completely pointless.

    CL, PL and FA.

  44. dukey says:

    Bill, C

    Its New Zealand v England in the cricket world cup today. put your bucks on the kiwis though.

  45. Columbus Arsenal (MA) says:

    Ouch, englanders look away… This has been an absolute beat down! So painful to be an England cricket fan. Finn, 49 runs conceded off 2 overs. Baz and Southee the destroyers.

  46. The Arse in The Gamb says:

    We can’t play one day cricket for all the sticky sweet confectionary on the planet. Look away? Just head out the door and don’t come back. Oh dear, oh dear.

  47. dukey says:

    Deary me.

    Disgraceful. They should not be allowed to play another game. The wags should play the next one and they should be sent home. Pathetic.

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