Apr 26th, 2011 by 'holic
“Enough people were upset and angry for the Independent Arsenal Supporters Association to be established in the summer of 1991…Arsenal’s bond issue was something of a disaster, especially in public relations terms…Often angry confrontation ensued. The articulate and well-publicised anti-bond campaign – centred on the North Bank and fired up by the apparent injustice of Highbury losing its terraces at all – became bitter, personalised and confused…The depth of feeling, unbridged by constructive dialogue, led to personal recriminations which drove the two sides further apart.”
The End, Tom Watt, Mainstream Publishing, 1993.
I could have chosen other examples of Arsenal supporters history of protesting against perceived wrongs as an answer to a question I have seen in a number of places this week. “Have Arsenal supporters always been like this?” This however is the best example on the basis that the cause of the conflict was essentially a single issue.
Unsurprisingly at the end of the day the club were successful in getting supporters to pay money they didn’t want to pay, to fund a chunk of the cost of building a stand they didn’t want. Many, including this writer, were not happy, and felt distanced from the club they knew. I was 34, still glad to be part of something with people I went to games with home and away down the years. It felt the right thing to do. I couldn’t afford a bond. With prices rising I could no longer afford to go to every game. This seemed a personal affront.
Of course, as the saying goes, time is a great healer, and I still ventured to home games as often as possible, but always in the Clock End up until the time a few of us from out west were clubbing together to get tickets under the registration scheme (there was another protest issue!). The other lads preferred the North Bank so I went with them. I have to say in the end I used to enjoy going in there to listen to the various bands that would play on the stage next to the bar. That was a smart piece of thinking by someone.
Now another protest is planned for the day of the Aston Villa match. Like other bloggers I have been asked for my thoughts, although I suspect a few will have already decided what I think for me. As one who felt let down in 1991 I have every sympathy with some of the thinking behind the protest. It isn’t for me though for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, the black scarf movement to my knowledge was originally a protest formulated by people I have spent time around in years gone by. People I would want to be around every time we went away. People who went through the protests in 1991, and who earned the right to be unimpressed by some of the things they perceive as having changed for the worse. I’m told by some less than gruntled with the way things have progressed that there has been a degree of hijacking of the protest by people who do not share the background of the original movement. This may explain why a less focused approach has come to be released to try and explain the reasons for the march.
That is my second issue with the event. The press release lists a variety of complaints. Now I agree, for example, with every word in the opening section on season tickets. I’m not a season ticket holder, just a humble silver member, but I am back on the waiting list and have a future vested interest in the gold members getting more consideration. I can appreciate fully the feeling that the views of long-standing supporters haven’t been taken into account in the wake of the move to the Grove.
The section relating to Arsene Wenger has been carefully worded, but the possibility that this spills over into something more critical in the protest is something I cannot anticipate with any sense of shared belief. The movement has the capacity to bring together some of the different branches of the clubs support, but in having ‘The Manager’ as a reason to protest is just divisive, I fear.
For that very same reason I cannot lend my support to any call for the removal of the chairman. It will happen, probably sooner rather than later now that we have a majority shareholder. You are entitled to your views, but I cannot sign up to something so disrespectful to a member of a family that has been associated with club almost as long as mine, and a man who used his contacts to enable this club to fund the new stadium on terms that have now been revealed to be extremely favourable given the economic climate that surrounded them. His defence of his manager may not have pleased those he attacked for criticising Wenger, but the subsequent claims that he branded all Arsenal fans ‘silly’ is wrong, and mischievous.
Had the protest remained centred around future pricing, and building bridges with disaffected supporters I would have been there. To extend it into areas of criticism of individuals is just not acceptable to me personally. You may feel differently, and that is your right, but I will not be a part of something that doesn’t have the feel of ’91 about it. Back then it was about a section of the club being against the evil Dein creation. There was little opposition from other Arsenal supporters who understood our motivation completely. This one seems to me to be capable of setting Gooner against Gooner, and that is sad for me as one who has witnessed our support from so many perspectives.
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