Why angry football fans are the heroes of the resistance
The people I admire most in football are fans who take action.
I don’t mean violent action. I don’t mean smashing directors’ windows or daubing their cars with paint.
But I do mean fans who don’t just sit back and take it. Fans who are angry about what is happening to their club and to football and do something about it.
Fans who don’t believe the garbage they’re fed by people who think they’re all dumb. Fans who fight back.
I admire the supporters who unfurled the ‘Love United, Hate the Glazers’ banner at the Stretford End on Saturday.
I admire the Spirit of Shankly fans who are trying to defend Liverpool from its American owners.
I admire the Stockport County supporters who walked from Edgeley Park into Manchester to highlight the club’s financial plight at the height of the winter freeze before Christmas.
I admire the people who have made AFC Wimbledon such a success and still rage against the way their club was stolen from them by Milton Keynes Dons.
And the disaffected United supporters who set up FC United of Manchester and who have stuck to their principles as their club has risen through the non-league pyramid.
They didn’t just sit there and munch on their prawn sandwiches when the Glazers took over.
They saw what was coming and they tried to mobilise more United fans to protest with them but the club, to their shame, snuffed the protests out.
Sir Alex Ferguson turned his back on those people, too. He got another Champions League victory out of it, I suppose, but now he’s suffering the consequences.
I hope they keep it peaceful but I hope United fans step up their protests about what is happening to their club.
I hope they continue to make life awkward for the Glazers. I hope they keep taking that banner to games and unfurling it.
Because the rape of so many of our football clubs relies in some part on the silence of the fans.
It relies on supporters accepting meekly the bland and hollow explanations they are given.
Remember a few months ago when Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore was busy telling everybody that debt in football wasn’t a problem.
Just like you and me having a mortgage, he said. Ridiculous to worry about it, he said. Made us feel like fools for saying it was a concern.
He’s changed his tune a bit now. Debt’s got a bit tricky now that Portsmouth look like they might be heading for administration.
Debt’s not so routine now that David Sullivan has revealed West Ham have £110m worth of it and nearly went into administration as well.
Debt’s not quite so hunky-dory now that the Glazers are talking about selling Old Trafford and leasing it back and doing the same with the club’s prized Carrington training facility.
They’re threatening to chop up United like it’s a piece of cheap meat and yet still there are those who criticise the supporters for organising protests.
Informed reports yesterday revealed that the Glazers can take almost £130m cash out of the club next year alone if enough lenders sign up for the bond they have launched to borrow £500m for United.
I suppose that’s just capitalism at work. Owner seeks to make a fat profit shock. But it doesn’t mean fans have to like it. It doesn’t mean they have to put up with it.
The thing the Premier League and the club owners hate to admit is that however badly the fans have been screwed over, they still have power. Real power.
Scudamore needs Premier League stadia full of fans so he can continue to flog television rights for huge sums.
Rows of empty seats don’t look good on telly. They don’t do a lot for share value or re-sale price.
And nothing makes owners more uncomfortable than fan discontent. They hate it because it focuses attention on them and their sometimes dubious practices. It’s bad for business.
With every day that passes this season, it feels as if English football is at a critical stage. It feels as if it is dying of greed.
And sometimes it feels as though the fans are the only ones trying to save it.
I’d like to see more marches, more protests, fans turning their backs on the action in a gesture of disgust. The Premier League is clearly powerless to enforce any form of proper financial governance. The fans might as well have a go at influencing owners instead.
Good luck to all of them, whichever club they support. Good luck to Spirit of Shankly and IMUSA and MUST and the Stockport fans who are petitioning the local council.
Good luck to them for not listening to the drones who tell them resistance is futile. Their defiance should be an inspiration to all of us.