Sunday, 13 May 2007

Sit Down Shut Up

There is an interesting debate raging at the moment on the LCFC message site "Talking Balls". The start of the thread, by a fan called Floppus, talks about his experience at the last match of the season, Leicester v Wolves. In essence he is a 61 year old man with a degree of disability (he walks with a stick), who for understandable reasons expects to be in a safe environment when he goes to support his team, home or away. He also has a not unreasonable expectation that he will be treated with dignity.

At the recent match referred to there were apparently a significant number of Wolves fans in the main stand. The issue was that some of them were apparently openly goading and abusing Foxes fans, what Foppus describes as "clearly in breach of the normally accepted code of conduct expected these days at football grounds".

The subsequent responses are mixed. Some totally agree with him and feel this should be formally notified to the club as a complaint or at least brought to their attention. Others take a more pragmatic view, which is essentially that LCFC fans would have done the same in similar circumstances.

I can't remember if I have said this before but one of the things that really struck me when I went to watch Barnsley v Leicester last month, was that although there were songs and chants about teams and individuals, and some quite cheeky responses directed at the opposition fans (for example singing "Sit down, shut up" when Barnsly had a near miss), it was more like tough banter than fuelled by hatred or aggression. This was certainly in contrast to my earlier, albeit brief, experience of the terraces, where it really felt like threats were meant and indeed were sometimes carried through (see previous post for more info on football violence).

I had concluded that much of this hatred and aggression has more recently been channeled into a ritualised goading rather than a genuine attempt to provoke and justify violence. What the debate referred to above made me reflect upon was firstly exactly where the line between the two lies and secondly that there is a degree of fragility in the current situation where peace has largely broken out in football grounds. There remains a certain tension around just where the differentiation between appropriate banter and offensive and provocative comments and behaviours is, since it clearly lies in different places for different people.

If you are a man of 61 who walks with a stick you are probably fairly unlikely to respond to inappropriate behaviour with violence. Far more likely you will simply stop going to matches which would be a travesty and a return to the days when many people did not feel safe to stand on the terraces. On the other hand if you are someone that does not take a slight easily, even if you did not arrive with violent intent, there could be enough provocation to create self-justifying anger and consequently an anti-social response.

Another twist in this particular debate was that the alleged abusers seemed to have been corporately hosted visitors, which some commentators consider (perhaps not unreasonably) carries particular expectations about behaviour and respect.

The anger on this occasion is firmly directed at the club and the stewards for not upholding these required standards of behaviour, and a sense that because these guests were corporate guests and therefore have a considerable business value they were allowed to get away with things ordinary fans would not have been.

Of course this then also has echos of some of the sociological issues referred to in yesterday's post between football as a traditionally working class game and its 'theft' by the middle classes.

Its a conundrum for sure. Still I guess Foxes fans will simply have to get used to The Walkers Stadium being a magnet for corporate hospitality. It's known as The Crisp Bowl in some circles and is clearly a great place to party.

Victim of our own success then perhaps!!


Jungle VIP said...

I'm speechless. Such a sociological explanation for what some people would think more psychologically determined. Certainly, if you take the way that our public services deals with such people, when they offend, they employ cognitive-behavioural techniques to engage change.

I think someone at the Ministry of Justice would be (only mildly) interested in your ideas. Whether they would then act on them is doubtful.

I agree with your piece and your observations about the Barnsley Match.

I think most football chants are both tribal and ritualistic. With decline in any strong political debate, a decline in organised religion and a seperateness imposed by our media....the people get together at football....and do sociology.

I loved your explanation


Georgina Best said...

I aim to please!! Thanks