On the eve of the first competitive game of football in the league cup, I was drawn into a strange debate. I was contacted by BBC 5 live who wanted to discuss the shower situation (or more the lack of) facing lower league players. John Robertson had stirred up the debate by referring to the move to ban showers as treating the players like “cattle”.
It was not something I feel that strongly about, but when you crave attention as much as me you can’t turn down the chance to go on a UK wide radio show.
Presenter: It must be tough for you boys, are you all supporting each other showing a bit of that Blitz spirit
Strange analogy I think to myself, we aren’t evading bombs from above – its just a strong dosage of B.O. for the way home.
Me: Well it has its benefits; I’ve stopped getting fined for my overgrown body hair.
I was happy with that one, felt it was going to get a good laugh from the presenters. I was wrong, not even a chuckle and I’m off the call 1 minute later. I don’t think I’ll be invited back.
Anyway, the lack of showers is an inconvenience and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me; However, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a small price to pay to be able to get back playing in proper games again.
We’ve now had 2 league cup games and I think we’ve looked fairly good. We appear to be fit, hungry, organised and ready for the season. It has lifted my mood tenfold and I am in a much better frame of mind than a couple of months ago. Still, it hasn’t been quite the same without fans. We’ve had 2 fife Derbies and although they were played in a competitive manner, it sorely lacked the excitement (or groaning) from those within the stand.
I feel strongly about this issue in the lower leagues, I don’t see a valid enough reason to not allow the fans back in limited numbers, socially distanced and wearing a mask. I mentioned it on my social media and it proved to be a more controversial take than I had assumed. I think I’ve now heard all the arguments on the other side and I do not buy into any of them. I’d like to challenge a few of them.
1. “Its not the games, it’s the use of public transport”
Most fans at the lower league live locally to the team they support. Most will walk or drive to the game. Yes, some may take a train and some may take a bus, however there will not be a big increase in numbers travelling on public transport. Without the football these same football fans still have the freedom to use public transport and visit other facilities which are open. Not buying it.
2. “Football fans can’t behave”
Snobby, ignorant and stupid comment. There are of course a percentage of football fans that are morons, there is also a similar level of the general public that are morons. Moron’s come from all walks of life and to say otherwise is just err… moronic
Even if I buy into this tale that football fans can’t behave, with going to the stadium banned, are these badly behaved football fans upstanding citizens in every other part of their life? Well behaved in shopping centres, cinemas and cafes? Does something just switch in their brain when they walk through the turnstile?
3. “The R rate is rising, people are dying – show some compassion”
It’s worrying to see the R rate rising and heart breaking to hear of people becoming seriously ill after contracting the virus. However, it isn’t one or the other. I think spectating at outdoor sport is extremely safe at lower league level. It’s outdoor, you are all facing the same way and you are social distanced. We had trial games in the Scottish premiership and all the feedback was positive; no spike in the virus and no cases connected back to these games. If I’ve had a good trial – I’m demanding a contract!
It could also be argued that it is compassionate to consider the negative impact on people’s mental health and livelihoods if clubs and industries die.
4. “There’s no financial benefit for clubs with limited numbers, with stewarding costs etc”
We aren’t demanding clubs must let fans in, however that decision should be at the discretion of the individual clubs. Anyway, the talk from people in charge of finances at lower league clubs is that they disagree with that assertion. They would know better than us.
5. “You should just be happy football is back – music and the arts are in dire straits”
Whataboutery alert. You can think what is happening to music and arts industries is awful while also thinking we can get fans back into stadiums in a limited safe manner. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.
This may have read like the ramblings of an anti-mask Coronavirus denier. I’d like to stress I am not Denise Welsh, Ian Brown or your mad auntie on Facebook who is sharing peculiar Covid related memes. The virus is, of course, very real. That being said, you cannot open restaurants, cafes, students’ halls, shopping centres, hotels and various other indoor facilities; and not consider opening outdoor sports venues. Particularly when spectating at outdoor sport is far safer than those mentioned. It’s hypocritical, it must be challenged and we need it more than you may think.