17 May 2013

PRE-MATCH OPERA AND OTHER ALBION WOES

Regardless of the result on Monday, the non-playing staff at Brighton and Hove Albion let the fans down in a way that I struggle to shake off unlike something as trivial as Albion losing.

The pre-match circus laid on by the club was nothing short of embarrassing, and an undignified way to generate support for a club like ours. Such was the lack of class that surrounded events prior to kick off, it sullied our fine stadium and disrespected our fans. 

In a programme of plastic antics devised by club officials, they predictably only fanned the flames that led to Palace’s fine away fans generating the passion and noise needed to turn the match in our bitterest of rivals favour from kick-off.

The more I thought about Palace fans jibes about our new support in the lead up to the match, the more I felt offended by their lack of understanding of the heinous situation that befell the club in the mid to late 90s. Palace, a club that have emerged ultimately unscathed from decades of boardroom mismanagement, had the affront to judge us without a single thought about the context of fandom at our football club since 1997. The fools, I thought, that they question our heritage as if we’re MK Dons. It could so easily have been them playing at a local athletics track in the Fourth Division, our similarities as clubs, as supporters, are in my opinion one of the main drivers for this continued feud.

This rivalry, at a point never more bitter, and at  a meeting never more important, marked one of the most important games in the history of the football club. This wasn’t just a Play-off semi-final, the whole thing was amplified by the opposition. Let’s be honest here, our progress in the league this season has been fantastic and no fan would be ashamed to miss out on Wembley this year. Upset, of course, but not ashamed.

The Palace element gave it so much more. The dynamic that they brought to the table is almost impossible to find in anything else; everything else would be mere nostalgia, a touch of colour to an already impressive event.

This match though would be different. It is the ultimate match, the clashing of two upwardly mobile teams, with fans who, in recent surveys, sit in the top 10 of football rivalries in England amongst Black Country derbies or century old Lancashire feuds, Steel cities and Tyne and Wear warzones. It matters, we all know this.

Although maybe some don’t. Maybe some people within the whitewashed halls of The Amex Stadium thought it’s no big deal, that they needed to raise the atmosphere in other ways, that those customers wouldn’t be that clich├ęd twelfth man without some help.

Some help, yes, good idea. Some help for the 27 thousand people who proudly wear a seagull on their chest, some help to sing some songs, some help make our award winning stadium look ‘impressive’, some help to clap our hands. Some help to create an atmosphere in a Play-off Semi –final, in which we are favourites, against Crystal Palace Football Club.

Palace fans call us plastic, the club didn’t get the joke. To enforce this most unlikable of reputations the club physically made us plastic, thousands of frankly pathetic ‘clackers’ to hold up when the teams came out. ‘NOW’ screamed the big screens, the club being explicit in telling you what they want you to do, and when they want you to do it. I can only guess that the club shop were devastated that the pictures of such a scene can’t be flogged to fans such is the association with the subsequent football match.

They were multi-use though, these vile instruments.  You can ‘clack’ them of course, making the stadium sound like a … well, I don’t know. Not like a football match, anyway.

The most horrific aspect of these satanic sheets though was the patronising song sheet on the back. Yes, we’d seen them before at Withdean, and yes even TSLR had produced some GOSBTS hand-outs at an away game nearly 5 years ago, but at least we didn’t change the words to the song.

In my opinion people shouldn’t have to sing along anyway, there should be no perverse kudos with knowing all the words, the fact that you’re at an Albion match is far and away enough proof of your fandom.  Fans should be able to hum along, or do the der-der-der version if they wish, there’s no problem there.  The club created something akin to a North Korean military rally, sing in time, make sure you get the words right, concentrate on that instead of the imminent football match.

That wasn’t the worst bit though. The worst bit was the singer.  Even then, I can handle the GOSBTS bit. I should add though that our famous county anthem is a marching song, sung by working class servicemen from all over the country since the last century. Normal men and women, just like us, it’s not fucking Nessun Dorma and never will be.

But I can handle that, whatever. What I can’t handle, and was perhaps the single worse non-football related thing I have ever seen at this club that I love so dear, was said opera singer belting out a Westlife song – I repeat, a Westlife song – before the teams came out. I appreciate that ‘You Raise Me Up’ may be quite rousing as a soundbed to a soppy story on the X-Factor, but when that note change came in after a little pause and the songstress started approaching* the poor sods in the WSL a little part of me died inside.

I never thought, after the infamous and internationally respected blood and guts support that we Albion fans have put in to this club over the past 15 years, that the club would feel it appropriate to soil such an event with that sort of display. I am astounded that the club, at a time when in fact we need to generate a more visceral and organic kind of atmosphere at The Amex, chose that farce instead.

It’s time to have a think about how we, as fans, regain and control our matchdays. It’s time to unify, collaborate and create. It’s time to sing your heart out even when we’re not doing so well, and it’s time to let everybody know, and dare I say it the football club too, that we’re no plastics so don’t ever treat us like we are.

*We have been told that the opera singer had to move because the sprinklers came on! Fantastic.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

To be fair, she only moved towards the WSL because the sprinklers came on and she was gonna get soaked. Perfect comic timing. If she'd stoically stayed put and got the soaking she deserved it would have been classic.

i am sam said...

haha, I didn't know that ... brilliant

Swerv said...

Clackergate was embarrassing. The main reason being, for me, the team coming out at kick off to almost silence because everyone was holding up a bit of coloured card. As for the clacking? Well it reminded me of Gladiators, I'd rather have vuvuzela's any day.

The opera singer was well overused, I expected a quick bout of GOSBTS not the amount she did.

Agree with pretty much everything else especially the notion that we don't need these extra "tools" to produce an atmosphere for such a big game.