Thursday 28 April 2016

Protest or No Protest - That Is The Question

In house fighting, protests, empty seats – safe to say, Arsenal football club isn’t the best place to be at the moment.

The atmosphere is quite toxic, yet I still keep going.

Being slightly controversial, the West Brom game at home was most enjoyable game I’ve been too recently – yes it had empty seats however, because of the situation, many kids had come with their parents, grasping the opportunity to watch Arsenal play. The enthusiasm shown by them was refreshing. There are probably too young to understand the politics and were funded by their parents so they just came for the Arsenal. They didn’t care if it’s Wenger out or Wenger in and probably have no idea what WOBS or AKBS are (mind you, it took me a while to understand – in game that I have been brought up to understand as something that is not black or white, yet…) and even cheered Theo Walcott! It helped that Arsenal won, and it was quite an easy evening on the pitch -  I wouldn’t go far as saying West Brom were hopeless but let’s say they were clearly saving their energy for their big game at White Hart Lane.

Don’t get me wrong, it was refreshing but I wished we were in a title race and right up there. Can you imagine the reaction with 60k packed in the ground and Arsenal chasing a title when the second Alexis goal goes in – it would have been magical.

We enter Saturday with the word ‘protest’ ringing in our ears – in fact, the word protest has been mentioned over 300k times on social media, admittedly only a small % would be Arsenal related but the word protest isn’t something Arsenal fans have come to see (much) in the last twenty years. There have been a few but this one feels different and much bigger.

It’s an interesting one – I’m a board member of the Arsenal supporters trust and despite what people think, we have a number of conversations behind the scenes, scan social media, use the results from our surveys to members, talk to members at meetings and read, listen and respond to all the emails we get in (we get quite a few) to help us with our stance. For years, I’ve been very pro Arsenal – I would say, compared to most, I still am but even I couldn’t argue against all the people who wanted to support this protest but at the same time, you have to be fair to every member, and respect the wide range of views.

I’m also a part of The Gooner Ramble which is a podcast / blog with various social media aspects – we all have differing views but as we are not a fans group and feel we do not need to get involved too much in things like this. However, every members thinks something has to change. Some won’t be at the game on Saturday so in terms of this particular protest are irrelevant but still should have an opinion.

Lastly, I’m a supporter and Fan – I go home and away and into Europe so as much as the AST position or the Gooner Ramble position is important for me, the most important thing is for me to do what I want to do.

Even if the AST were strongly supporting a protest, it does not mean I have too personally and I make that clear with my fellow board members and our members. Like in any company, if you get out voted, you get out voted (not suggesting I was outvoted here!).

The protest is one that every individual has to decide for themselves – that’s the reason (and I’ve spoken to other fan groups and people that came up with the idea) the words are quite vague; a protest about something specific can divide supporters. Protesting about Arsene Wenger would certainly divide supporters and despite what some individuals have said, it’s not a specific Arsene Wenger protest. It’s not even really a Anti Stan protest (as a few newspapers said), it’s simply a ‘something has to change’ protest, whatever that may be.

Do I think it’s time for a change? Yes, I think home ticket prices could be lower, I think TV companies changing kick off times with limited notice should be changed, I think Beer at the ground should be cheaper, I think Arsenal should have added to their squad last summer, I think the major shareholder should come out and talk to supporters more, I think there should be more initiatives to get younger fans to the Emirates (young guns section is obviously a good thing but isn’t selling out and there could be reasons for that which the club need to look into it), more football people on the board etc. I think there is plenty at the club that needs to change.  Dare I say it, Arsene Wenger will not go on forever, there must be a plan for when he does move on (whenever that will be), does he stay at the club in some capacity, does he go completely, if so, is there a project plan in place?

Will I print out the #TimeForChange stuff and display it – I honestly haven’t decided yet. On one hand, I think certain things do need to change but on the other, there is a game to win.

One of the biggest fears I have is surrounding our two key players- Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. Both have hinted they will wait till the summer before they sign a new deal and that scares me. But you know what, I don’t blame them, why would you sign right now? Arsenal fell out the title race in some fashion, have had a hopeless 2016, fans are not happy so waiting till the summer, waiting till they see what the club do, what happens with Arsene Wenger is quite natural. Arsene Wenger may have said he is confident they will sign, but I’m not so sure. I don’t think Arsene Wenger is either but saying anything otherwise would invite bids from top clubs across Europe and unsettle the two players further.  

Liverpool walked out in a game as an protest against Sunderland when they were 2-0 up and went on to draw 2-2; if something similar happens at Arsenal and points are dropped and the unthinkable happens with Arsenal falling out the top 4 then I think we can say good bye to Mesut and Alexis; I can’t get that thought out of my head.  

The AST and AISA have both said that fans need to decide for themselves and I think that is the only way – something does need to change but Arsenal need to win a few games to ensure they are in a better position to keep their best players.  

I see both sides. 

Up The Arsenal

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