View From Stamford Bridge: Chelsea Fan Resolutions For 2017
Usually, the events of the footballing world marry neatly with those of the “real” one and not always in the best of ways. Oddly though, 2016 on planet football took a pleasing spin on the events of the real world. The underdog wasn’t moody or frightening; Leicester City’s defiance of their odds united pretty much everyone, even the more generous of their North London opponents. The establishments did fall, but I’d argue that Chelsea and Man Utd are starting to rise again as better versions of their former selves. Taking back control is a genuine theme as supporters start to organise on everything from controlling ticket prices to successfully running football clubs.
Utopia though, as ever, is still some distance away though. That said, here are a few of my own thoughts on what might make 2017 just a little better than what’s come before:
Watching more foreign football and not just the football itself…
I like a bit of history, it’s like a trailer of the stuff that’s likely to happen in the future. One of the things that history has a lot of is the concept of empire. I began to think how similar the Premier League is to an empire. Its reach and influence stretches from Accrington to Auckland and everywhere in between. The success of its finances mean the Premier league is shouting from the rooftops in a world where money is supposed to just talk.
However, there’s a thing about empires. At their height, they absorb new ideas constantly and at their decline they are characterised by a corresponding failure to adapt. I’ve written a fair bit recently about the issue of ticket prices and the effect that their unsustainable level could have on the Premier League’s future. However, I see this issue as just one part of an ongoing theme. In this country, the clamour to describe the Premier League as a uniquely excellent product seems to be inescapable. I worry about this because it seems to imply we have nothing to learn from elsewhere.
This is wrong in my view.
A simple glance at the foreign football that is available at your fingertips shows you why this isn’t so. With the notable exception of my own club, a British club has not won the Champions League in nearly a decade and when we’ve crept through to a final (honourable mention to Man Utd) we’ve generally been soundly beaten. Our Europa League record is even worse (2 wins in 16 years). And we’d better not talk about our International record. Off the pitch, our average attendances lag behind the Bundesliga and, if the data could be captured, I’d be surprised if our happiness didn’t also lag behind the Germans also. Remember, the Germans are achieving much of that success with less money in their league, supporters having large stakes in even their biggest clubs and safe standing. Most of these ideas are still taboo in this country.
We need to find out why that is and how can it be changed. Part of that process will involve learning from other countries. Not copying their ideas wholesale but seeing what they do that is actually interesting, with an open mind: both on and off the pitch. We can’t do that if we persist with the belief that we have nothing to learn from anyone. That process must begin with taking the time to observe, reflect and discuss in full recognition of the facts.
Be kinder to players
Remember they’re human beings too, even if they can drive to you to distraction on occasion. A significant amount of extra zeros on a bank statement doesn’t alter the fact that we can be as bad as them and vice versa. If they’re on your side, support them unless they’ve done something truly, truly terrible that you’ve never done. And given that New Year’s Eve was just 24 hours ago who fancies claiming that?
Understand the rules of the game (the actual and implied ones)
We think we do but so many of us don’t. I’ll admit to needing a refresher course on the offside rule, which is again proof of the idiocy of gender stereotyping. Here are some of the other extra related points in the form of a Trainspotting style stream of consciousness:
It is a MINIMUM of stoppage time, not the amount shown in red on the LCD board and no more. Remember that refereeing is a matter of interpretation and not of fact. It doesn’t even itself out over the course of the season, unless you’re really, really lucky. Note to the players: behaving like a muppet doesn’t make the referee any more likely to be favourable to your cause- bookings for dissent are STUPID.
Recognise and admit to your bias
I’m suspicious of anyone commenting on football while feigning neutrality. If you’re regularly giving a public opinion on football, if you like football enough to want tell people what you think, something must have made you like it and still like it. There’s no shame in admitting that this something is very probably a football club or a football player. Trying to pretend neutrality doesn’t do your opinion or your analysis any favours. If more footballing pundits recognised this, I think the quality of our analysis on the game would be better. Just so you know, this is my opinion and I’m Chelsea supporter and season ticket holder. This may or may not make you think that I’m talking rubbish but, hey, at least you know where I’m coming from.
The ball is round and moves any which way.
Anything can happen in football, that’s why we love it.
Enjoy your year.