The Sweeper: Yes, Man Utd Fans Deserve Our Sympathy

Craig Bellamy hit by coin from Man Utd supporters

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I love the Guardian’s football coverage, so it’s especially disappointing when it reduces itself to tabloid hysteria with a poll like this: “Do Manchester United fans deserve our pity?”, the paper asks. The only analysis offered to help us make up our minds on this question is the following: “If they’re wealthy enough to throw spare change at Craig Bellamy, should we feel sorry for supporters who complain about rising prices at Old Trafford?”

We’re then left to answer yes or no.

Quite what one thing has to do with the other — besides an extraordinarily tenuous link to money — is beyond me. Seriously: what? If it was supposed to be funny, it fell flat for me.

Fortunately, for a more serious analysis of where United fans stand in the present Old Trafford crisis, we turn once again to Ian at Two Hundred Percent, who asks where the protest movement, now symbolised by “green and gold“, goes next:

Those wearing green and gold scarves were showing their distaste at the Glazer family’s control of Manchester United and the club’s proposed bond issue. Green and gold – the colours of the original Newton Heath Football Club that changed its name to Manchester United – have been designated those of this protest. Some, however, are calling into question what the protest means and what it hopes to achieve, especially when the thousands wearing the scarves on Wednesday night were quite obviously and notably inside Old Trafford, having spent a large amount of money on tickets – money that will, ultimately, keep the Glazers at Old Trafford.

Ian doesn’t quite seem to have an answer: do United fans protest by boycotting their club, and thus bring the Glazers down but destroy the club in the process?  Do they all go and support FC United of Manchester? Or do they focus on symbolic, peaceful protest and hope the Glazers eventually cave?  The first comment to Ian’s piece is worth reading for one perspective:

It is a pointless exercise, though a noble one, for scattered individuals to make a stand by boycotting United games as a protest against the Glazers. What is really needed is for everyone, from fan clubs, MUST, online sites and all, to get together and organize major boycotts and protests against all things associated with the Glazers’ hold on United. Yes, it may hurt United in the short term, but it’s the team’s long term welfare that’s at stake. Better to act now and bring about a collapse of the Glazers’ financial structure at United while the club still holds its world-wide reputation and some kind of dollar value, rather than wait until the Glazers’ gut it by selling off Old Trafford, Carrington, and all the players of value, leaving behind a shell of a team little better off then where a once glorious Leeds now finds itself.

Manchester United is at a crucial crossroads in its existence. Down one path lies despair and a trivialization of all that was once glorious about the club. Down another lies salvation through people power. It’s the same old story. As long as people sit around doing nothing, as long as a few die-hards put together sporadic and relatively futile gestures, nothing will happen. But if people who really love the club stopped for a moment to just realize what kind of absolute power they wield as a mass, the consequences could be astounding.

How many weeks of an empty Old Trafford on game days do you think it would take before the Glazers’ initiated desperate talks to sell off the club before their finances collapsed? How much do you think their revenue streams would be affected if people stopped buying merchandise completely? How do you think the Americans are going to feel if supporters started boycotting the products of the club sponsors, even going so far as to write to them to let them know they’ll snub their products as long as the Glazers’ remain at Old Trafford?

The power to bring about the desired change is there, if supporters but knew how much of it lies in their own hands bound together as one.

To answer the Guardian’s original, facile question: yes, United fans do deserve our sympathy. They are faced, as timbo’s comment makes clear, with that not exactly simple ever-present challenge of human history, how to exert positive change from the bottom-up based on mass activism, the only control they have all their individual selves collected together. Except for the idiot who threw his loose change at Craig Bellamy, of course.

Worldwide News

  • Australia’s The Roar takes an interesting look at how Adelaide United have continued to have strong attendance despite poor performance on the pitch this season, with their CEO attributing it to the depth of their community engagement: “Part of why we are where we are is, we believe, that one of the main pillars of our organisation is to ensure that our connection and relationship with our community is very active and a meaningful relationship. There are a number of key parts to that. We have, I would say, the most comprehensive wide-ranging program of grass roots in our community. It is significant, it is about corporate, it is about the general public, it’s schools programs, it’s about connection and relationships with sport and with clubs.”
  • Sport is a TV Show has a superb piece on Manchester City, Manchester United and how to buy success: “Immortality is a swindle. There was a time when City fans could, and did, mock United for last having won the league in 1967 (the days when smallpox-ridden infant chimney sweeps were sent abroad to defend sugar plantations for King and Empire) while City’s last title had come in 1968 (the year the world went from black-and-white to colour and sex was invented (yeah, you heard, Larkin)). And how long ago that seems. “Money doesn’t necessarily buy success” is a true statement. “Money doesn’t buy success” is superstition.”
  • Of course, the necessarily clause depends on choices made at any given club, and it’s becoming ever clearer that Manchester City’s Garry Cook will soon face the chop for his increasingly laughable management of a club he keeps saying will inevitably be the world’s biggest. Here’s his latest gaffe.

The Sweeper appears every weekday, and once at the weekend. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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