‘Time for change.’
That is the statement that three of Arsenal’s biggest supporters groups want fans to make during the game versus Norwich City this weekend. With only two home games left in the season, and this one being on TV, it appears as if there’s going to be one last push towards making the board aware of the amount of discontent currently amongst the fan base.
Is it going to achieve anything?
Probably not, to be brutally honest. Arsene Wenger has already said that he won’t voluntarily leave before the end of his contract next year, and the board has shown itself to be as pro-active as a tub of Flora Pro-Activ. But most Arsenal fans think that they know what’s going to happen at the end of the season, and are making a stand against it before it happens.
This is the problem that Arsenal’s run of results since the start of the year has created. Arsenal are ultimately in the entertainment business and have failed miserably in their attempts to be entertaining. Arsenal aren’t good. Arsenal aren’t bad. For the sake of getting people to watch them, they are in a far worse state: they’re boring.
Fans aren’t protesting at the state in which the club finds itself in, it’s that they find themselves in the same state as last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, that is infuriating them. No matter how good something is, if it doesn’t change over time then people will stop paying attention to it.
It’s just like having your favourite album playing on repeat on your phone or portable device, the first few playthroughs are brilliant, but after a while, the novelty wears off and you change the track. Apple made iPods popular when they added a ‘shuffle’ button, and all these fan-made banners that are showing up at Arsenal games are the equivalent of asking for something similar.
If you think that something as simple as apathy is incapable of generating such a loud and virulent response, you’re wrong. Very, very wrong. There is very little that will annoy someone more than when that person is expecting to be disappointed with something, yet invests time, money and emotion in the hope that they’re wrong, and then get proven right.
You don’t believe me? Well, let me show you what happens when 100,000 fans are in a building, and all of them are hoping to be wrong, but want to make a point about how bored they’ve been with the product that has been given to them over the course of the last year.
This is the reaction to Roman Reigns, the supposed ‘good guy’ in a match that was the main event for WWE’s biggest ever show. This is the hero of the story, acting like a hero, winning matches like a hero, doing everything possible to get people to like him and to want him to win.
And don’t the fans just seem absolutely delighted to see him arrive, huh? This is what it must feel like to be Piers Morgan when he walks into a room.
Before Reigns’ ‘story’ ended in glorious triumph, over every obstacle that WWE’s best script writers could put in front of him, just about every wrestling fan in that building, having already gone through five hours of entertainment, stood up and booed their asses off, because it was the same story that they had seen for almost a decade, only with a new ‘hero’ in place of the old one.
They didn’t boo Roman Reigns because they thought he was a bad wrestler, or that he did something to offend them. They booed him because they saw that WWE was trying to do with him what they did with his predecessor as ‘face of the company’, John Cena, create a character that came out on top at the end of every story. They’d seen how this had ended before, and they weren’t happy at the prospect of seeing it again.
They REALLY weren’t happy.
How did WWE react? By going through with their original plans regardless. They just hoped that Reigns would eventually win the fans around and the booing would stop. Fans have booed Reigns for a year and a half now but with little result. Arenas are still being filled, merchandise is still selling well, WWE is still making money from having Reigns as the face of the company, so they’re not going to change until the money dries up.
This is the problem that now faces Arsenal fans, who are about to pay money to someone just so they can protest against them. Booing, and banners, and timed walkouts, will only ever be effective as soon as it starts hurting the balance sheet.
Liverpool fans proved this only last month, when ticket prices were set to increase. They made it perfectly clear that if prices were raised, then they’d stay away. The result was instant. The price rises were scrapped. As much as Arsenal fans want to make their own concerns public, doing so whilst still giving the board good reason to ignore them will never work.
On Saturday, Arsenal fans are going to turn up and make as much noise as possible. If anything, the opposite approach may be worth considering. On the last game of the season, if there is still no sign of movement from the club, then fans need to show the board what the consequences of boring them truly entails: silence.
The best way a fan can make themselves be noticed is to show what football would be like without them. Just by simply leaving your seat vacant, you can do far more to emphasise just how strongly you feel about the direction in which the club is going than you would by shouting as loud as you can whilst paying for the privilege. The only way to make a financially motivated board take notice of your concerns is to make those concerns financially linked.
Change is needed all right, but it might have to be the fans who change first.