There’s a really good piece here by Thom Gibbs in Telegraph and how the trend for overbearing music kills the atmosphere at matches.
He’s absolutely spot on at the tragic element of this. I was at the Europa League Final in 2011, and Porto’s fans wanted to celebrate with their thousands of fans who’d travelled to Dublin. Fat chance. You couldn’t hear those fans, and nor could the players.
My second ever football match was Lou Macari’s testimonial in 1983. I can’t recall what music was played, but I do recall the end of the ground completely decked out by Celtic fans singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. I can’t remember a performance of ‘Abide With Me’ that matches what it sounded like at the 1981 final as I watched it on telly.
That something as obvious as allowing the beauty of the crowd’s noise to dominate is prevented alerts us to one of two factors.
It could be that the people responsible for this are complete idiots, the kind of people whose idea of a good party involves lots of organised fun, and who never saw why people thought Colin Hunt was a figure of derision.
It’s possible to see a way to this state of affairs which involves a business – like a club or a stadium – appointing someone to the role of ‘event programming’ and that person is someone for whom basketball at Madison Square Garden as the acme of stadium experience that they see their role in life to replicate regardless of whether a) it’s actually any good b) culturally suited or c) necessary. Their boss thinks it ‘sounded great’ because they’re an uptight corporate advanced-age type, and everyone goes home thinking it was a job well done, regardless of the fact that tens of thousands thought it was bloody awful.
But I think there’s something deeper. I think at the heart of it is something we see across the game – a complete failure to understand that a football crowd needs to be left to do its thing.
As happens in many spheres, the desire to control from a law and order perspective finds a happy marriage with the desire to sell.
Wembley make it very hard to do decent tifo displays. They have a PA system that can be heard on the moon. You’re not allowed to bring your own bottle of water into the stadium etc etc.
All of these things will be justified on some legal grounds, but they all ensure that you enter the stadium as unencumbered as possible by any notion that your role today is to do anything other than consume – the ‘product‘, the ‘official water’, the over-priced beer, the eye-wateringly expensive food.
You can even see read reports and attend conferences to discuss the problems of all of this; not the closing down of public space as people like Anna Minton have written about but because we’re still too damned uncontrollable. [Edward Munch Scream face] We might wear shirts with non-sponsor logos on them! [/ Screamface]
This is the sort of total experiential dominance which Stalinism aspired to and fell short, but is now the acme of the stadium experience that the professionals seek to create. It’s as terrifying as it utterly short-sighted and foolish and heartbreaking.