The Grove`s Prawn Sandwich Debate
When Roy Keane uttered his now famous rant about Old Trafford`s 'prawn sandwich brigade` he unwittingly added a new socio-economic grouping to football supporters vocabulary. The shellfish afficionados are now considered an integral part of the supporter base of most of the top clubs.
The advent of Ashburton Grove has brought to a head the conflicting interests of Arsenal watchers. On the one hand are those who still wish to give full voice to their support of the club, and all of the standing up (and occasional expletives!) that involves. On the other are the 'new breed` as they are sometimes called, less vociferous, less raucous, but arguably (and critically as far as the club are concerned) perceived as more affluent.
It`s difficult to take a subjective view of the differences that are felt between the opposing factions. Even more difficult to explain to the outsider how supporters of the same club could be at odds with each other without going into a sociological debate that would not hold the interest of many for long. Therein perhaps lies the rub. Neither side wants to understand the other.
This conflict is perhaps more pronounced at the Grove simply because of the new stadium. At Highbury, as at all established grounds, everybody knew roughly which areas would house the singers, and which would be quieter. At Arsenal`s impressive new home the various groups have been spread around the arena, largely by Arsenal`s piecemeal release of season tickets, and the clubs reluctance to allow a large area to be 'taken over` in the way that perhaps the Clock End and North Bank were 'colonised` in the past.
The club is nervous of elements of its support, to the extent that it actively refuses to take all of the ticket allocation offered for high profile away fixtures. The feeling amongst the 'old school` support is that by dividing their massed presence in the ground, by increasing admission prices, and trying to enforce strict regulations inside the stadium, they will eventually replace the less desirable elements with the 'new breed`. It`s a fine line the club is attempting to tread, well aware that the newcomers could well evaporate if success on the pitch is not maintained.
Clearly Arsenal could resolve many of the issues, but is the will there to do that? It is noticeable that stewards at Ashburton have been ordered to clamp down on standing by home supporters, whilst showing complete disregard to away supporters doing exactly the same thing. The club could attempt to assist groups of like-minded supporters to congregate together next season and thereby ease the pressure on their stewarding. There is no doubt that at Highbury, and other established venues around the country, co-existence between, lets face it, supporters of the same club has been facilitated.
I hope and trust the club will devote some time towards resolving these issues soon, and find a way of accommodating those who have a long-standing affiliation to Arsenal, with the new fans who must play a part in the club`s future. Dare I suggest they have sixty-thousand options before them.
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