Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday December 22 2006
I am sure by now most of you are aware of Arsenal F.Cs current embargo on national flags in Emirates Satdium (spot the hypocrisy in that statement- more on that later). So is this too draconian a measure? Is the match day experience becoming overly sanitised? Does it really matter? We are supporting Arsenal afterall. Is it a sensible move on the club's part for a more inclusive match day experience? We are living in politically sensitive times (haven't we always?) and the football stadium should be a haven from the tumultuous state of global affairs.
You may have gathered from previous articles, that I am hardly the flag waving type. I've never seen the point in patriotism beyond it being a tool of establishment indoctrination. But that is a different point, I do not wish to turn this article into a political tirade. The blanket flag ban came about because, apparently, somebody was offended by the display of a Turkish Cypriot Flag. The person responsible received a complaint but refused to remove the offending article. Now in light of facts that N13 Gunner has furnished me with in the forum, apparently the brandishing of this flag represents a very offensive message to Greek Cypriots. So perhaps it is correct that the person should have been asked to remove it. But why should a flag representing one ideology that could be construed as offensive (a flag not recognised by the European Community) dictate a ban on ALL national flags? Why should the perceived support of opression by one individual impinge on those who bear no such wish, but instead seek to represent the far flung corners of the globe to watch Arsenal?
Of course there should be lines here. For example, what if somebody were to bring a swastika? Would that not cause gross offence? The answer is, yes it would. I would be disgusted to see such an article brandished at any football game or anywhere else for that matter. But this pertains to a political ideology that is very stringent, those that brandish the hooked cross (which incidentally was the universal sign for peace before Hitler adopted it) are conveying clear and unilateral ideas that would offend many people and mock many a gravestone. But a national flag (no matter how pointless I consider it to be) is an altogether different atrefact. It is intended (though rarely used) as an all inclusive symbol of solidarity. You cannot simply identify one individual with the body of policy adopted by a whole Government. For instance, if I were to see a star Spangled Banner adorning somebody's person, I would not automatically assume them to be a fastidious war mongering psycopath (as I personally consider their President to be). Even if they were pro-war on Iraq, I have to respect that in a democracy they are entitled to that opinion. Likewise, I am free to contest that opinion. Debate is the cornerstone of democracy. But I do not have the right or authority to have that person arrested or ejected from whatever arena I happen to be sitting in. So why do Arsneal F.C have this authority?
It is obvious that Arsenal are just doing anything for a quiet life, but they may be biting off more than they can chew in pursuit of political correctness. Firstly, does this ban include the wearing of national shirts? I often wear either my France or Netherlands shirt to home games, will I be politely asked to remove my shirt tomorrow? (I can assure any stewards reading that the site of my bare chest will cause more offence than any national flag!) Secondly, how on earth do Arsenal plan to inform visiting PSV fans of this ban? Having travelled to Europe to see the Gunners more times than my bank statement would care to remember, the sea of flags in the away end are usually the most colourful and eye catching site one can imagine. Arsenal F.C is officially the most diverse fan base in England. We contain a higher number of ethnic minorities amongst our season ticket holders than any other club. Arsenal F.C is also the most diverse squadron in England. We number fourteen different nationalities in our first team squad. Yet Arsenal are always towards the lower ends of the arrest league and our hooligan element is virtually non existent. Arsenal F.C set a record on September 28th, 2002 away at Leeds United. We fielded eleven non white players in our starting line up- more than any side in the history of the English game. So is Arsenal F.C not the shining example of national and racial harmony and the merits of diversity? So why is the club now seemingly acting with trepidation towards its admirable ubiquity?
Now I do not believe that the Arsenal board are adopting an Enoch Powell kind of stance here. I am just not entirely sure that this decision has been thought out. The Arsenal board lack the moral legitimacy to impose these kind of bans don't they? Afterall, it was they who sold the name of the stadium to an airline- a company whose very existence relies on the curiosity of other cultures. Particularly an airline that is loosely named after a confederation of countries! It was they who sold yards of advertising space to Visit Israel! So will the advertising boards be gagged and bound? The word Emirates tippexed out from the front of the stadium? As supporters are banned for exchanging face value tickets with friends, players criticise supporters but do not acknowledge those that travelled to Moscow or Bolton, this is just a further demonstration of the chasm between club and supporters. At a time when our financial future utterly depends on bums on seats, I fear the club are alienating their supporters, and an attempted act of contrition has become seditious. LD.
Date:Friday December 22 2006
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