Let me describe to you my typical match day experience: I arrive at either Arsenal or Highbury and Islington tube and walk down to the Emirates Stadium. As I arrive I pick up my programme and enter the stadium where I meet my mates. We find our seats normally 30 minutes before kick off and wait for 3pm to arrive. At this point of my story I interrupt to address some issues I would like to address.
As people slowly file into their seats they are met with current “hits” that blare out from the speakers. The songs chosen are not based upon their link to football but selected sue to their radio play. I don’t mean to offend anyone here but the Scissor Sisters doesn’t really get a crowd going before a football match. At least 15 minutes before songs such as “Right Here Right Now” (Fatboy Slim) and “Breathe” (the Prodigy) should be played. They get the blood racing and fans ready for the kick off. Previously Kasabian has been played as the players walk out of the tunnel; this is a good idea and must occur more. In certain games this season an Elvis song has been played and either the man in charge of the sound system is a massive Elvis fan or this is the new anthem people have discussed; if it is what is going on? It is not a football anthem!
As for the anthem, I am supportive of it; I know some are not and I understand some reasons why. However if the right song is chosen it could become brilliant. 60,000 fans belting out a song with meaning would frighten any club. Just look at Anfield and see what can be created. My favourite would be the Impossible Dream by Andy Williams. Lines such as the ones below are appropriate to any team and especially the togetherness and fighting attitude the squad seems to have.
“To run where the brave dare not go.” “To be willing to march Into hell for a heavenly cause.”
While I am addressing the sound issue there is one thing I must bring to light. I am pretty sure unless one sits right next to a speaker, it is impossible to hear Arsene Wenger’s pre match talk on the screens. It doesn’t take a genius to turn the volume up but no one ever realises this. The man I would expect to notice this is the same man who makes an attempt to get the fans going. As he shouts the first names of the starting eleven, fans merrily shout it back. If this gets full backing from the fans it can work, yet if the reaction is half hearted it sounds terrible. However at least it is an attempt to improve the atmosphere at the start.
The game kicks off and the atmosphere is normally ok to start with as the general excitement of a football match kicks in. Gradually however this dies out. Fans start to get comfortable and singing begins to stop. I know from personal experience how frustrating this is. My friends and I try to start chants but get given funny looks. Funny looks for trying to support our team! Surely we should be the ones frowning upon them? There is the RedSection in the ground where the atmosphere looks amazing pretty much throughout the game. Chants normally begin here and are carried around the other sections of the Emirates. I am totally in favour of such an area but I wonder if another one could be created elsewhere. Stadiums can become fortresses, although it’s mainly down to the football played, the crowd can play a part. The atmosphere is improving as the new ground feels more like home, but there is room for improvement.
Half time arrives and half the fans have left their seats to fill their stomachs. Unfortunately they have left 5 minutes before the half comes to an end. How do you try and keep bums in seats. If they need to use the toilet then I am not planning to try and stop them. However I would consider closing the bars until the first half whistle ends. This keeps people watching, as there is no advantage to be got going early. When fans queue up, if they want beer only there should be more than one “Beer Only” line. There should also be vendors walking around with their beer backpacks. This is a brilliant idea; it shortens queuing time and gets people the same product. This frees up tills to just sell food and gets people their food quicker. With half the stadium in the concourse I hear “3 minutes till kick off” and people do not rush to get back. There should be a bell hear to really put the point across. This can then be followed by another bell with 1 minute to go; this is then last orders at the food desks. Selling is wrapped up and people get back to their seats. At least by doing this we get as many fans as possible in their seats as the second half kicks off. I would love to address the issue of Club Level but that is out of any of our hands.
The second half is drawing to an end and there is about 13 minutes left to go when fans start to file out. They are wasting nearly a 1/5 of their ticket by leaving. The tubes don’t take that long now the transport system around the ground is better. There is no reason to leave unless your wife has gone into labour, and there is no way that many females go into labour in this small period of time! I would promote the idea that the gates are not opened till at the earliest 5 minutes before the final whistle. If a fan can prove there is a life or death situation then they can be let out secretly but otherwise fans should stay till the end. Whether the club would do this, I do not know but something must be done, the players notice it and after all they are who we are supporting.
The game comes to and end and hopefully Arsenal have won. Any fans left at the end leave chanting a few songs and finding there way back to the tube. I am part of these crowds but the problems I have noted are regularly in my head.