Rebels Without a Cause; Recreational Rioting Damages the EPL Brand

13 08 2011

The following piece was also posted on Love Spurs/Live Spurs, the football/soccer blog that I contribute to on an irregular basis. Normally it is just about how much I dislike certain players but the events of the last week have cast a large shadow on an area of London that I know quite well. Apologies to those who may have already received or read this through the joys of social media.

I am not where I want to be.

At this moment in time I should be in a bar in Boston watching the first game of the new season, a pint of IPA in my hand and wearing whatever retro shirt I deemed suitable for the occasion. There should be discussions going on about possible signings and why Jenas has not been sold, about whether selling Robbie to LA Galaxy means we get Becks in return (or Landon Donovan) and the atmosphere should be one of barely restrained tension.
At the very least I could be sitting on my couch watching the game with a cup of tea and a biscuit.
But I am not.
Because our season is going to start on August 22nd. With an away trip to Manchester United.
Thanks to the civil unrest that swept through the capital last week and the simmering tensions that (one imagines) are still present in Tottenham, it was decided that our game should be called off as the High Road was still technically a crime scene. The shooting of Mark Duggan kickstarted a series of events that culminated in burning buildings, looting and general disorder.
Described as “recreational rioting” by those wordsmiths at Sky.
Apparently N17 looked like “a warzone” – which for those of us that have spent many hours in the area not really news. So the Premier League, THFC and the Police decided that it would be safer to postpone the match to a later date.
I agree with this decision but I can’t work out why the rest of the matches were allowed to go ahead bearing in mind that the problems spread to the rest of the country soon after London began burning. There were problems in Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham but games are still being played there, which strikes me as a trifle odd.
That aside, the events of the last week have highlighted how important it is that Spurs do not move out of the area. N17 is in need of regeneration more than ever, the club must remain a focal point of the community and businesses must be allowed to rebuild in the knowledge that there will be a steady stream of income into the area during the football season. At the very least, the presence of a (hopefully) successful Premier League side in N17 will be a reason for people to want to invest in the area and not be dissuaded by the muppets who believed that burning carpet showrooms to the ground was a way to punish the “rich”.
We all know that Tottenham isn’t the nicest part of the capital but as the riots continued across London last week, the High Road remained calm after the storms of last weekend. It became obvious that what was an unfortunate incident in which a man died was hijacked by opportunists, criminals and young people to go on a recreational rioting spree that had no link to the original issue.
There is an increasing disparity in society, one that is highlighted by the increase in consumer goods and the perception that we all need to have the latest flat-screen tv/laptop/mobile phone/expensive trainers to enhance our existence.
This is reinforced by the media, entertainment carefully disguised as product placement.
The Premier League is part of this endless hype of material goods, we pay money to watch footballers strut their stuff in front of fans lucky enough to get a ticket for the “greatest league in the world”. Football is no longer the game of the working class, the players are so far removed from the supporters that when Gomes says that the players are living in fear of playing in Tottenham that you have to laugh.
The riots happened in mainly urban areas, I didn’t see any reports of trouble in Cuffley, Hadley Wood or Chingford. I assume that the car-park at Spurs is locked on match-days which would be the only time that our players actually venture into the area that pays their wages. Living in fear? The only time that Gomes should fear for his safety is when he makes another costly error and even then a verbal assault is hardly going to damage his Bentley.
Football grounds were built in working class areas for a good reason. That is where the fans lived, where they wanted to spend their earnings at the weekend and by watching their local team. Twenty years ago, the dynamic changed so significantly that most clubs have had trouble catching up and are still plying their trade in their traditional home – with a local population that can’t afford to go to the games and have to watch as their area is swamped on a regular basis by people that have no ties to the community and who choose to live elsewhere.
Much like the players.
I’m not blaming last weeks events on football and much as though I dislike Rupert Murdoch, it is not his fault that English footballer has moved on from the days where you could stand on a terrace with a pie in your hand enjoying the warm feeling of someone urinating against your leg. Society has moved on, as has the game and in many ways what we have now is better – speed of communication, a plethora of choice and unbridled access to consumer desirables.
But the first game of the season is always a special moment, it is the only day when everyone starts on a level playing field and when the dreams of glory can continue for at least 90 minutes.
Spurs and Everton have been denied that opportunity and will have to start behind the others. If one game was postponed due to unrest, then glossing over the trouble in other cities by playing the other games shows a lack of respect for those that lost homes and businesses this week through no fault of their own and who now have to start all over again.
Football can play a huge part in addressing the problems in society, it missed an opportunity to do so this weekend.




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